“Rutherford’s wildly inventive collection is nothing short of a revelation. From polar expeditions to family turmoil, no experience is beyond this very fine writer’s ambitious grasp. He gives us the world with each story, with the world’s full measure of heartbreak and hilarity.” Ben Fountain / National Book Critics Circle award-winning author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“A confident and winning collection, every story in The Peripatetic Coffin feels necessary and true. Ethan Rutherford gets it.” Patrick DeWitt / author of The Sisters Brothers

Alternately funny, menacing, and deeply empathetic, the eight wildly inventive stories in The Peripatetic Coffin mark the debut of a powerful new voice in contemporary fiction. Worried about waning enrollment, the head counselor of the world’s worst summer camp leads his campers on a series of increasingly dubious escapades in an effort to revive their esprit de corps. A young boy on a sailing vacation with his father comes face to face with a dangerous stranger, and witnesses a wrenching act of violence. Parents estranged from their disturbed son must gird themselves for his visit, even as they cannot face each other. And in the dazzling title story, the beleaguered crew of the first Confederate submarine embarks on their final, doomed mission during the closing days of the Civil War. Whether set aboard a Tsarist-era Russian ship locked in Arctic ice, on a futuristic whaling expedition whose depredations guarantee the environmental catastrophe that is their undoing, or in the suburban basement where two grade-school friends articulate their mutual obsessions, these strange, imaginative, and refreshingly original stories explore the ways in which we experience the world: as it is, as it could be, and the dark contours that lie between.

“Ethan Rutherford’s stories are funny and wrenching and feature hapless fatalists who nonetheless never stop striving, whose motto might be It’s Not Too Late to Take Responsibility for What We’re Doing, even as they continue to squander such opportunities. And yet they never let us forget that there’s always the possibility that they will learn-even if it’s the hard way-to see beyond themselves.” Jim Shepard / author of National Book Award finalist Like You’d Understand Anyway

“Ethan Rutherford’s stories are absolutely perfect. . . I rarely feel this close to heartbreak, this strengthened by a writer clearly doing something special.” Kevin Wilson / author of The Family Fang

“Moving seamlessly from one world to another, from oceans to a snow-covered meadow to the rooms of childhood, each story is a vessel of longing and possibility . . . . this book is a revelatory feat of the imagination, and The Peripatetic Coffin is an incomparable, vital debut.” Paul Yoon / author of Once the Shore and Snow Hunters

“This is a flat-out beautiful book of stories.” Charles Baxter / author of the National Book Award finalist The Feast of Love

“Ethan Rutherford can slay you with humor and buoy you within the midst of tragedy. His range is amazing. Every story is 100% Grade-A storytelling.” Alice Sebold / author of The Lovely Bones

Buy The Book



Thank you! If you can, please buy the book from your local independent bookseller. If they don’t have it, they will most likely be able to order it in for you if you ask nicely. If you must have it immediately—which, of course, is understandable (!)—try Powell’s.

To find an independent bookstore in your city, try Indie Bound.


Ethan Rutherford

Ethan Rutherford was born in Seattle, and now lives in the Midwest. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, New York Tyrant, Esopus, Five Chapters, and The Best American Short Stories. His work has received special mention in the 2009, 2010 and 2013 editions of the Pushcart Prize, and received awards from the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. He received his MFA from the University of Minnesota, and has taught creative writing at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, and the Loft Literary Center. He is the guitarist for the band Pennyroyal, which has been assaulting the ears of its listeners with songs of the ocean and long lost love since 2010. He is currently at work on a novel set in the Alaskan wilderness. (Photo credit: Heather Kraft)

His first book, The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories, was named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, a “Best Book of the Summer” by Publishers Weekly, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award. It was also a finalist for the John Leonard Prize (NBCC), the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award, received honorable mention for the PEN / Hemingway Award, and was the winner of a Minnesota Book Award.


Numero Cinq interview (with music!)
Read to Write Stories interview about craft and “Dirwhals!”
Minnesota Public Radio review and discussion
Discover Great New Writers interview with Matt Burgess
First Draft on Aspen Public Radio
Ploughshares interview with Paul Yoon
One Story interview about The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories
One Story interview about “Summer, Boys”
Gameological Society interview: NES, nostalgia, and “Contra”
The Gaudy Interview: Summer Camp, and Emotional Discontent
Shelf Awareness Book Brahmin interview
Express Milwaukee interview discussing “The Peripatetic Coffin”


Publicity: Martin Wilson, Ecco:
Martin (dot) Wilson (at) harpercollins.com

Everything else: ethanrutherford (at) hotmail.com


Find Ethan on Facebook


3/12: A short personal essay on parenthood, fiction, and memory is up at TROP.

