The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky: A novel (Hardcover)
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An ambitious debut, at once timely and timeless, that captures the complexity and joys of modern womanhood. This novel is gem like—in its precision, its many facets, and its containing multitudes. Following in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, Rona Jaffe, Maggie Shipstead, and Sheila Heti, Jana Casale writes with bold assurance about the female experience.
We first meet Leda in a coffee shop on an average afternoon, notable only for the fact that it’s the single occasion in her life when she will eat two scones in one day. And for the cute boy reading American Power and the New Mandarins. Leda hopes that, by engaging him, their banter will lead to romance. Their fleeting, awkward exchange stalls before flirtation blooms. But Leda’s left with one imperative thought: she decides she wants to read Noam Chomsky. So she promptly buys a book and never—ever—reads it.
As the days, years, and decades of the rest of her life unfold, we see all of the things Leda does instead, from eating leftover spaghetti in her college apartment, to fumbling through the first days home with her newborn daughter, to attempting (and nearly failing) to garden in her old age. In a collage of these small moments, we see the work—both visible and invisible—of a woman trying to carve out a life of meaning. Over the course of her experiences Leda comes to the universal revelation that the best-laid-plans are not always the path to utter fulfillment and contentment, and in reality there might be no such thing. Lively and disarmingly honest, The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky is a remarkable literary feat—bracingly funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and truly feminist in its insistence that the story it tells is an essential one.
"Prepare to fall in love with Leda, the wickedly relatable protagonist of Casale's funny, insightful, and deeply adorable debut...So much fun, so smart, and ultimately profound and beautiful."
--Kirkus Reviews *starred review*, "11 Debuts You Should Pay Attention To"
"Charming and funny."
--Samantha Irby, Marie Claire
"A gloriously stunning debut...I wish I had this book when I was younger...In one swift motion, Casale drop-kicked my heart and brushed my hair. She took me to the most intimate moments I've had with myself and used Leda to propel me through them...Striking in its reliability and elegant in its honesty."
--The Michigan Daily
"Veritably thrilling...Casale's perceptions about womanhood and seamless style make for pure reading joy."
--Booklist *starred review*
"Common scenes combined with Leda's piercing vulnerability with readers create Jana Casale's stellar debut novel...Raw and articulate...Casale's writing possesses a certain snap, instantly relating us to her protagonist. Reading her work is like watching a play from the dressing room as the heroine squeezes into pants she hopes conceal extra weight, tries to make sense of last week's one-night stand and murmurs her lines before stepping onto the stage."
"How do you account for a life? In Jana Casale's poignant debut, the answer has as much to do with the things her protagonist, Leda - college student, wife, writer, temporary Orca expert, mother - wanted to do and didn't, as what she actually lives. A funny, tender and touching illumination of the extraordinary beauty contained in a seemingly everyday life. I can't stop thinking about this book."
--Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
"The disarming wit and granular detail of these vignettes feels intensely personal, drawn from the lively mind of a unique character, yet universally recognizable."
"Jana Casale has several writerly talents, among them sharp eyes for detail, sharp ears for speech and a witty turn of phrase. But her deft control of time is extraordinary, and makes her first novel exciting as well as fun."
--The Washington Times
"It’s a torch first lit by writers like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Kate Chopin; one taken up by those like Elena Ferrante, Zadie Smith, Rona Jaffe, Maggie Shipstead, and most recently (and to great world-splitting) Kristen Roupenian — women writers who look closely at the experience of ordinary womanhood, and deem it worthy of great literature...Readers never get the sense that Leda is holding up her life as instruction. Nor, as a cautionary tale. Rather, she’s holding it up as a life worthy of living, worthy of literature. She’s funny and sad, observant and honest, tender and imperfect, complicated and relatable. And that is enough."
"As the perfect title suggests, the books we don't read can shape us just as much as the ones we do. However, unlike our titular heroine and her copy of Problems of Knowledge and Freedom, I guarantee you'll fly through this one. It's a rare gem of a debut--funny, heartbreaking, and genuinely profound."
--Ed Park, author of Personal Days
"An immensely companionable read."
“The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky is bright with life, emotionally honest and powerfully observant. Jana Casale is a wise and exciting new voice.”
— Julia Pierpont, New York Times bestselling author of Among the Ten Thousand Things
“Jana Casale’s brilliant, singular, gripping debut affected me more than any novel I’ve read this year. Rich with social commentary, fueled by ferocious intelligence, and laced with spot on humor, The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky perfectly captures the mores of this mixed up moment in time, while also exploring universal truths about what it means to be a woman in the world. I loved it.”
--Joanna Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age and My Salinger Year
“Casale writes with both energy and humor. She is an exquisite storyteller. In creating Leda and her story, Casale magically weaves together the tiny moments in life, allowing them to gain momentum and build off each other, until they culminate into an extraordinary tale that has spunk and charm.”
—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry