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No One Is Coming to Save Us
Cover of No One Is Coming to Save Us
No One Is Coming to Save Us
A Novel
Borrow

*THE INAUGURAL SARAH JESSICA PARKER PICK FOR BOOK CLUB CENTRAL*

CHOSEN AS A 2017 BEST SUMMER READ PICK BY

The Wall Street Journal • The Washington Post The Seattle Times

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2017 BY

Entertainment Weekly • Nylon • Elle • Redbook • W Magazine The Chicago Review of Books

JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina, to build his dream house and to pursue his high school sweetheart, Ava. But as he reenters his former world, where factories are in decline and the legacy of Jim Crow is still felt, he's startled to find that the people he once knew and loved have changed just as much as he has. Ava is now married and desperate for a baby, though she can't seem to carry one to term. Her husband, Henry, has grown distant, frustrated by the demise of the furniture industry, which has outsourced to China and stripped the area of jobs. Ava's mother, Sylvia, caters to and meddles with the lives of those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia's unworthy but charming husband, just won't stop hanging around.

JJ's return—and his plans to build a huge mansion overlooking Pinewood and woo Ava—not only unsettles their family, but stirs up the entire town. The ostentatious wealth that JJ has attained forces everyone to consider the cards they've been dealt, what more they want and deserve, and how they might go about getting it. Can they reorient their lives to align with their wishes rather than their current realities? Or are they all already resigned to the rhythms of the particular lives they lead?

No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice: with echoes of The Great Gatsby it is an arresting and powerful novel about an extended African American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream. In evocative prose, Stephanie Powell Watts has crafted a full and stunning portrait that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family.

*THE INAUGURAL SARAH JESSICA PARKER PICK FOR BOOK CLUB CENTRAL*

CHOSEN AS A 2017 BEST SUMMER READ PICK BY

The Wall Street Journal • The Washington Post The Seattle Times

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2017 BY

Entertainment Weekly • Nylon • Elle • Redbook • W Magazine The Chicago Review of Books

JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina, to build his dream house and to pursue his high school sweetheart, Ava. But as he reenters his former world, where factories are in decline and the legacy of Jim Crow is still felt, he's startled to find that the people he once knew and loved have changed just as much as he has. Ava is now married and desperate for a baby, though she can't seem to carry one to term. Her husband, Henry, has grown distant, frustrated by the demise of the furniture industry, which has outsourced to China and stripped the area of jobs. Ava's mother, Sylvia, caters to and meddles with the lives of those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia's unworthy but charming husband, just won't stop hanging around.

JJ's return—and his plans to build a huge mansion overlooking Pinewood and woo Ava—not only unsettles their family, but stirs up the entire town. The ostentatious wealth that JJ has attained forces everyone to consider the cards they've been dealt, what more they want and deserve, and how they might go about getting it. Can they reorient their lives to align with their wishes rather than their current realities? Or are they all already resigned to the rhythms of the particular lives they lead?

No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice: with echoes of The Great Gatsby it is an arresting and powerful novel about an extended African American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream. In evocative prose, Stephanie Powell Watts has crafted a full and stunning portrait that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family.

