Carrie Esposito's short stories have been published in The Georgia Review , Mused, and Everyday Fiction. One of her stories was a finalist for the William Van Dyke Short Story Prize and will be forthcoming in Ruminate Magazine and another was a finalist for the Curt Johnson Prose Awards. She has received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train for another of her stories and has won spots in selective writing workshops at Lighthouse Writers in Denver.
She's currently working on her novel, No Way to Fall Off This Earth, set in India and Brooklyn. She began writing it in a notebook on the subway ride to and from her most recent job as Assistant Principal of a middle school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This novel was a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She continues to write short stories and is working on two other novels, When Whispers Shatter and Forgotten Downtowns.
No Way to Fall Off This Earth
No Way to Fall Off This Earth is the story of an American school principal who travels to India, searching for two missing students.
When Gwen Ellis started a public school in Brooklyn for girls, she imagined the usual challenges—teacher retention, student discipline, raising test scores. She didn’t, however, prepare for two of her students, twin Bengali-Muslim girls named Amala and Zahrah, to be taken suddenly back to India and then for an email to appear from Zahrah that their father had abandoned them in a crowded market there.
She certainly didn’t expect to find herself in Delhi, knowing few words of Hindi and with no leads to find the twins, on top of needing to rely on her reluctant guide, Nikhil, who disagrees with her rescue mission from the start.
Meanwhile, the girls are navigating their way alone through the unfamiliar terrain, encountering both dangers and moments of grace. Amala becomes enthralled by India—its sari-clad women, rickshaws, camel rides, ornate temples, ashrams, festivals, and multi-limbed goddess statues, while Zahrah would do anything to get them back to Brooklyn.
When Gwen’s path converges with theirs, Amala risks her twin’s trust and her own welfare to stay in the place she longs to call home, forcing Gwen to confront what it really means to be the guardian of their best interests.
Behind the Book
Amala and Zahrah Khadim, the twin sisters in No Way to Fall Off This Earth, were inspired by twins who were on the roster of the middle school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where I was the Assistant Principal. One of my responsibilities was to make sure that students who were called “no shows” were discharged from our school, but students may not be discharged from a New York City school’s roster until there is proof that they have either moved or are going to school elsewhere. The twins proved to be a more difficult case, until we found out their father had taken them out of the country. I continued to wonder about them, until I had to write this imagined account of what happened next. I set the story in India, because I'd fallen in love with the country, the culture, and the people when I spent time there as part of my previous role as a corporate trainer.
Zahrah and I walked behind Baba through a corridor to the exit of the Delhi airport with other silent travelers, maybe also dreaming of what they would find on the opposite side. A burned rubber smell stung my nostrils. But I hoped that somewhere out there I would find the smell of India I’d always imagined, like cardamom ground into coconut. Maa’s smell.
It was three in the morning, which meant it was late afternoon the day before back home in Brooklyn. In the dark sky over the ocean, the hours since Maa died had evaporated as irretrievably as a star expending its light. But I didn’t know if I wanted those hours back. I didn’t know what I would hold onto or what I would let go in this country that had always belonged to Maa’s pictures and stories.
Jodi stands accused of sexually assaulting her fifteen-year-old daughter’s boyfriend, Rafael.
Though Jodi is unnerved that her studious and responsible daughter has kept her boyfriend a secret, she finds herself forming a friendship with him. Their relationship escalates as do their secrets and confidences until the day a police officer arrives to arrest Jodi. Alvaro, Jodi’s husband, and Miranda end up at odds as they grapple with understanding the wife and mother they thought they knew.
Meanwhile, Rafael, reeling from missing his estranged father and broken-hearted after a relationship gone wrong with his former English teacher, isn’t sure who he can trust and what kind of justice he seeks.
Jodi feels as trapped by her ankle monitor as she always has by her troubled past, and she’s failing to find answers for the husband and daughter she adores. Fearing a trial could never expose the whole truth, Jodi tries to take matters into her own hands with Rafael at the run-down motel where she has been living. But she’s failed to realize how much he’s willing to sacrifice now that he feels he has nothing left.
Behind the Book
This novel is based on a story I heard from my hometown where a woman was put in jail for sexually assaulting her daughter’s boyfriend. What intrigued me the most was that the woman’s husband and daughter stood by her, while her family of origin shunned her. This started all sorts of questions about innocence, identity, sexuality, love, and forgiveness that are explored in this story.
Also, as with my previous novel, No Way to Fall Off This Earth, I'm inspired by my work in the New York City public schools to explore the unique relationships that can develop between adults and adolescents.
He shrugged and backed away, not closing the front door when he left. He hopped over the porch steps and veered off to the right, slapping the tall bush with his palm as he crossed our narrow strip of lawn. Before stepping onto the sidewalk, he turned to where I stood in the open door and nodded, like he was saying yes to a question I hadn’t asked.
