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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #635

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 10:07pm by muffy

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly and The Chicago Review of Books, No One is Coming to Save Us * is the debut novel by Stephanie Powell Watts, who previous won a Whiting Award, Pushcart Prize; and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for her story collection.

Pinewood, North Carolina is the setting for this contemporary recast of The Great Gatsby, which delves into African American family life in a community in decline. As the major employer of the town shifts production overseas, former employees of the furniture plants are feeling unmoored and depressed. In stark contrast, is J.J. Ferguson, who has returned to Pinewood, rich and self-assured, to build his dream house high on the hill, and to pursue his high school sweetheart, Ava.

The narrative focuses mainly on Sylvia Ross, and her daughter Ava who, despite a shaky marriage to the unemployed Henry, is desperate to have a child. Sylvia, herself estranged from philandering husband Don, and missing her son Devon, is taking comfort in her relationship with a prison inmate. Moving back and forth in time and between all the players, it is clear that "(e)veryone was keeping the wrong secrets".

"The novel’s intricately plotted relationships pay off satisfyingly in its final chapters. When Gatsby didn’t get what he wanted, the story could only end with his death, but Watts’s characters are people who have seen generations of dreams stymied and thwarted — for their kin, their community and themselves. Rather than giving up if the game doesn’t go their way, they do what they’ve always done: Forget the rules, shake up the players and turn Gatsby’s green dock light gold." (New York Times review)

* = starred review

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