Victoria Kelly

Victoria Kelly received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University, and her M.Phil. in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a US Mitchell Scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection When the Men Go Off to War. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in the anthologies Best American Poetry 2013 and Contemporary American Poetry, as well as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and North American Review. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters. Visit her website here.



A captivating debut novel, meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, about the passionate marriage of Harry and Bess Houdini—a love story that defied death itself.

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife Bess from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. When a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.

In surprising turns that weave through the uncertain days of the dawn of the twentieth century and continue into the dazzling 1920s, Mrs. Houdini is a thrilling tale that will take you deep into the heart of one of history’s greatest love stories—asking what drives people to believe in something bigger than themselves—even as it reveals the famous magician’s most remarkable feat of all.

"A splendid debut novel...Moving effortlessly beyond mere fictionalized biography, Kelly delivers a richly lyrical and thought-provoking novel with closing twists that feel as impossible, inevitable, and satisfying--as magical, in short--as one of Houdini's own illusions."Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Kelly’s mesmerizing reimagining shines a light on the kind of love that burns strong even after death.” —People

“Victoria Kelly is destined to become one of the essential voices of her generation. She has all of the writer’s essential gifts: originality and grace of language, depth of mind and—perhaps most critical of all—a questing and generous heart.” —Geraldine Brooks

"A grand story of secrets, codes and magic befitting one of history's greatest illusionists and the love of his life...Kelly animates the love story of this historic couple with a smooth blending of research and artistry...Dazzling and enchanting, Mrs. Houdini will captivate readers in a fashion that would make Harry and Bess proud."—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Victoria Kelly’s impressive debut is a magical, poignantly romantic tale of the world’s greatest escape artist and the remarkable woman who was his devoted partner, both onstage and off. In Mrs. Houdini, love proves to be the most mysterious and powerful of all death-defying acts.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author

“A marvel that gallops through time and space [and] vibrates with plot-driven energy, unforgettable characters and unpredictable twists…Mrs. Houdini offers a rollicking ride from a Coney Island music hall and a traveling circus in the 1890s to Hollywood and Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1920s. It’s a ghost story, a love story and a great tale of suspense…Without a single misstep, Mrs. Houdini is a pure delight from the first page to the last.”—Associated Press

"Bess Houdini was swept into history by an impulsive and passionate love, and then left bereft when her world-renowned husband died too soon. And that is where we find her at the beginning of the novel. Kelly has drawn Bess with such charm and moxie that I felt myself pulled into the pages, racing alongside her to uncover the clues Harry left behind, then stunned and weeping when she discovers the future he imagined for her."—Kaylie Jones, author of Lies My Mother Never Told Me

Rights: Atria, World English; Laguna, Serbia



Collecting the nationally-recognized poems of Victoria Kelly, When the Men Go Off to War captures the hopes, anxieties, and intimacies of the military spouse during a time of war. Written over the course of her husband’s deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, these haunting poems span vast geographical distances and generations, moving between the literal and the fanciful to find community in the midst of isolation. Kelly blends lyric and narrative elements to evoke themes of loneliness and human fragility with keen insight. But ultimately, When the Men Go Off to War is a heartrending ode to enduring romance, the reclamation of a marriage tested by loss and separation.

When the Men Go Off to War is a poignant collection of poems that personalizes the emotional highs and lows of military family life during times of conflict. Its powerful prose earns its author ― who speaks for family members who deal with it on a daily basis ― the right to be placed on any book shelf dedicated to war."―San Antonio Express-News

“It would be false to say there were not moments of lightness here. But Kelly is skillful; even in the happiness we know it can’t last. We know there will always be another war, another stage of departure, absence, and homecoming. So we appreciate what we are given as readers, as the speaker too appreciates when her worlds collide and rest, if only for a moment. This appreciation is represented perfectly in 'Birth,' as her husband holds their daughter. The three sentence poem ends 'She is only / six weeks old and there are no other / pleasures: everything is ageless here, everything / is here.'"―Coal Hill Review

"When the Men Go off to War is full of these sort of evocative passages, at once beautiful and tragic and always real. Navy SEAL veteran and bestselling author Eric Greitens may have put it best when he said, 'We leave [Victoria’s] poems wiser and stronger.'"―

"This book comes from dirt under the feet experience, a craft that has been honed and pure art. You impoverish yourself if you choose not to read it."―

“Women also go off to war, of course, but the perspective of most of the 47 poems by the wife of a Navy fighter pilot is from the home front: ‘What happens when they leave | is that the houses fold up like paper dolls.’ Her themes of departure, absence and homecoming are universal in place―from Key West to Kandahar―and in meaning: ‘Everyone who has aged out of our lives might still be getting older somewhere else.’ She writes ‘that the same prayers of broken mothers | still float from this fragile earth.’ Plenty of her other graceful lines float, too.”―Military Times

“Ms. Kelly has a flair for similes so good that they can enact a poem's closure. She shows that ingenuity and deep feeling are not incompatible. Perhaps best of all is her ability to speak to and sometimes for a community to whom attention must be paid. When the Men Go Off to War is a superb introduction to a poet we'll be hearing a lot from as time goes by.”―David Lehman, editor, The Oxford Book of American Poetry



When a high school student vanishes from a New Jersey suburb, the town panics. Fifteen-year-old twins Emmy and Prue are drawn into a kidnapping investigation after a man appears in their backyard, an encounter that lands Emmy in the hospital with severe kidney damage. Prue must reconcile her love for her sister with a desire for her own independence, while Emmy, in her fragile condition, becomes increasingly convinced that they are the only ones who can find the missing girl. Where People Go When They Disappear examines the tenuous line between a sibling’s envy and love, and how tragedy can affect us in the most terrible—and beautiful—of ways.

Many facts and details in the novel are loosely based on an unsolved disappearance of Antoinette Cayedito in the ’80s.