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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.
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.
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This Book is a Gift
Beautifully paced, this story is about the things we do to one another...and it forgives us for them. It is a piercingly accurate of the world we live in today. Read this book - it will save you years of therapy. Thank you, Stephanie Powell Watts!