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Want: A Novel (Hardcover)
Grappling with motherhood, economic anxiety, rage, and the limits of language, Want is a fiercely personal novel that vibrates with anger, insight, and love.
Elizabeth is tired. Years after coming to New York to try to build a life, she has found herself with two kids, a husband, two jobs, a PhD—and now they’re filing for bankruptcy. As she tries to balance her dream and the impossibility of striving toward it while her work and home lives feel poised to fall apart, she wakes at ungodly hours to run miles by the icy river, struggling to quiet her thoughts.
When she reaches out to Sasha, her long-lost childhood friend, it feels almost harmless—one of those innocuous ruptures that exist online, in texts. But her timing is uncanny. Sasha is facing a crisis, too, and perhaps after years apart, their shared moments of crux can bring them back into each other’s lives.
In Want, Lynn Steger Strong explores the subtle violences enacted on a certain type of woman when she dares to want things—and all the various violences in which she implicates herself as she tries to survive.
About the Author
Lynn Steger Strong’s first novel, Hold Still, was published in 2016. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Guernica, LARB, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Catapult and Columbia University.
The New York Times "16 Books to Watch For in July"
The Washington Post "Ten Books to Read in July"
TIME Magazine "45 New Books You Need To Read This Summer"
Vulture "29 Books We Can't Wait To Read This Summer"
NY Post "30 Best Summer Books to Help You Escape 2020"
Poets and Writers "Galley Crush"
The Millions "Notable Book"
"Want is so sharp about economic fragility and just how close to the edge people are — even with the seeming safeguard of middle-class jobs and good educations. The narrator's voice is the great draw here: It's tough, smart, semi-reliable, low-level angry. We're mostly cooped up in her head throughout much of the novel, which is a fine and rich place to be. . . . It's a story about wanting, always wanting, something else."
—NPR, "Want Captures The Precariousness of America's Middle Class"
"Lynn Steger Strong’s Want is a defining novel of our age of left-behind families. . . .as if Anne Helen Peterson’s viral burnout article and John Steinbeck’s oeuvre had a baby. . . an ideal sample of how to produce fiction that is timely and timeless.”
—Vulture, "Want Is The Summer Book I Couldn't Put Down"
“To readers it might feel like prophecy — or the surfacing of something invisible. Want, like our current crisis, exposes a system on the verge of collapse. . . .but it's also powerful proof that novels, and novelists, can still speak undeniable truths."
—The L.A. Times "The summer’s best novel about the bankrupt American Dream"
“Moving… As a narrator, Elizabeth is smart and funny and literary to the marrow. The books she inhales for sustenance have turned out to be a great addition to my own pandemic pile. (Thank you, Ms. Strong.)”
—The New York Times
"Through anger and humor, the book tackles the broken American dream and explores the subtle acts of violence that women face as they try to achieve anything of substance."
—The Today Show
"A devouring read."
—Entertainment Weekly,"20 New Books to Read in July"
"A brisk first-person saga with a plot that reads both like every millennial Brooklynite’s worst nightmare and a 200-page argument for the necessity of democratic socialism. . . .Want is a highly-anticipated tome, with praise from Emma Cline, Leslie Jamison, Rumaan Alam, Jenny Offill — a literary A-list of blurbs"
—Entertainment Weekly, Want's Lynn Steger Strong on writing her own privilege"
"The physical grind of economic precarity is palpable in the writing’s rough texture, its bluntness. . . . The Brooklyn novel is a necessarily provincial thing, but Want often feels like something larger, a portrayal of generational dispossession, or of the American Dream moving in reverse."
—The Wall Street Journal
—New York Magazine
"Strong writes of [a] friendship in exacting detail, illustrating the ferocity with which women can care for one another. . . . Elizabeth’s anxious, raw voice ties these threads together, coalescing into a story about the price women pay for craving what’s just out of reach."
"Want situates itself under your skin with a raw understanding of lost faith fused with the ache for bottomless love and acceptance. Capturing the chaos of this modern moment, Strong strips away at the imbalance of advantages that ultimately injure us all and the collisions that never cease. Yet, in this stunning novel, she never loses sight of the irrepressible desire to love, connect and forgive one another."
"It will be some time before we see literature directly inspired by the pandemic, but as it turns out, some artists anticipated the culture we’ve been living through that the pandemic has exacerbated. . . .This is not the deprivation of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era Dust Bowl, but a unique portrait of how difficult it is to get ahead in a society that seems to push wealth ever upward and prosperity out of reach."
—The Chicago Tribune, "Parenthood as a slalom toward bankruptcy: 3 recent novels illuminate our new age of precarity"
"Perilously honest. . . .I have been haunted by the book since I read it: the way it captures the experience of making choices that don’t feel like choices, and the fictions we force ourselves to believe in so we can survive life in 21st century America."
"Want is powered by the engines of a bankruptcy, an explosion, and a complicated friendship resurfacing, but it’s both louder and quieter than the plot that drives it. It’s an exploration of the small ways we as individuals and at a systemic level fail each other, the mundanity of life falling apart, and the seemingly common joys that are the anchors of a life worth fighting for."
"Through Elizabeth’s experiences and in her propulsive voice, the novel explores race, class, privilege, coincidence, family, friendship and love."
"Strong’s new novel Want is her best work yet. . . .A poignant and furious meditation."
