praise for Worry

“Human life is fragile and precarious. No one knows this more than Ruth, the preoccupied parent at the centre of Jessica Westhead’s startling and powerfully affecting new novel… With Worry, the author takes a decidedly dark turn, magnifying cultural anxieties about motherhood, female friendship, and sexual violence to generate a story with enough disturbing and chilling moments to rival the best of Stephen King.” —Shawn Syms, Quill & Quire

Worry does a masterful job of building tension, and the reader is constantly torn between eager anticipation and dread of finding out what is happening next. There is a heightened level of anxiety that stretches throughout the entire story, which pulls the reader in and creates intense suspense.” —Menaka Raman-Wilms, The Ottawa Review of Books

Worry builds its throttling tension through the story of Ruth, the alpha-protective mother of precocious almost-4-year-old Fern as they visit a family cottage belonging to Ruth’s lifelong pal, free-wheeling Stef… Ruth and Stef share a complicated past as revealed through flashbacks and heartbreaking third-person exposés that slowly unfurl through the book. Worry becomes as much a reflection on adult relationships as it is about a parent desperately wanting to make the best choices for their child.” —Sue Carter, Toronto Star

“A taut cottage-set novel that takes place over 48 hours. Part mystery, part psychological fiction. All sweltering tension.” —Cottage Life Magazine

Worry gave me goosebumps from the very first line! The first few pages are so utterly heartbreaking that you nearly shy away but the instant connection between reader and protagonist is established and you devour the entire book. And yes, you do worry, the entire way.” —Lisa de Nikolits, The Minerva Reader

“Jessica Westhead is one of the finest prose writers in this country.” —Zoe Whittall, bestselling author of The Best Kind of People

“In Worry, Jessica Westhead deftly plumbs the anxiety that can arise from attachment. This compelling novel explores not only the tensions between dependence and freedom, but also the tricky, shifting nature of love itself.” —Meg Wolitzer, bestselling author of The Interestings

“I read Worry in one sleepless, unbroken gulp. Jessica Westhead renders parenthood as a riveting high-wire act, and imbues a seemingly ordinary lakeside vacation with suspense and menace that lingers long after reading… An irresistible novel from its first pages to its devastating end.” —Kim Fu, acclaimed author of The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

“An eerie, twist-filled story. With striking precision, Westhead dissects parenting and relationships in the age of anxiety. A riveting read.”  —Katrina Onstad, acclaimed author of Everybody Has Everything

Worry was included in the Ezvid Wiki video wiki “8 Thought-Provoking Novels Written By Women”! You can watch the video here.

Kerry Clare wrote some very nice things about Worry in her Pickle Me This review here.

Andrew Hood gave Worry a wonderful review for the Bookshelf News here.

praise for Things Not to Do

“Westhead’s writing is infused with a generosity that is infectious: It draws a reader in and demands an emotional accounting.”
—Steven W. Beattie, The Globe & Mail

“Westhead brings empathy and humour to everyday absurdities with believable and recognizable characters.”
—Elizabeth Mitchell, Toronto Star

Things Not to Do hinges largely on the double-edged nature of empathy. In the wonderful piece ‘Empathize or Die,’ Westhead shows the ways in which empathy also has its dangers… Westhead maps the murky, strained silences of modern life.”
—Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, Quill & Quire

Things Not to Do is on Maisonneuve‘s Best Books of 2017 list! “Westhead extends to her characters a sweetness and a generosity which is not mere charity, but genuine understanding, whether they are children or caregivers or cheating spouses or fast-food wage slaves, and she challenges the reader to do the same.”
—Andrew Forbes

“Each story presents itself with a dilemma to the reader: Will I empathize, look past the human error? Or will I shake my head and become a judge of character? This duality is made even more difficult—but entertaining—by Westhead’s humour, which leaves the reader unsure whether to laugh the story off or feel a sense of shame for laughing at all.”
—Erica Lenti, The Winnipeg Review

“These stories are sad, funny and so quietly and powerfully subversive. I loved them.”
—Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This (Read the full review here)

Kelli Deeth, a wonderful short story writer and teacher, wrote this lovely piece on her blog about my short story “Empathize or Die,” which was first published in the summer 2016 issue of Taddle Creek, and appears in my new collection.

interviews & things (about Things and other fiction)

Anne Logan gives my short story “Mister Elephant” this marvellous video review in her Day 11 Short Story Advent Calendar unveiling for her Video Book Reviews YouTube Channel. (I also love how dedicated she is to chocolate!)

