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This Close to Okay
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On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home from work when she spots a man precariously standing at the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally shares his name: Emmett.
Over the course of the emotionally charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe space for Emmett, though she hesitates to confess that this is also her day job. What she doesn’t realize is that Emmett isn’t the only one who needs healing—and they both are harboring secrets.
Alternating between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge’s edge—as well as the hard truths Tallie has been grappling with since her marriage ended—This Close to Okay is an uplifting, cathartic story about chance encounters, hope found in unlikely moments, and the subtle magic of human connection.
Longlisted for the 2022 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award
Longlisted for the Goodreads Choice Awards
Book of the Month December Pick
Good Housekeeping Book Club February Pick
Marie Claire Book Club March Pick
Most Anticipated by Elle, Today (according to Goodreads), The Millions, She Reads, and Real Simple
Recommended by Refinery29, Shondaland, Oprah Daily, Washington Post, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Electric Literature, Bookriot, Parade, Harper's Bazaar, and more
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Tallie saw him drop his backpack and climb over the metal railing, the bridge. The gray Ohio River below them, a swift-rippling ribbon. She was driving slowly because of the rain, the crepuscular light. She didn’t give herself time to think. Pulled over, lowered the passenger-side window, and said hey.
The heys increased in frequency, volume. To her left, the blur of traffic. She punched her hazards, climbed over the armrest and out of her car, leaving the passenger door peeled open.
“Hey! I see you! You don’t know me, but I care about you! Don’t jump!” she said, loud enough for him to hear, but she didn’t want to startle him, either. The cars and trucks were loud, the rain was loud, the sky was loud, the bridge was loud—all those sounds echoing off it, rattling down and back up. The world was so loud.
He turned slightly, his face wet with rain.
“Hi. I’m Tallie,” she said. “I don’t want you to do this. Is there somewhere I can take you instead? And I could take your backpack. What’s your name?” She was reluctant to touch the backpack. It was dark green and dirty. She reached for it.
“Don’t touch it,” he said softly. Far too softly for someone who was about to jump to his death. Why bother speaking softly when death is slipping its hand in your pocket?
Tallie put her hands out in front of her, surrendering. She wouldn’t touch the backpack. Fine. A blessing.
“I’m sorry. Is there somewhere I could take you and maybe we could talk? Or I could call someone for you? Come with me. We can figure it out,” she said, her voice climbing a rickety set of stairs.
She’d almost forgotten she was a licensed therapist until she said those words. We can figure it out. And how often did licensed therapists get to do surprise on-the-street sessions? A lot, actually. But this one was on-the-bridge. She’d never lost a client to suicide, and she wasn’t going to start now. He wasn’t her client, but he could’ve been. She began speaking to him as if it were true.
Instead of being out in the cold rain, she imagined they were in her cozy office with the calming lapis walls, the white-noise machine, her chair—a basil green. The shiny, honey-smooth hardwood floors; the soothing, soft almond suede couch. She had a scented-oil diffuser on a table by the window—lavender and a hint of lemon; she’d mixed it herself. There were potted spider and dracaena plants, bamboo palms, a Monstera, succulents in the sunlight—natural air purifiers. The bookshelves were packed neat and tight, with an amber salt lamp atop the one closest to the door. She pictured her office perfectly, transported herself there in her mind, willed that calm into her voice. Her receptionist’s fingers gently clicked the computer keyboard, the rocky fountain bubbled in the waiting room.
Her older brother, Lionel, was a big-shot finance bro and had given her the money to design everything so beautifully from scratch; it made her feel guilty, like she could never do anything so important and pretty for him. She didn’t want the man on the bridge to know she was a therapist with a rich big-shot brother and a calming office just yet, because that would separate them. She wanted him to think and know she was like him; they were the same. She had her share of want-to-jump days like everyone else, just had never made it over the railing before.
“No, thanks. Leave me alone,” he said politely. Too politely for death. He hadn’t completely made his mind up yet.
“I’ve had some shitty days, too. Some really shitty days. I just went through a divorce, and before the ink was dry, I found out my ex-husband got his mistress pregnant. I can’t have babies, so it was literally the worst thing that could’ve happened to me. He’s with her now, and they have a little girl. They moved to Montana to be closer to her family. Who lives in Montana? I can’t even remember where it is half the time,” she said, hating that she’d used the word mistress. She usually tried to avoid it, knowing how it cast a spell she didn’t intend. Mistress—with its snaky curves and Marilyn Monroe breathiness—implied so much drama and romance that it seemed desirable.
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he said and paused, “but lots of people live in Montana. It’s a regular state. I have friends who live there.” His voice snapped. Politeness averted.