"Lynn Steger Strong's highly-anticipated new novel Want plunges us into the psyche of a woman for whom the intertwining nature of existence is more fraught and urgent than usual."
"Propulsive. . . .Page after page, as the narrator struggles to maintain her footing economically and emotionally, the narrative heat steadily increases yet it never goes up in a blaze. . . .The result is a story as addictive as a pulp thriller and yet minimalist, pared to the bone. A literary page-turner."
"A smart, sharp novel."
—Elle, "The 30 Most Anticipated New Books of Summer 2020"
"Strong astutely explores the complexities of wanting within biased systems — as a woman, whose desires are so often quashed, but also as a white woman raised with wealth and the message that anything desired can be attained."
—Buzzfeed, "29 Summer Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down"
"Highlight[s] the costs of wanting itself -- and the violence that can accompany those desires."
—Good Morning America, "25 Novels You'll Want To Read This Summer"
"Lynn Steger Strong's Want is a distinctly modern day-to-day survival novel centered on weathering financial fragility. . . .Written in a series of short, punchy scenes — punctuated by Elizabeth's daily, brutal dawn runs — Want is a story of how the American dream shifts and changes. . . ."
—Salon "New page-turners heat up our summer reading"
"Seemingly destined to be the book about which I will have the most conversations with my friends this summer, Want is a propulsive interrogation into desire in all its forms."
—Refinery29 "The 25 Books You'll Want to Read This Summer"
"So engrossing and hard to put down, it feels less like reading a book and more like inhaling a universe, one that you were waiting for and didn’t know it. . . .Want is funny and irreverent and is laced with that peculiar mix of desire and apathy that comes from wanting more . . . .A story of marriage, sacrifice, and longing. It’s the story of want: that is, the unending desire to live a good, true life."
—Lit Hub "The Best New Books to Read This Summer"
"I loved Lynn Steger Strong’s Want, which reminded me a little of the first time I read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation—that thrill (or dread) of recognition on every page, that deep engagement with what it’s like to be a woman who thinks “too much,". . . .But there’s more here—about money, about class, about falling through the cracks. It’s hard, and scary, and great."
—Lit Hub "Eight Books You Should Read in July"
"Lynn Steger Strong’s Want is a reader’s novel, which is to say that it is rife with mentions of other novelists (Jean Rhys, Iris Murdoch, Doris Lessing, Anita Brookner) and both indebted to and an homage to their work." —Vulture, "32 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020"
"A surprising examination of privilege, the lives we share with others, and motherhood."
—Book Riot, "9 Great Books About Motherhood"
"Lynn Steger Strong explores the tried and true experiences of a solid, long-lasting female friendship."
—PopSugar, "15 Uplifting Books You Need to Add to Your Summer 2020 Reading List"
—Bustle, "Best New Books Out the Week of July 6"
"With Want, Strong pens an exhilarating evocation of the ways women overcome motherhood, the distress of being undesired, and the painful severance of once-beloved friendships."
"Strong writes womanhood with brutal honesty; exhaustion, love, desire, anxiety, and the devastation of unfulfilled expectations permeate every page. . . .Strong’s writing consistently distills bitter truths in understated yet penetrating ways. A wise, unflinching, and compelling novel about womanhood."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Strong has an uncanny way of pulling the reader into the heart of her narrative and creating an intimate portrayal of relationships that are fractured but necessary. . . [Want] will appeal to lovers of Mrs Dalloway and Ducks, Newburyport. . . .and will have you dabbing away at your eyes and swallowing that lump in your throat."
"Impressive. . .This is well worth a look."
"Furious, aching and razor sharp, Want is a beautiful book."
—Emma Cline, NYT bestselling author of The Girls
"A deeply intelligent and sneakily moving novel about having the ground fall away beneath your feet. Strong ingeniously undercuts conventional wisdom about what it means to be a success in this world."
—Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
"Teacher, mother, best friend, wife and more. Is there any time or space left for Elizabeth outside of these roles? Lynn Steger Strong illustrates the heroic act of one woman trying her best to keep it all together; succeeding and failing and trying again. Want is honest and funny and profoundly moving. I tore through this book in two days and when it was over I wanted to start it again.”
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"Lynn Steger Strong’s Want is a fierce, funny, and consistently surprising exploration of friendship, bankruptcy, motherhood, and that slippery thing we call privilege. The voice is electric and nuanced; it feels possessed by a rare, inexplicable urgency. It’s less that this novel peels away the surfaces of daily life—school pick-up, subway commutes, vomiting toddlers—to expose the deeper truths dwelling underneath, and more that it exposes the ways those deep truths already saturate every crevice of our day-to-day lives. Once I started reading this book, I kept reading it compulsively—in a kind of fever—and since finishing, I’ve found myself returning frequently to its insights, grateful for their fervor, their complexity, and their grace."
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams, The Recovering, and The Gin Closet
“It’s not just the story of what it is to be a mother and wife, a daughter and friend, a citizen and employee—Want is a novel about what it is to be alive right now, one that truly captures the urgency of human thought and feeling.”
—Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother
"I felt a giddy sort of love for Lynn Steger Strong’s new novel Want. It’s not like anything else: caustic and despairing and sometimes, unexpectedly, laugh out loud funny. Sentence after sentence, this book took my breath away."
—Marcy Dermansky, author of Very Nice and Bad Marie