Real Life and Other Fictions - Susan Coll


Women's Fiction | Literary | Comedy | Satire | Surrealism | Jewish

In this comically surreal, warmhearted journey, a failed journalist and aspiring novelist embarks on a road trip to rediscover her past, and investigate sightings of a mysterious Mothman creature.


Cassie Klein has always used stories to help her fly, but now her plot points aren’t lining up.

In her 50s, Cassie has already weathered more than most. She was orphaned at the age of two and has never fully understood why her DC-based parents were on a bridge in West Virginia that just so happened to collapse as they drove across it. Her search for answers prompted a failed career in journalism, and now she’s an aspiring novelist teaching at a local community college waiting for her literary dreams to finally come true. She stood by her once-doting husband when his meteorology career took a nosedive, and now she has learned that the man who became an internet meme has been cheating on her.

She’s had enough. She scoops up a teething puppy and embarks on a road trip that’s heavy on impulse and light on planning. She’s not sure where she’s going, but she knows she might as well start at the beginning. What really happened to her parents all those years ago?

In this comically surreal, warmhearted journey, she encounters people she never knew existed—chief among them, an enigmatic cryptozoologist, who helps her in the quest to discover her past. And along the way, she looks for answers regarding curious sightings of a creature known as the Mothman in the months before her parents died. As the line between real life and fiction blurs, Cassie finds herself grappling with the nature of stories, myths, and who gets to write the endings.


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“Susan Coll is a master of comic fiction, delivering the perfect balance of humor and heart in this deliciously funny book about grief, secrets, and the stories we tell each other and ourselves to survive. Real Life and Other Fictions is the charming, warmhearted novel you’re looking for!”

—Jennifer Close, author of Marrying the Ketchups and Girls in White Dresses

“Don’t be fooled by Susan Coll’s delightful new novel. You may think you’re reading a snappy rom com with a wacky heroine and an adorable puppy stranded in a town depicted with Nabokovian humor, but Real Life and Other Fictions slyly leads us to ponder essential questions: How do we make sense of the inexplicable? What damage is wrought by silence? Can we change our lives?”

—Lisa Gornick, author of
Ana Turns


“A heart-forward and perfectly comic starting-over novel, Real Life and Other Fictions shows that when you stop searching so hard for certain answers to explain your life, different questions can emerge that reveal the past, present, and future in new and slightly surreal ways. Susan Coll’s Cassie is almost every dog-loving woman of a certain age: deeply annoyed, intensely curious, slightly impulsive, and forever hopeful. What an absolute delight.”

—Laura Zigman, author of Separation Anxiety and Small World

“A crumbling marriage, stalled writing ambitions, and a lifetime of questions suppressed by her family about the tragedy that shaped her childhood lead Cassie on an impromptu journey to solve the mystery that has always plagued her regarding her unusual past. With an unruly puppy as her travel companion, bad weather, broken eyeglasses, and spotty GPS coverage, Cassie has no choice but to let instinct guide her on this chaotic, quirky, and heartwarming quest. Real Life and Other Fictions is that rare jewel of a story: one that both entertains and enlightens, one that makes pandemonium profound. Susan Coll is a literary alchemist—a writer who combines comedy and calamity and turns it into storytelling gold.”

—Lynda Cohen Loigman, bestselling author of The Matchmaker’s Gift


Susan Coll - Harper Muse


Susan Coll is the author of six novels, including The Stager—a New York Times and Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice. Her third novel, Acceptance, was made into a television movie starring the hilarious Joan Cusack. Susan’s work has appeared in publications including the New York Times Book Review, the Washington PostWashingtonian magazine, Moment Magazine,,, and The Millions. She works at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC, and is currently the president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

Connect with Susan:
Instagram: @susan_keselenko_coll 
X: susan_coll 
Pinterest: @susancollauthor