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Named a Best Book of 2020 by Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, Vulture, The New Yorker, and Kirkus
Grappling with motherhood, economic anxiety, rage, and the limits of language, Want is a fiercely personal novel that vibrates with anger, insight, and love.
Elizabeth is tired. Years after coming to New York to try to build a life, she has found herself with two kids, a husband, two jobs, a PhD—and now they’re filing for bankruptcy. As she tries to balance her dream and the impossibility of striving toward it while her work and home lives feel poised to fall apart, she wakes at ungodly hours to run miles by the icy river, struggling to quiet her thoughts.
When she reaches out to Sasha, her long-lost childhood friend, it feels almost harmless—one of those innocuous ruptures that exist online, in texts. But her timing is uncanny. Sasha is facing a crisis, too, and perhaps after years apart, their shared moments of crux can bring them back into each other’s lives.
In Want, Lynn Steger Strong explores the subtle violences enacted on a certain type of woman when she dares to want things—and all the various violences in which she implicates herself as she tries to survive.
Strong's impressive follow-up to Hold Still explores the energy it takes for women to sustain themselves in a world that leaves them feeling "less than, knocked down, not quite in control." Now living in New York City, Elizabeth and her unnamed husband are "eighties babies, born of plenty, cloistered by whiteness... brought up to think that if we checked off certain boxes we'd be fine." Elizabeth has a PhD, but tenure-track professorship remains out of reach, and her husband, the first in his family to attend college, once worked for Lehman Brothers and now struggles to get a carpentry business off the ground. Due to their unstable employment and scant insurance coverage for her C-section and root canals, they are deep in debt ("my body almost single-handedly bankrupted us"). As the couple advance through the bankruptcy process, buoyed by their love for their young children and at times each other, Elizabeth becomes caught up in repeating an old pattern with her friend, Sasha, who is anxious about her pregnancy after a previous miscarriage. Strong unpacks the fraught history of Elizabeth and Sasha's friendship dating back to their teenage years, delivering great insight on how the exhausted women have found themselves wanting male attention, babies, choices, recognition, respect as they compromise their dreams in order to survive. This is well worth a look.