No one is coming to save us A novel

Stephanie Powell Watts

eAudio - 2017

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 demis...e 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.

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Online Access
Instantly available on hoopla.
Cover image
Published
[United States] : HarperAudio 2017.
Edition
Unabridged
Language
English
Physical Description
1 online resource (1 audio file (10hr., 58 min.)) : digital
Format
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
ISBN
9780062660619
0062660616
Access
AVAILABLE FOR USE ONLY BY IOWA CITY AND RESIDENTS OF THE CONTRACTING GOVERNMENTS OF JOHNSON COUNTY, UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, HILLS, AND LONE TREE (IA).
Main Author
Stephanie Powell Watts (author)
Corporate Author
hoopla digital (-)
Other Authors
Janina Edwards (narrator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Watts, author of a short-story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (2011), and winner of a Whiting Award and an Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, explores The Great Gatsby's themes of yearning, loss, hope, and disillusion in her powerhouse debut novel. Set in today's South and delving into African American family life, the story primarily focuses on Sylvia, a middle-aged mother, and Ava, her thirtysomething daughter. They live in the same house and occupy complicated marriages that reveal both the tenuous and tenacious bonds of love. Other life-weary, imperfect characters reflect the economically depressed, near-ghost town, which somehow beckons Gatsbyesque JJ (now Jay), to return with his accumulated wealth and dreams of recapturing the best of his past. Watts' lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters' viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

Watts' debut novel, the first Book Club Central title, is a compelling reimagining of The Great Gatsby as told through the experiences of an African American family living in Pineville, North Carolina—a town abandoned by industry and any expectation of a better future to come. Sylvia and her daughter, Ava, are both ruled by their grief: Sylvia over the loss of her son, and Ava because of her inability to conceive a child with Henry, the husband she may have never loved. The tenuous family dynamic is further complicated by the return of JJ Ferguson, now wealthy and determined to obtain what he was denied during his youth in Pineville—primarily Ava's love. Edwards' southern accent, syrupy but not cloying, evokes the air of resignation that permeates the majority of Watts' characters, only occasionally hinting at the deep well of disappointment bubbling beneath the surface with a sharpness of tone that cuts to the quick. Her unhurried pacing and well-developed characterizations make each individual's wounds, fears, and desires distinct, matching Watts' rich, evocative prose. An enveloping and rewarding listen. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Set in rural North Carolina, Watts's first novel (after the award-winning short story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need) centers on the dynamics of a family struggling with strained relationships and disappointment. Sylvia carries on a phone relationship with Marcus, a prison inmate, to replace the distance between herself and her son, Devon. Ava, Sylvia's daughter, tries desperately to conceive a child and discovers a painful truth about her husband, Henry. JJ Ferguson, an old family friend, returns to town after many years away and causes disruption. Watts shares with us an often neglected segment of America—working and middle-class African Americans living in the current century—and all of the characters strive to find a balance between achieving what they want and settling for what life has dealt them. The many details of the Pinewood community ring true, particularly the contrast between the experiences of the older generation that remembers Jim Crow, and their children. VERDICT This quiet debut novel takes its time, much like the conversations among the various characters, which meander and loop around before reaching their point. The resolution is believable and gratifying without being pat. [See Prepub Alert, 10/24/16.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Already a multi-award winner before publishing this first novel, Watts opens with JJ Ferguson returning to Pinewood, NC, to build his dream house and court high school sweetheart Ava. Ava turns out to be married, and her husband's growing cold. Billed as an African American Great Gatsby but with nuances all its own; with a 50,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

As Sarah Jessica Parker's inaugural selection for the American Library Association's Book Club Central, Watts's (We Are Only Taking What We Need) first novel is getting well-earned attention. Initially inspired by The Great Gatsby, Watts wanted to give voice to the mostly silent African American characters in Fitzgerald's privileged world. Here, Jay becomes JJ, who's returned to Pinewood, NC—a town crippled by factory closings—as a wealthy man, determined to reconnect with his (Daisy-based) former sweetheart Ava. The obvious parallels end there, as Watts confidently crafts an original narrative starring troubled characters in search of connection and meaning. After multiple miscarriages, Ava's need for motherhood becomes obsessive. Her husband already has a secret child. Her mother, Sylvia, might have replaced her son with a convict she's never met but whose collect calls she regularly accepts. Ava's father is unsure whose bed to occupy. Narrator Janina Edwards's ability to cross generations, genders, and ages enhances Watts's family saga with spirit and vitality. Enlivened by Edwards's versatile performance, these Pinewood residents will each confront demanding decisions. VERDICT Given both the book's acclaim and popularity, libraries will want to offer multiple formats to eager audiences. ["Believable and gratifying": LJ 2/1/17 review of the Ecco: HarperCollins hc.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (Apr.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The Great Gatsby brilliantly recast in the contemporary South: a powerful first novel about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina to build his dream home and to woo his high school sweetheart, Ava. But he finds that the people he once knew and loved have changed, just as he has. Ava is now married, and wants a baby more than anything. The decline of the town's once-thriving furniture industry has made Ava's husband Henry grow distant and frustrated. Ava's mother Sylvia has put her own life on hold as she caters to and meddles with those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia's undeserving but charming husband, just won't stop hanging around. JJ's newfound wealth forces everyone to consider what more they want and deserve from life than what they already have-and how they might go about getting it. Can they shape their lives to align with their wishes rather than their realities? Or are they 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 that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.