Take What You Need
March 14, 2023
Today I talked to Idra Novey about her new novel Take What You Need (Viking, 2023).
Leah, her husband, and their little son are driving back to where she grew up in the mountains of Appalachia. They are heading to the home where her stepmother fled after leaving Leah’s father, and after the divorce, Jean was no longer allowed to stay in touch with Leah. But she was the mother Leah knew and loved. Now, Jean has died and left Leah her artwork, and when they arrive at the house, Leah is stunned to find giant sculptures welded from scrap metal. During her final years, Jean had needed the help of a troubled young man, a neighbor who has no chance of finding employment and who is squatting without water in the house next door. He’s the one who tells Leah that Jean has died. This is a story about family, the opioid epidemic in rural America, the rise of hatred and bigotry during the past few years, and the grip of creating art on those who feel its pull.
Idra Novey earned degrees at Barnard College and Columbia University. She’s the author of Those Who Knew, a finalist for the 2019 Clark Fiction Prize, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and a Best Book of the Year with over a dozen media outlets. Her first novel Ways to Disappear received the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize, the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Prize, and was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her poetry collections include Exit, Civilian, selected for the 2011 National Poetry Series, The Next Country, a finalist for the 2008 Foreword Book of the Year Award, and Clarice: The Visitor, a collaboration with the artist Erica Baum. Idra teaches fiction writing at Princeton University and in the New York University MFA program in Creative Writing. When she is not writing or teaching, Idra likes welding and making collages with old literature magazines.