Forgotten Downtowns is the story of a young woman from a dying small town in upstate New York. She falls in love with a soldier who is deployed to Afghanistan where he commits a monstrous act of violence. This story explores how one family copes with the simultaneous collapse of their small town, their family, and what they always thought to be true about themselves and the America in which they live.
Things have been the same for Naomi Berg forever, until she meets unpredictable, charming Sean Evans, a soldier who lives on the nearby army base and who sparks desires in Naomi that have been simmering beneath the surface. She must fight for her relationship with Sean despite the disapproval of her Jewish family and save her beloved father from the sadness that chokes him as their family’s downtown shoe business falls into disrepair. Then, she must deal with what she believes is the worst that could happen when Sean leaves for Afghanistan.
But, the chilling actions of her father and Sean, that she never could have imagined even in her most fervent attempts to rescue them from their own demons, put her strength and will to survive to the ultimate test.
Behind the Book
The idea for Forgotten Downtowns was conceived when I considered the atrocities that Robert Bales committed in Afghanistan. I thought about principled soldiers going from small towns across America to entirely foreign places for which they might be unprepared for the people, food, prejudices, hatred, and violence that await them. I decided to set this story in Watertown, New York, where my father grew up and where my Uncle and Grandfather did own a shoe store like the one in the book. It experienced a twenty year decline and now sits vacant in the once budding downtown. The town has a prominent army base, so while Naomi and Sean are fictional, it is conceivable that two people like them could have met and fallen in love in this town. This story attempts to imagine what redemption and rebuilding look like for the majority of us left in America to cope with what we both consider and don’t consider about the wars happening overseas.
Grandpa used to tell me how this mall, on the edge of town, was a dairy farm where he would get ice cream cones as a child. But it was always too hard to imagine these waxed floors and the collection of brightly colored merchandise in window after window as anything else, so I’d stopped trying. My parents had never brought me here, and coming on my own still felt like a betrayal of the downtown where our family’s shoe business had started falling apart almost the same day that the mall had its proud grand opening.
"I Came Here to Be Alone" by Carrie Esposito
Published in The Georgia Review
An artist, Justin, moves to Western Minnesota from Brooklyn to work on his art in peace and solitude. But when a dog comes up to his art studio and leads Justin to his front lawn, the discovery he makes there won't allow him to go back to the solitary life he thought he wanted.
"To You - The Woman on the Run" by Carrie Esposito
Published in Every Day Fiction
This is a piece of flash fiction which explores a moment in time between two women, one who is ostensibly helping the other to her feet, while it might be the other way around.
Set in 1956, and told from the perspective of a young boy who witnesses the sudden death of his father, this story examines the ways tragic death can become a shadow over the living.
"Preservation" by Carrie Esposito
Published in Mused
When Theresa loses her father, she flies across the country to see her mother from whom she’s been estranged for as long as she can remember. In the confines of their Upper East Side apartment, the assumptions she’s always held true about her mother slip away in the face of grief, even as both she and her mother fear letting go of the way things have always been between them.
"Broken Fourth Walls" by Carrie Esposito
Published in Mused
Fiona, a cynical young woman, sits in a Denver bar late at night with her husband Ryan. She has a strange, ghostly encounter with Maggie, another patron at the bar, who tells stories of her youth in Manhattan in the 1980s and reveals a secret that changes everything for Fiona.
"The Bribe" by Carrie Esposito
Published in Little Rose Magazine
In front of an ex-pat bar in Agra, Banhi meets Amber. Banhi sees an opportunity to save herself and her children, but her plan goes awry when Amber isn’t quite who she seems.
"A National Emergency" by Carrie Esposito
Received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train
A young woman, Viv, goes to a resort in Mexico with her boyfriend and her curiosity about the abundance of Sargassum leads her to unexpected discoveries.
"Awakening North" by Carrie Esposito
Ashley, fifteen, seeks adventure one hot summer day when she and a friend wander from their Upper East Side neighborhood to Spanish Harlem. She finds unexpected first love, but must contend with the consequences of seeing the truth for the first time about privilege and racial disparity.
"Sacred Ash" by Carrie Esposito
Nate, or Shankar, as he calls himself at the ashram where he lives near Boulder, Colorado, goes home for a family funeral and must face the ways in which his spiritual practice doesn't hold up under pressure.
"Opting for Illusions" by Carrie Esposito
A school fundraiser and a series of white lies collide in this story where the character of Nora is made to look more closely at the charged relationship with her best friend.
"What Becomes You" by Carrie Esposito
When JT, a former actress, develops a crush on a young playwright, her family life, her marriage, and her aspirations are thrown into question.
"Fairy Tales and Freedom" by Carrie Esposito
While running on the trails, Brooke has an accident and encounters Dustin, a man living in the mountains, and their interaction helps her come to terms with all she loves and hates about her life.
Carrie's intro starts at 58:46 OR watch the whole show for some amazing stories of being a mother or having a mother at all stages of life.