Strange Attractors: Lives Changed By Chance

“A collective spiritual autobiography like nothing I've read before." — Elisa Albert


Has a stunning surprise or lucky encounter ever propelled you in an unanticipated direction? Are you doing what you always thought you would be doing with your life or has some unseen magnetism changed your course? And has that redirection come to seem inevitable? Edie Meidav and Emmalie Dropkin asked leading contemporary writers to consider these questions, which they characterize through the metaphor of “the strange attractor”, a scientific theory describing an inevitable occurrence that arises out of chaos. Meidav’s introduction and the thirty-five pieces collected here offer imaginative, arresting, and memorable replies to this query, including guidance from a yellow fish, a typewriter repairman, a cat, a moose, a bicycle, and a stranger on a train. Absorbing and provocative, this is nonfiction to be read in batches and bursts and returned to again and again.

For review copies, contact Courtney Andree at the University of Massachusetts Press at For other queries, contact the editors at

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Press and Reviews

“These essays on chance encounters and redirections are absorbing, unexpected, yielding—I am a genuine fan.” —Beth Kephart, author of Strike the Empty: Notes for Readers, Writers, and Teachers of Memoir

"A wonderful book, unique in all ways, truly and deeply full of wonder.  What a stunning constellation of seekers, believers, wanderers, questioners.  A collective spiritual autobiography like nothing I've read before." — Elisa Albert, author of After Birth

Strange Attractors reminds us that even chaos has a pattern, and now more than ever, we are grateful for it. Attraction is evidence of the sublime. The very idea sparks revelation.” — Annie Liontas, editor of A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors

“Chance—the charm of chance—that permeates these stories is startling, often dazzling, and always life-affirming. You’ll wish most of these talented women writers were your friends.” —Susan Fox Rogers, author of My Reach: A Hudson River Memoir

“Urgent and reflective, infused with a revelatory grace, Strange Attractors is a wondering wander of a book, a curiosity shop of stories filled with surprise and clarity, longing and transformation. Lyrical, experimental, or conversational, this collection's voices explore encounters that change the course of our lives.” —Cathy Chung

Excerpts from Strange Attractors

  • Read R.O. Kwon's piece about a stranger on a train in The Sun

  • Read Jenni Quilter's essay about a plane crash, a proposal, and Zeno's paradox in Avidly

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Edie Meidav is the author of Kingdom of the Young (Sarabande), short fiction with a nonfiction coda, and three award-winning novels, Lola, California (FSG) and Crawl Space (FSG) the most recent. She is on the permanent faculty of the MFA for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Emmalie Dropkin’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Literature, and the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, and her fiction has been nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.


Strange Attractors Readings & Events