1/25: Happy news: COFFIN has been named a fiction finalist for the Minnesota Book Award!

12/26: Great news to end the year: COFFIN is a finalist for the the John Leonard Prize (an award for the best first book in any genre, awarded by the National Book Critics Circle).

12.25: Two-sentence (super short) holiday fiction up at Salon.com

11.19: New short story “Family, Happiness” up at Revolver

9.30: An essay on quitting, and not quitting, featuring The Shining and Conan the Barbarian, up on The Story Prize Blog

8.22: Nice review from the Courier Journal: “a promising debut from a young writer: ambitious in subject matter and style, and nearly always reaching a perfect dark-comic pitch.”

7.8: Nice feature in MINNPost (I’m going to miss Minneapolis)

7.5: I had fun putting together a playlist for the always awesome Large Hearted Boy’s Book Notes series

7.4: July 4th! COFFIN makes for some recommended reading at CNN!

7.3: Nice mention from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (speed-dating short fiction!)

7.1: Thoughtful review up at the wonderfully named The Coffin Factory

7.1: Lovely review in BSCENE Magazing

6/4: A day-making review by Lindsey Silken at The Rumpus: “Rutherford has found a crack in today’s literature, a space where something moving could be done, and let the light shine in.”

6/1: A nice review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer

5/29: A lovely, brief mention in The New York Times (!)

5/22. My recommendations for the Best Books (and a few movies )of the Sea have gone live at Flavorwire.

5/18. Over at the NPR Books site, I wrote about the short stories of Daphne du Maurier (and how awesome they are).

5/15: A wonderful review in The Fiddleback. This one was a day-maker.

5/5. A great review the Star Tribune: “This is a beautiful book about human suffering, about human quandaries. It is also about bravery, history, love, longing, scientific and sexual exploration and the seasons of the year, principally summer and winter. A peripatetic coffin can, like the H.L. Hunley, be a ‘sealed iron tub,’ or it can be a schooner trapped in sea ice, or even the adult mind recalling what happened between two boys many years before.”

5/2. Flavorpill lists “The Peripatetic Coffin” as one of 10 New Must-Reads for May.

5/1. Delta Sky magazine calls “The Peripatetic Coffin” a “masterful debut”. If you’re flying Delta in May, turn to page 38.

4/22. Beach Reading! “The Peripatetic Coffin” has been selected by Publishers Weekly as one of their “Best Summer Books of 2013” and also received a starred review.

4/15. “The Peripatetic Coffin” has been long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award! Information here.

4/1. “Dirwhals!” (the final story in The Peripatetic Coffin) is being serialized over at Five Chapters. Check it out: Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5

3/25. Good news! The Peripatetic Coffin has been selected by Barnes & Noble for their Discover Great New Writers program (Summer 2013).


2013 (past events)

April 4: Midwest Booksellers Association Spring Meeting

May 7: Micawber’s Books, w/Matthew Burgess. St. Paul, MN. 7 pm

May 16: Barnes & Noble, w/ Benjamin Percy. Edina, MN. 7 pm

May 20: Book Passage (Ferry Building). San Francisco, CA. 6 pm

May 21: Elliott Bay Book Company. Seattle, WA. 7 pm

May 22: Annie Bloom’s Books. Portland, OR. 7 pm

May 28: Prairie Lights Bookstore, w/ Benjamin Percy. Iowa City, IA. 7 pm

May 30: Loft Literary Center, w/ Matthew Rasmussen. Minneapolis, MN. 7 pm

June 5: Three Lives & Co. New York, NY. 7 pm

June 6: One Story Debutante Ball. Brooklyn, NY

June 7: Greenlight Bookstore. One Story Reading, w/ Claire Vaye Watkins, Leigh Newman, Manuel Gonzales, L. Annette Binder, Ben Miller, and Douglas Watson. Brooklyn, NY. 7:30 pm

June 8: Books on the Square. Providence, RI. 7 pm

June 19: Boswell Book Company w/ Peter Heller. Milwaukee, WI. 7 pm

June 20: A Room of One’s Own. Madison, WI. 6 pm

June 27: Dragonfly Books. Decorah, IA. 7 pm

September 26: Newtonville Books w/Paul Yoon. Boston, MA.




Ethan Rutherford is a fiscal year 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.