I discuss my writing process, my love of social awkwardness, and some other things with Trevor Corkum for The Chat on 49th Shelf.

I talk about dialogue, and include some of my favourite eavesdropping gems, for the One Question Interview on writer Alex Boyd’s blog.

Sally Cooper interviewed me and Angie Abdou for the Hamilton Review of Books. Read our conversation here.

Sonal Champsee and PRISM International Magazine interviewed me here about writing-related things.

I gab about fear, writing-brain fog, and Churkendooses in CBC Books’ Magic 8 Q&A.

Have a listen to this excerpt from “The Lesson” in Things Not to Do read by Chioke I’Anson on Claire Tacon’s The Oddments Tray.

praise for And Also Sharks

“Fraught with a slightly skewed view of reality, the prose is at times so dry you’d give anything for the characters to stop talking and exit with whatever grace they might have left. But at these points you laugh, and the tension breaks and starts all over again.”
—Brooke Ford, The Globe & Mail

“Westhead is adept at providing caustically funny snapshots of lives that are twisted by loss, loneliness or boredom.”
—Steven W. Beattie, National Post

“With her penchant for supremely neurotic protagonists and thematic complexity, and her rich sense of the absurd, Westhead may have a claim to being CanLit’s Woody Allen.”
—Shawn Syms, Quill & Quire (Read the full review here)

“The narrative tone of voice is deftly comic…but the settings and situations are emphatic about the gnawing difference between one’s high expectations for life and what actually comes to be.”
—Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun

“…unsettling, endearing, funny, sad, surprising and all else. In short, it’s stunning short fiction.”
—Mike Landry, Telegraph-Journal

And Also Sharks was included in The Coast’s Best Books of 2011!

And Also Sharks was very kindly reviewed in Necessary Fiction by a writer in Austin, Texas!

Pickle Me This is a fan of And Also Sharks. (Read Kerry Clare’s review here)

The Book Stylist reviewed And Also Sharks and proclaims: “This is one of my at-first-I-wanted-you-for-your-looks-but-it-turns-out-you-also-have-a-great-personality kind of books.”

interviews, readings, and other delightful items


Listen to me read an excerpt from “Empathize or Die” on the Taddle Creek podcast.

I gab about diningroom tables, trolls, the dreaded social eye-dart, and the Ricky Gervais Police with the engaging John Degen on The Book Room.

Radio interview for “Click here” with Mitchell Caplan on Ottawa’s CHUO-FM89 (June 2011). Thanks to Greg Kampf and Derek Wuenschirs for recording and posting magic!

Indiana Review asked me to record an excerpt from “We Are All About Wendy Now” (which they published, and also appears in And Also Sharks) for their Bluecast. You can listen to my reading here.

I read an excerpt from “What I Would Say” (in And Also Sharks) for TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Club Blog Audio Series! Listen here.

Found Press teamed up with the Draft Reading Series to host a “sort-of-cyber-edition” where writers and readers (including me!) came together at the Merchants of Green café in Toronto to chat about e-publishing and read excerpts from Found Press stories. You can listen to audio clips from the day here.

WordPlay, a project presented by WordFest and Six Degrees, is a radio play produced from my short story “Community” in And Also Sharks. Read about the project here, and listen to it here. Many thanks to WordFest and Six Degrees’ wonderful director, Christian Goutsis, and his incredible cast of voice actors. The sound effects are pretty cool too.

Priscila Uppal discusses And Also Sharks on CBC Radio Canada International’s Biblio-File.


