This morning, I read that repeating the name of the deceased can quiet the mind when grieving for complicated people. My stepmother Jean was a complicated person.
Take What You Need traces the parallel lives of Jean and her beloved but estranged stepdaughter, Leah, who’s sought a clean break from her rural childhood. In Leah’s urban life with her young family, she’s revealed little about Jean, how much she misses her stepmother’s hard-won insights and joyful lack of inhibition.
But with Jean’s death, Leah must return to sort through what’s been left behind. What Leah discovers is staggering: Jean has filled her ramshackle house with giant sculptures she’s welded from scraps of the area’s industrial history.
Set in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia, Take What You Need explores the continuing mystery of the people we love most, zeroing in on the joys and difficulties of family with great verve and humour, and illuminating what can be built from what others have discarded.
‘A major novel of contemporary America that urgently reminds us of the messiness and complexity of people, love and intimacy.’ Financial Times
‘Novey explores the boundaries of familial relationships and the cathartic power of art with depth and sensitivity.’ Observer
‘Novey, an American translator and poet, as well as novelist, succeeds in exploring big-picture national strife through intimate family aggro while steering clear of triteness.’ Daily Mail
‘A work of unflinching emotional scrutiny and uncommon artistry, it elevates the modern American novel to new and exhilarating heights.’ Lunate Journal
‘She writes to remind us that we all have the power to sculpt our own lives, regardless of the material.’ Spectator
‘A study of mystery, misunderstanding and how we never truly know the people we love.’ Dazed
‘A delicate meditation on art [and] family.’ The New Yorker
‘Take What You Need is exhilarating, a major novel. I read it in a white heat.’ Garth Greenwell
‘Novey fully renders the inarticulable parts of artmaking – the antagonism of an artist’s material, the pleasure in that difficulty, the way it troubles tidy ideas of legacy.’ Raven Leilani
‘This deft and surprising novel probes one of the biggest questions of the day: In a moment of cultural and political fracture, how do we live with one another?’ Rumaan Alam
‘Propulsive, profound . .. Idra Novey’s most powerful novel yet.’ Cathy Park Hong
‘It’s impossible not to become invested in these characters.’ Angie Cruz
‘An extraordinarily moving novel.’ Matt Bell
‘A sure-footed movement through the pain of loving.’ Ailsa McFarlane
‘Inspiring . . . spare yet packed with plot and ideas . . . Transforming the odd and the homely into something beautiful.’ Kirkus (starred review)
‘Novey appears capable of doing it all. She is a poet, a translator, and with Take What You Need, her third book of fiction, she is firmly establishing herself as one of the finest and bravest novelists working today.’ Vulture
‘Sharp and invigorating.’ Elle
‘A heart-rending book.’ Wall Street Journal
‘Sublime.’ Oprah Daily
‘Places such creativity within the toxic distrust sewn by poverty, misogyny, and xenophobia.’ Booklist (starred review)
‘An agile, intellectually boundless novel.’ BOMB Magazine
‘The novel’s cleverness – its commitment to ambivalence and complexity and discomfort — is haunting, and, for a divided nation, it’s a salutary tale.’ Sarah Moss
‘Unusual, even rogue . . . brisk and direct.’ The Washington Post