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Mona is a Millennial perfectionist who fails upwards in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis. Despite her potential, and her top-of-her-class college degree, Mona finds herself unemployed, living with her parents, and adrift in life and love. Mona’s the sort who says exactly the right thing at absolutely the wrong moments, seeing the world through a cynic’s eyes. In the financial and social malaise of the early 2000s, Mona walks a knife’s edge as she faces down unemployment, underemployment, the complexities of adult relationships, and the downward spiral of her parents’ shattering marriage. The more Mona craves perfection and order, the more she is forced to see that it is never attainable. Mona’s journey asks the question: When we find what gives our life meaning, will we be ready for it?
About the Author
Before becoming a writer, Elizabeth Gonzalez James was a waitress, a pollster, an Avon lady, and an opera singer. Her short story, “Cosmic Blues,” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers, and her stories and essays have received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. She’s attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Writers Workshop, and Lit Camp. She lives with her family in Oakland, California. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @unefemmejames
"Mona at Sea is a delightful debut, one that marks Elizabeth Gonzalez James as a writer to watch." —Adam Johnson, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son
"I loved every second of following Mona around. She had me with her gallows humor, her hard persona, and her poignant charm. This terrifically deranged story will keep you laughing, yes, but more vitally, you'll feel it in your heart." —Joshua Mohr, author of Model Citizen
"I knew Mona at Sea was going to be exactly the right comic novel for this moment in time [...] an absolute delight to read.” —Mary Pauline Lowry, The Rumpus
"Mona at Sea reads like an intimate late night conversation with the friend you never knew you needed. Written with humor and insight and vulnerability, it’s a tribute to the struggle to stay upright as the world around you comes falling down." —Mat Johnson, author of Pym and Hunting in Harlem
"Touching on themes of ambition, addiction, and adulthood, Mona at Sea is a charming debut." —Julie Zuckerman, author of The Book of Jeremiah
"A fantastic read and a remarkable first novel from a writer who deserves to take her place alongside David Sedaris and Otessa Moshfegh.” —Galadrielle Allman, author of Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman
"This Millennial coming of age story is a sharp, witty take on the Great Recession...I loved this book!" —Janis Cooke Newman, author of A Master Plan for Rescue and Mary; Mrs. A. Lincoln
"Years from now, when I try to remember what the last decade felt like, I will return to this remarkable debut. Elizabeth Gonzalez James writes with a rare combination of wit, style, and heart, and in Mona she has created the perfect hero for navigating all the absurdities and anxieties of contemporary America." —Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men and creator of Lodge 49
"A hilarious, high-octane novel... James is a fresh new voice in contemporary literature." —Cristina García, author of Here in Berlin and Dreaming in Cuban
"A hilarious but pointed debut that gives voice to our increasingly existential crisis." —Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Mexican Enough