Read on for a review of No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, Nylon, Elle, Redbook, W Magazine, and The Chicago Review of Books and highly recommended by Oprah!
In a small town in North Carolina an African-American family is reaching for the American Dream. Life is hard and full of disappointments as it seems like a dark cloud is hovering over them. Ava is desperate for a baby yet she battles infertility and secretly reaches out to an online community for support and advice. Her husband, Henry, is upset about the decline in the furniture industry where he works, is cheating on Ava and feels disappointed in himself. Ava’s mother, Sylvia’s, life is stunted; she has never gotten over losing her son Devon and is married to Don, a man she doesn’t trust. JJ Ferguson, Ava’s old boyfriend, is back in town, wealthy and living large on top of the hill. He has built a house overlooking the town and is hoping to get back together with Ava as he searches for the feeling of being home.
“We all get disappointed… We want what’s missing. Everybody wants what’s missing.” Wealth, trust, fidelity, love…they all are searching for something to make them feel whole, yet no one is spared life’s challenges.
As Ava, JJ, Henry and Sylvia struggle to find happiness, those occasional glimmers of light are just not enough to make all of their dreams come true.
“They could pretend they had the power to fix their lives. The trick was making themselves believe it. That’s what joy is, isn’t it? Belief for a little while that you have the power to mend everything?”
Stephanie Powell Watts has written an impressive debut as she skillfully weaves thoughts from the characters’ pasts with current events; a true glimpse into how they physically experience life while recalling old memories. She gives us a snapshot of real life where little is perfect and few are satisfied. It is reminiscent of the fact that life can be challenging and making the most out of it gives us the biggest reward.
“If you can’t get what you want, want something else.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to more from Stephanie Powell Watts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Powell Watts won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (2012), also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction has been included in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology and honored with a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Powell Watts’s stories explore the lives of African Americans in fast food and factory jobs, working door to door as Jehovah’s Witness ministers, and pressing against the boundaries of the small town, post-integration South. Her forthcoming debut novel, titled No One Is Coming to Save Us, follows the return of a successful native son to his home in North Carolina and his attempt to join the only family he ever wanted but never had. As Ms. Powell Watts describes it, “Imagine The Great Gatsby set in rural North Carolina, nine decades later, with desperate black people.” Born in the foothills of North Carolina, with a PhD from the University of Missouri and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she now lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.