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Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years is coming this fall.

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March 3, 2021, 4:01pm

While we don’t know what the state of the our pandemic society will be come September, we can at least be sure that we’ll all be getting a little Joy Williams, as a treat. Specifically, a new novel—her fifth, and her first since 2000’s The Quick and the Dead, which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer. Williams’ most recent book, the story collection The Visiting Privilege, was published in 2015.

The novel, Harrow, is slated for publication on September 14, by Knopf. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Khristen is a teenager who, her mother believes, was marked by greatness as a baby when she died for a moment and then came back to life. After Khristen’s failing boarding school for gifted teens closes its doors, and she finds that her mother has disappeared, she ranges across the dead landscape and washes up at a “resort” on the shores of a mysterious, putrid lake the elderly residents there call “Big Girl.” In a rotting honeycomb of rooms, these old ones plot actions to punish corporations and people they consider culpable in the destruction of the final scraps of nature’s beauty. What will Khristen and Jeffrey, the precocious ten-year-old boy she meets there, learn from this “baggy seditious lot, in the worst of health but with kamikaze hearts, determined to refresh, through crackpot violence, a plundered earth”? Rivetingly strange and beautiful, and delivered with Williams’s searing, deadpan wit, Harrow is their intertwined tale of paradise lost and of their reasons–against all reasonableness–to try and recover something of it.

If September sounds like an impossibly long time to wait, ready yourself by taking Amy Hempel’s recommendation and reading Williams’ 2001 essay collection Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals, a passionate ecological call to arms that sounds of a piece with her new work.

Consider our bits champed and our calendars marked.

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