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About the Books: Project


A Best of Chicago Book
A Reader's Digest Recommended Book

About the Book:

Sandra Novack has earned great acclaim with her fiction, which has appeared in more than thirty literary venues, including The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, and The Iowa Review. Now, in this new collection of stories, she further demonstrates her mastery of the form while exploring a universal theme: the desire for connection.

These absorbing and atmospheric short stories explore the quietly dramatic relationships among wives, children, husbands, and friends all struggling to connect to one another. In "Cerulean Skies," a woman must come to terms with her husband's newfound obsession with painting. Two college professors deal with the fallout from their divorce in "The Thin Border Between Here and Disaster," and a boy wrestles with his faith after the death of his mother in "Morty, El Morto."

As insightful as it is provocative, Everyone but You beautifully illuminates the universal truths behind some of the most profound moments in people's lives. Fierce, sexual, and contentious, these moving tales place Sandra Novack’s prodigious talent on full display. Everyone but You illuminates the common truths behind some of the most profound moments in our lives.


The rawness and honesty of Sandra Novack's Everyone But You is exemplified by its artfully crafted characters.  Whether it be through the dying wife and mother in "Ants" or the idle, suspicious writer of "Save My Soul", we are exposed to the intimate workings of the narrators' minds.  In this place, complex webs of doubt and regret are ultimately tempered with the blatant and beautiful contradictions of words spoken."  --San Francisco Book Review

A diverting blend of plaintive sex and literary references. --The New York Times Style Magazine

"Novack's keen eye for nuances of family behavior and for the internal contradictions most people live with carries many of these numerous, fast-reading tales." --Associated Press

Novack follows her lauded debut, Precious (2009), with an electrifying collection of sexy, gutsy, imaginatively compassionate stories. Her female characters are frank and assertive, even when they’re clueless, and Novack writes equally convincingly from a man’s point of view. Vividly tactile, funny, irreverent, and incisive, these stories of imperiled relationships are also richly plotted. In the blisteringly funny and tough “Fireflies,” a hot number calling herself Lola picks up a guy named Harold as they watch a used-car lot go up in flames, ultimately teaching him a thing or two about the treacheries of love and the persistence of class divides. The arrival, via priority mail, of her long-estranged, now-deceased father’s wooden leg jolts a young woman into awareness of how empty her casual sexual conquests are. In “White Trees in Summer,” an elderly man who helped his acutely suffering wife die is harassed by teenagers. Novack’s keen and spirited tales delve into the crazy and cruel situations we helplessly devise and marvel over how unfathomable we are to each other and ourselves. — Donna Seaman, Booklist

A Reader's Digest Recommends Book:
In Everyone But You, Sandra Novack’s first collection of short stories (her novel, Precious, was published in 2009), she gives the subject of relationships a good going-over. Human affairs—be they among family, friends or lovers—are usually fraught in these tales, yet their tension can be magnetic. Oddly skewed and unpredictable, the narratives feature people who are often stubbornly unconscious of their own needs and desires, yet vulnerable enough that they are mostly sympathetic. In “Fireflies,” a impetuous, unknowable woman wreaks havoc on the life of a young man struggling to find his way. In “White Trees in Summer,” after an old woman dies, misunderstandings break out between her neighbors, local teenagers, and the elderly husband she has left a widower. Connections falter between people, even as they try to do their best. These scenarios could add up to a failure of storytelling if Novack’s characters weren’t as intriguing as they are confounding. Booklist wrote that the Everyone is an “…[electrifying collection of sexy, gutsy, imaginatively compassionate stories. Vividly tactile, funny, irreverent, and incisive, these stories of imperiled relationships are also richly plotted.”--Barbara O'Dair, Executive Editor, Reader's Digest Magazine

“Novack is fascinated by those on the edge: of insanity, of break-ups, of self-discovery fraught with acute pain.”—Publishers Weekly



A Random House Reader's Circle Selection
A Booklist Top Ten Debut

About the Book:

It happens on a hot summer evening, while children with peeling sunburns roam the streets playing tag and cicadas hum in the trees. Sissy’s ex-best friend goes missing while riding her bike in the park, and it casts a shadow on her family, who are already struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy. For nine-year-old Sissy, whose mother is not there when she’s needed, whose father is angry, and whose older sister is focused on seducing her high school teacher, desperate secrets seem to underlie everything. As the summer grows hotter and the missing girl is never found, the sense of foreboding builds toward one violent night when everything will change forever for Sissy’s family.


"[A] lyrical and finely crafted first novel...The graceful prose and bleak atmosphere underscore the loneliness of each character. Novack takes the massive distance between friends, husbands and wives, and makes it her home."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] dramatic, elegantly rendered debut.  In this accomplished first novel, [Novack] writes tellingly of the complex relationships among families, lovers, and friends."—Booklist (Starred Review)

"Sandra Novack’s novel Precious is surprising, partly because it never becomes what it appears to be—a novel about a missing child—but rather brilliantly develops into a powerful story about another family in full-tilt crisis. It is surprising as only the best debut fiction can be, showing a new writer already in full command of her gifts."--Teresa Weaver, Atlanta Magazine

"Precious is a powerful, gracefully written, subtly startling work of art."--Huntington News

"Suffused with grief and an unsettling, coolly observed nostalgia."--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"The novel's narrative richness and focused energy baffle conventional expectations, and Novack's frequent use of the present tense adds a chilling sense of urgency to her tale, driven as much by character as plot."--Morning Call

“Precious has everything I want in a novel. The Kisch family—and really, all of the people who inhabit this wonderful book—seem so real that I feel I've literally met them. The everyday setting is made haunting by the heart-stopping plot and by the novel's exact and understated prose. This is a novel about an era, a world, and a neighborhood, but at its core, it's about a family struggling to understand, and to be understood.”—Laura Moriarty, author of The Rest of Her Life

“Like Natalia, just one of the unforgettable characters in Precious, Sandra Novack understands “the small, complicated spaces that exist between people,” but she also understands, as Natalia learns to, how people can close those spaces, how they can return home to a love they thought was lost.  Precious is a beautifully written, moving, and wise novel from one of the best new writers to come along in years.”—David Jauss, author of Black Maps

“Precious exposes the connections of fearful hope, and weighs the cost and ultimate endurance of love.  Written with compassion and grave grace, this lyrical, nuanced book establishes Sandra Novack as a significant novelist from whom we will hear much more.”—Erin McGraw, author of The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard

“Exquisitely written, Precious is about all the vanishings in our lives—family, love, trust—and the stories we tell ourselves and each other to fill the subsequent holes left in our hearts.  So haunting I haven’t been able to forget a syllable of it, Precious isn’t just spectacularly special—it's truly one knockout punch of a debut.”

—Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble

"Novack engineers her plot so flawlessly that the reader is swept up in the flow of the story. Her fine writing holds your attention...You want to know what is going to happen to these people."--The Baton Rouge Advocate

"A sense of foreboding lies beneath the lazy summer suburban surface of their [the characters'] lives...Novack infuses the suspense of a thriller into her close observation of a domestic drama."--The Columbus Dispatch

"Novack has written a haunting first novel in which a girl's disappearance from a small town in 1970s Pennsylvania forms the backdrop for a family's coping with loss and remorse...Told with emotional honesty and a unique grasp of the sometimes searing complexity of human relationships, this novel manages also to convey some depth about thevery randomness of life and fate."

--Library Journal

"The characters come alive in the details . . . [a] precise, often beautiful debut."—Kirkus Reviews

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