Book Review: No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts 2 comments


No One is Coming to Save Us #BookClubCentral #BookReview {living outside the stacks}

Author: Stephanie Powell Watts

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Ecco

Release Date: 4 April 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 384

ABOUT THE BOOK {from the inside flap of the book}

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?

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. She was also a PEN/Hemingway finalist for her short~story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need.

You can find out more about Stephanie Powell Watts on her website.

MY OPINION

No One is Coming to Save Us has been called the black version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; I think this does a disservice to both Watts and Fitzgerald. While Watts may have been influenced by Fitzgerald, I think her story and voice are both unique and relatable. The story is set in a small town in North Carolina, where the people are poor due to a variety of circumstances {outsourcing of jobs, shadows of racism, and general hopelessness}. Those who are lucky enough to get away rarely return, especially when their kinfolk pass away, but those who stay get stuck.

They get stuck in their lives…

The characters in this novel are flawed and spectacular and real and dynamic. They’re people we know. Maybe they’re us… Going through life wondering if this is all there is, what would have happened if we’d taken an alternative path? I think that’s why this story spoke to me, I could see myself {at varying times in my life} in each of the characters:

Sylvia ~ mourning the loss of someone she loved dearly, haunted by the wish that she’d done more

Ava ~ losing herself each month, praying that she doesn’t become her mother, while realizing that that fate may be inescapable

JJ ~ living in the present while haunted by a past that never was

Henry ~ knowing there’s more out there but unable to secure it

While the stories were, I don’t know, sad and ordinary, I do like that Watts ended the novel on a hopeful but realistic note. The character’s lives and dreams were wrapped up but not with a tight bow… she provided just enough slack to let the reader know that they, like us, survive.

I’d recommend this novel for a book discussion group, although it has been labeled “African American fiction,” I believe the themes in the novel are universal. And for groups that are looking to add diversity to their programs, this is an excellent choice.

This novel is the inaugural selection by Sarah Jessica Parker for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central.

There was some coarse language and violence.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE

A word can bring the heart back to life sputtering and spitting like an almost~drowned man, gasping at life.

Page 98

RATING
★★★★

PURCHASING OPTIONS

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Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss…

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}

 

 

 

 

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  • The Great Gatsby has always been a favorite of mine. Had an enthusiastic, passionate English teacher who helped bring the book to life for me. This sounds like another book I would like. Especially since the characters of No One is Coming to Save Us are relatable and real, unlike Fitzgerald’s who were a bit extreme as I recall. Adding this to Goodreads.
    One question…were the photos of you and the hubs taken at the same time – are you sitting close to each other or were they taken separately and put together? Interesting photo.

    • The Great Gatsby is a fave of mine because I’m such a fan of the 20s, so anything in that setting is going to be at the top of my list. That being said the characters were so over the top that I didn’t relate. The characters in No One is Coming to Save Us can be me or my neighbor. It was a really interesting and “real” read.

      The photo was taken at the same time in the same room. I was sitting on the sofa and The Hubs was sitting in a chair in our camper.