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The Weeds: Book summary and reviews of The Weeds by Katy Simpson Smith

The Weeds

A Novel

by Katy Simpson Smith

The Weeds by Katy Simpson Smith X
The Weeds by Katy Simpson Smith
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  • Published Apr 2023
    320 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

Two women, connected across time, edge toward transgression in pursuit of their desires.

A Mississippi woman pushes through the ruin of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. She has escaped her life, signed up to catalog all the species growing in this place. Crawling along the stones, she wonders how she has landed here, a reluctant botanist amid a snarl of tourists in comfortable sandals. She hunts for a scientific agenda and a direction of her own.

In 1854, a woman pushes through the jungle of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. As punishment for her misbehavior, she has been indentured to the English botanist Richard Deakin, for whom she will compile a flora. She is a thief, and she must find new ways to use her hands. If only the woman she loves weren't on a boat, with a husband. But love isn't always possible. She logs 420 species.

Through a list of seemingly minor plants and their uses―medical, agricultural, culinary―these women calculate intangible threats: a changing climate, the cost of knowledge, and the ways repeated violence can upend women's lives. They must forge their own small acts of defiance and slip through whatever cracks they find. How can anyone survive?

Lush, intoxicating, and teeming with mischief, Katy Simpson Smith's The Weeds is a tense, mesmerizing page-turner about science and survival, the roles women are given and have taken from them, and the lives they make for themselves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Luminous... A lyrical meditation on power, need, and love." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Ingenious... Potent details bring [The Weeds] to vibrant life... Readers will enjoy stopping to smell the clematis." ―Publishers Weekly

"Erudite, playful, and filled with fury about gender inequality, [The Weeds] can be recommended to readers of cli-fi and feminist literary fiction." ―Booklist

"This subtle, intelligent work—arranged like a catalogue of plants, complete with sketches—explores how male power and threats like climate change take away agency from women. But it also looks at the small acts of resistance, pushing through like weeds in the cracks, that enable them to survive." —Library Journal

"Brilliant, poetic, unnerving, wholly original. What else would you expect from Katy Simpson Smith? With The Weeds, she has written another masterpiece." —Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth

"What a terrific novel! Strange, moving, and marvelously alive, The Weeds works—like the eponymous flora that fills its pages—with subtle insistence and exuberant power to unfurl its ingeniously twinned stories of injustice, heartbreak, desire, and hope. I couldn't put it down." —Laird Hunt, author of Zorrie

"Intricately written, combining lush prose, deep insights, and a wicked sense of humor, The Weeds is an irresistible reading experience. Katy Simpson Smith is a wholly original voice with talent to spare." —Jami Attenberg, author of I Came All This Way to Meet You

This information about The Weeds was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Katy Simpson Smith Author Biography

Photo: Elise Smith

Katy Simpson Smith is the author of a study of early American motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and a novel, The Story of Land and Sea. She lives in New Orleans.

Link to Katy Simpson Smith's Website

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