“The Curious Head of Jessica Westhead” (feature by Ashleigh Gaul in the summer 2011 issue of Broken Pencil)

“Oddballs, Misfits, And Also Sharks (interview with Carly Maga in Torontoist)

Erica Ruth Kelly interviewed me for Maisonneuve—read our Q&A here.

Shawn Syms mentions the title story in And Also Sharks in his great piece on social media in short fiction for The Toronto Review of Books.

Fellow Cormorant author Barbara Lambert kindly included me in her fun project Dr. Johnson’s Corner, where she asked writers to contribute unused or abandoned bits of their fiction.

Q&A with The Danforth Review

selected reviews of Pulpy & Midge


“Westhead finds weirdness in the everyday, exploring such universal indignities as forgetting the receptionist’s name or having to stake claim to coffee mugs from the communal kitchen. Despite this familiarity, the book takes on a slightly surreal tone through highly mannered dialogue. The novel’s chief challenge lies in making a passive character compelling, and in that it largely succeeds, through subtle clues that Pulpy and his wife are much more aware than outsiders give them credit for.”
Quill & Quire

“Pubs under office towers are filled with stories of the Boss from Hell. Some workers chortle over their beer. Others cry into it. In her debut novel, Jessica Westhead brings the monster boss home for dinner.”
The Globe & Mail

“Pulpy Lembeck, whose moniker is the result of a long-standing college joke related to his prodigious orange juice consumption, is the unassertive protagonist of Torontonian Jessica Westhead’s comedic debut novel, Pulpy & Midge… The strength of Pulpy & Midge is dialogue, of which there is a great deal.”
The Toronto Star

“In Pulpy & Midge, you end up genuinely liking the title characters, not just as characters, but as people. And the more I liked Pulpy, the more I liked his author. Westhead has a real gift for dialogue, creating a vibrant world that exists almost completely between quotation marks… Westhead is an expert at creating tension, whether it is between or within characters. Because almost everyone in Pulpy & Midge is polite, the tension inhabits the spaces between the lines, cold as ice.”
Broken Pencil (fiction review of the issue)

“Deftly written from start to finish, Westhead’s comic tale is narrated in an almost deadpan style she manages to retain, even as the tension in Pulpy’s life expands to the breaking point. Not so over-the-top as Dilbert, Pulpy & Midge nevertheless skewers today’s corporate office scene with equal relish.”
The Record

“Don’t let the cartoonish title fool you—the book’s most obvious comparison is the TV series The Office; Pulpy & Midge has the same wry pacing. With charming design and a storyteller’s skill, Westhead keeps her fiction fresh by letting the audience follow the characters through ordinary workdays as Pulpy waits for his imminent promotion.”
Eye Weekly

Good dialogue is a rare thing and Westhead is having fun with her talent. You can almost see her tapping out the quirky banter with a half grin. At times, the dialogue is so fast and fun you miss your bus stop while reading about Pulpy missing his (oh irony)… The sharp dialogue allows Pulpy & Midge to be casually comedic one moment and dead serious the next.
The Southernmost Review

Ian Daffern includes Pulpy & Midge in a round-up of CanLit office fiction for!

other reviews

Open Book Toronto reviews a reading

Broken Pencil reviews poetry winner II
Jessica’s Poetry Winner II is hilarious. Her zine takes us on a witty adventure through the web site of the International Library of Poetry. Jessica looks up her name and finds the poem she had submitted represented. “Ode to Sparky” has found posterity on their database. Meanwhile, she writes another ode (this one a bit more risque) which seemingly disappears off the web site. She phones a customer representative for the site and taunts them (even though she states that the rep “seemed like a very nice person, with an impeccable sense of humour”) concerning the whereabouts of her newly fashioned poem. With her commitment to vanity and self-indulgence, Jessica provides a look at the aftermath of being a “poetry winner” and its ramifications, neatly sending up both the poets who send in their work, and the for-profit poetry publisher the International Library of Poetry.

selected interviews

on BookTV:

12 or 20 questions by rob mclennan

on Pickle Me This


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