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About the Author-
  • Stephanie Powell Watts is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, and has won numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and the Southern Women's Writers Award for Emerging Writer of the Year. Her 2017 novel, No One is Coming to Save Us, was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards—Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction and Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. She was also a PEN/Hemingway finalist for her short-story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 20, 2017
    In her patient yet rich first novel, a Great Gatsby reboot, Watts (We Are Taking Only What We Need) digs deep into the wounds of a down-and-out African-American family in the contemporary South. Lone wolf J.J. Ferguson returns to economically depressed Pinewood, N.C., after 15 years to woo Ava, his high school crush, and build a hilltop mansion for all to envy. But the reunion is not what he bargained for. Ava, now married to Henry, a handsome but chronically miserable man with another family on the side, is a bored bank teller, at her wits’ end trying to get pregnant after three miscarriages (and searching for solace on mommies2b.com). Meanwhile Ava’s mother, Sylvia, is overweight, tired of being married to a perennial cheater, and filling the void by taking weekly phone calls from a 25-year-old prisoner she’s never met who reminds her of her son. The book takes a beat too long to find its rhythm, but when it does, it hits home—and hard. Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life’s inevitable disappointments. But it’s the compassion she feels for her characters’ vulnerability and desires—
    J.J.’s belief that he and Ava can work, Ava’s ache for a family, Sylvia’s wish to be seen and loved—that make the story so relevant and memorable.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 15, 2017
    The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel.Winner of a Pushcart Prize and other awards for her short fiction, Watts (We Are Taking Only What We Need, 2011) spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams set in a struggling North Carolina town. The furniture industry that once served as the major employer has shifted its factories to Asia, leaving former workers feeling unmoored and depressed. Even those who have jobs--Sylvia, who works for a social service agency, and her daughter Ava, a college graduate who has risen to loan officer in a bank--see that they have fallen far short of achieving the American dream. Watts creates tender, sympathetic portraits of her two main characters, women enveloped in grief: Sylvia's for her dead son, Ava's over her inability to conceive the child she desperately wants. Among the town's inhabitants, only JJ Ferguson seems to have succeeded: in the 15 years since he left Pinewood, he has become an enviably rich man. Suddenly, he has returned, and Sylvia wonders if he wants to show off, to prove that "someone like her, someone black, someone once poor, could come back to town and smash it underfoot." But revenge is not why JJ is building a mansion on the hill overlooking the town; he has come back for Ava, whom he has loved since they were children. JJ desires Ava with as much passion as Jay Gatsby felt for Daisy Buchanan. If he won Ava's heart, Sylvia realized, he "thought he could star in his own adventure, be the hero in his own story." That desire infects all of Watts' characters, who wish to star in their own stories, however modest. Sylvia simply wants to be a "known person," to feel "that she had been important to someone." That need compels her to form a relationship with a prisoner rejected by everyone else in his life. Ava's overwhelming need is to be a mother. Watts' gently told story, like Fitzgerald's, is only superficially about money but more acutely about the urgent, inexplicable needs that shape a life.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    November 15, 2016
    Already a multi-award winner before publishing this first novel, Watts opens with JJ Ferguson returning to Pinewood, NC, to build his dream house and court high school sweetheart Ava. Ava turns out to be married, and her husband's growing cold. Billed as an African American Great Gatsby but with nuances all its own; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review

    "Watts writes about ordinary people leading ordinary lives with an extraordinary level of empathy and attention...The novel's intricately plotted relationships pay off satisfyingly in its final chapters." — New York Times Book Review

    "Watts is so captivating a writer. She's unusually deft with dialogue...[The novel is] conveyed in a prose style that renders the common language of casual speech into natural poetry, blending intimate conversation with the rhythms of gossip, town legend, even song lyrics...An indelible story." — Washington Post

    "Watts's book envisions a backwoods African-American version of The Great Gatsby. The circumstances of her characters are vastly unlike Fitzgerald's, and those differences are what make this novel so moving." — Janet Maslin, New York Times

    "Imagine The Great Gatsby, only set in the contemporary American South, and retold with black characters, rather than the lily-white Long Island set. Watts' retelling is smart, unsettling, at times hilarious, and a wonderful update to this classic American novel." — Nylon Magazine

    "Watts' lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters' viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself." — Chicago Review of Books

    "Watts' lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters' viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself." — Booklist

    "Patient yet rich...Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life's inevitable disappointments. But it's the compassion she feels for her characters' vulnerability and desires...that make the story so relevant and memorable." — Publishers Weekly

    "Deeply evocative." — W Magazine

    "Inspired by The Great Gatsby, Watts loosely (masterfully, too) retells the American saga from the present day perspective of a once thriving African American community, breathing fresh life into a classic in a way that feels more essential, more moving than the original." — Marie Claire

    "A deep, moving read." — Real Simple

    "They say if you love something, you should set it free. Not so in Stephanie Powell Watts' powerful debut novel...This timely novel sheds its green light on economic and emotional heartbreak and the spaces where the living meet the dead." — Vanity Fair

    "[Watts'] great gift is her instinct for empathy...No One is Coming to Save Us proves to be not just a pleasure on its own terms, but also a compassionate and well-timed social commentary, wherein people like us endeavor, falter, and finally endure." — O, the Oprah Magazine

    "Watts excels at physical descriptions that give texture to the world of the novel... In the best possible way, this is the kind of book that makes a reader yearn for her next one." — Time

    "Watts, with her knowing touch and full-bodied prose, delivers a resonant meditation on life and the comfort both in dreaming and in moving forward." — USA Today

    "The Great Gatsby...

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A Novel
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