No One Is Coming to Save Us
Novel of the week
Ignore the elevator pitch, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Stephanie Powell Watts’ debut is being billed as an African-American version of The Great Gatsby, but she has instead produced a “sonorous, complex” novel that’s “entirely her own.” This book’s JJ Ferguson is a former foster child who has returned as a success to his depressed North Carolina hometown. But though Ferguson, like Gatsby, hopes to woo a former flame, he carries less of the story’s weight than two female figures: the woman he pines for and her mother. These characters are “rooted in the exigencies of real lives,” not a romantic dream. “The plot and premise are so clever that one forgives the novel’s main flaw,” said Pamela Miller in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Too often, Watts interrupts dialogue to psychoanalyze her characters. Still, she delivers “pages of beautiful writing” while pulling off a “marvelous” trick: She has taken an American classic and demonstrated that its insights into our national psyche are relevant across time and racial lines.