No One Is Coming to Save Us Summary and Reviews

No One Is Coming to Save Us

by Stephanie Powell Watts

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts X
No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2017
    368 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel...Watts spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams." - Kirkus

"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." - Booklist

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Stephanie Powell Watts's inspired reimagining of the novel long regarded as the American masterwork of the twentieth century gives soul, body, and voice to those left out of Scott Fitzgerald's vision of the American dream... bold, brilliant, and timely." - Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind and Sempre Susan

"A grand debut novel full of characters who come into a reader's mind and heart and never leave. Stephanie Powell Watts is a writer of wondrous skill, imagination and sensitivity, and No One Is Coming to Save Us is a beautiful testament to that." - Edward P. Jones

"Rich with wry and poignant observations on human nature, family, and black experience in America. A powerful - and, in today's world, necessary - perspective on the American dream and the possibility of beginning again." - Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

"There is wisdom, vital and profound, on every single page of this novel. It's a story about home - what it means to leave and whether you can return, and how it is people in the end who are its beating heart. Absolutely luminous." - Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

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Reader Reviews

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Julia A. (New York, NY)

More enjoyable than expected
I enjoyed this book a lot more once I stopped trying to see the parallels with The Great Gatsby. I'm quite sorry the publisher chose to promote it that way. No One is Coming to Save Us stands alone as the engrossing story of a family beset by the problems that so many families face: failed relationships; death of a family member; a changing economy leaving some of them behind; infertility; unfulfilled expectations; and always wishing for just a bit more. For me, the character JJ (Jay) Ferguson was my least favorite. He's, of course, the "Gatsby" character. The women, especially Sylvia and Ava were much more resonant with me and made me keep reading to see what would happen to them next and how they would resolve their inner and external conflicts. So, forget the publisher's marketing ploy and enjoy the book as a family saga.

Molly K. (San Jose, CA)

Saving Ourselves
One of the most beautifully written books I have come across in a long time. Special kudos for the conversations: realistic, interesting, and an amazing reflection of the characters' insights into themselves and others. The writing style and the conversations together make this story worth a 5.

Yet, somehow, the plot left me wanting more. No highs, mostly lows, with little growth in characters' behavior regarding each other and their place in life.

I liked the characters and would no doubt enjoy a conversation with each of them. I just wanted more story.

PS: I have never read Gatsby, so I can't comment about the similarities.

Marci G. (Sicklerville, NJ)

No One is Coming to Save Us
This book! I had so many things to do but I didn't want to stop reading. This is book of life for a African American community . New beginnings, endings, truth, lies and all that come between in one complicated mess. Well developed characters yearning for the joy and sorrows of the past and questioning the future.Jay coming back to his home town he builds a big house on the hill, a success story looking to save his first love Ava. Ava has desires of her own. Ava's mother, Sylvia who life has disappointed tries to keep life together. I am looking forward to Stephanie Powell Watts next book!

Diane H. (Leawood, KS)

Lives LIved
I was sorry to reach the end of this book as I had become so involved in the lives of the characters.
"No One Is Coming To Save Us" is, in my opinion, a book that will be read and studied for years to come.
The themes of the book, failure, shame, grief, and disappointment, are highlighted in each of the characters.
On the one hand the reader sympathizes with the characters and , on the other hand, you find yourself hoping and cheering for them.
I was deeply touched by this book and look forward to reading more by this author.

Carolyn L. (New York, NY)

No One is Coming to Save Us
A book that you pick up, read, and not put down!

Karna B. (Long Beach, CA)

No One Is Coming to Save Us
Using The Great Gatsby as her model for telling the story of black Americans in the mythical rural town of Pinewood, N.C., Watts has created a fascinating tale. Her sense of place is superb and you can almost smell the trees and see the house where Ava, one of the protagonists, lives. The characters come alive too and for me it was Sylvia, Ava's mother and the matriarch of the family, who stands out for her wonderful idiosyncrasies. Certainly a book that deserves to be read.

...7 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Stephanie Powell Watts Author Biography

Photo: Stephanie Powell Watts

Stephanie Powell Watts is an Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University, and has won numerous awards, including a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and the Southern Women s Writers Award for Emerging Writer of the Year. She was also a PEN/Hemingway Finalist for her short story collection We Are Taking Only What We Need.

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