Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Tickets are available for Graywolf Literary Gala in Minneapolis on September 19. For more details about the event or to make a gift in honor of our 50th anniversary, click here

Book Title

One Vacant Chair

A Novel
Author 1
Joe Coomer
It's where you sit down that determines everything in life.

Sarah's aunt Edna paints portraits of chairs. Not people in chairs, just chairs. The old house is filled with the paintings, and the chairs themselves surround her work-a silent yet vigilant audience. At the funeral of Grandma Hutton-whom Edna has cared for through an agonizingly long and vague illness-Sarah begins helping her aunt clean up the last of a life. This includes honoring Grandma's surprising wish to have her ashes scattered in Scotland.

"We were two fat women, eighteen years apart, a chair artist and a designer of Christmas ornaments, who only knew we had troubles and a hot summer to get through," says Sarah. But as it turns out, there is a great deal more to quirky Aunt Edna's troubles than Sarah could possibly imagine. As the novel turns from the hot, oppressive heat of Texas to the misty beauty of Scotland, she learns of her aunt's remarkable secret life and comes to fully understand the fragile business of living, and even of dying.

Praised for his richly drawn characters and as a master storyteller, Joe Coomer is at the height of his powers in One Vacant Chair.

Winner of the S. Mariella Gable Fiction Prize

Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
6 x 9
Now in paperback, a hilarious and unpredictable novel by the author of Pocketful of Names

About the Author

Joe  Coomer
Credit: Isabelle Tokumaru
Joe Coomer is the author of One Vacant Chair, Pocketful of Names, Apologizing to Dogs, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, The Loop, Sailing in a Spoonful of Water, and Dream House. He lives in Texas and Maine.
More by author


  • "It is Joe Coomer's geinus for the subtle meanderings of female relationships that make One Vacant Chair a novel to sit still for."—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • "Coomer's tight focus on the mundane reveals the magical underbelly of everyday life."—Publishers Weekly
  • An enjoyable read, without a dull page.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • "By turns witty, droll, silly and laugh-out-loud funny, Coomer writes with assurance, converying much about the human condition. . . . Highly recommended."
Back to Table of Contents