He was looking down at the river. It was cold and getting colder. Late October, the nights were getting longer. That alone made Tallie start to question whether life was worth living—God turning out the lights. Autumn was okay, but winter? Winter was too brutal to tackle alone, and this would be the second winter since her divorce. Joel would be spending winter in Montana with his new wife and baby.
“Right. I’m sure Montana is fine. Um, you said you had friends there. Why don’t you come over to this side and tell me about your friends?” Tallie said, stepping closer to him.
He looked at her before giving his attention back to the river. It was the first time she’d seen his face full on. He had a smattering of light freckles, like someone had accidentally spilled cinnamon across his nose and cheeks, and he was wearing a jacket the same color as his backpack. Both his jeans and boots: syrupy brown. Shattered energy seemed to pulse from him like sonar. Tight blips of loneliness. Tallie translated the echolocation easily. She was lonesome and blipping, too.
“We should call them. I bet they’d love to hear from you,” she said, moving closer and going into her pocket for her phone. “What are their names?”
“I don’t want to talk to them right now.”
“You won’t tell me your name or how I can help you?”
“No, thank you.”
“All right. Okay,” she said, tapping around on her phone, wondering if there was something she could find that might help. She glanced at her car, the open door, the rain falling sideways against the seat. The dome light glowed a blurred white. She wiped her fingers dry, tapped around more.
“Have you heard this song? I love this song,” she said, turning it up, stepping closer to him.
She was on the safe side of the railing; he was on the suicide side. She doubted he would be able to hear the music. It was a loud world. She was only a bit surprised no one else stopped, no one else pulled to the side and said hey. Everyone always thought everyone else would take care of things.
“A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” by Andrew Bird played from her phone. She thought past the title having the word nervous in it, but early in the song he sang the word died, so she waited until that part had passed and only turned it up once Andrew Bird began to whistle. It was a quirky song with lots of whistling. She’d been flicking through the musical artists in alphabetical order and skipped ABBA, although “I Have a Dream,” with its hopeful lyrics about believing in angels, wouldn’t have been the worst choice. One scroll past ABBA was Andrew. She stretched her arm out so the phone would be closer to his ear.
“This guy. His name is Andrew Bird, and he’s whistling like a bird in this song. It’s a pretty song, but I don’t know what it means,” she said. The rain was wetting her hoodie, her cold hand, the phone. This man must’ve been freezing if he’d been on the bridge for even a short amount of time. She asked how long he’d been standing there.
“I don’t know,” he said, still looking down.
She let the song play, stopping it before Andrew Bird said the word died again. She put the phone into her pocket.
“I’m sure you’re very cold. There’s a coffee shop up the road. We could go get a coffee. I’d love to buy you a coffee. Would you let me buy you a coffee?” she asked.
He could be a murderer. He could be a rapist. He could be a pedophile on the run.
“You don’t want to tell me your name? I told you mine. I’m Tallie. Tallie Clark.”
“No,” he said. Soft. The world was loud and hard, but he was soft.
“Would you like something warm? To hold or drink? I can’t leave you here. I won’t do that,” Tallie said. She could reach out and touch him but was afraid. He could jump. He could fall. He could grab her and not let go, take her with him. She didn’t want to go.
“Play another song, please,” he said.
Tallie searched for “Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco—a song she’d always found comforting—and held her phone out for the man to take. They stood there listening to Jeff Tweedy’s flannel, languid voice together. She hugged herself for a moment, an attempt at warmth, before tucking her hands into the kangaroo pocket of her hoodie.
“Thank you,” he said, handing her the phone back once the song was over.
She looked at the highway—the flashing gloss of minivans, SUVs, pickup trucks, four-doors—no police cars, no fire trucks, no ambulances. She didn’t know what to do and told him that. Maybe it would make him feel better, knowing no one had all the answers. And if he was going to jump, he surely would’ve jumped already. Right? Right.
“You don’t have to do anything. It’s done,” he said.
“What’s done? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
It made her want to laugh, the humanity and honesty of him saying I don’t know. Tallie prayed to herself: Jesus, You see us. You know us. Let this man know. Let him find a reason to stay. Surround both of us. Let me be able to do this. Abide with us.
She held her hand out for him. Shaking, wet, cold. He looked at her, the river. The river, her. The backpack was at her feet. He was looking at the river, and he was looking at the river. He was looking at the river when he took her hand.
He smelled like the rain. There was a hood on his jacket that he never pulled up. Pointless if he was planning on dying soon. What’s a wet head to a dead person? He picked up his backpack and followed her to the car. Sat and closed the passenger door.
“The seat is wet. Sorry,” Tallie said, forgetting he was already wet. So was she. She closed her door, reached into the backseat. Grabbed the small towel in her gym bag and patted her face. She tried to hand it to him, but he refused. “So if you were looking for a sign not to take your life, the sign is me. Stopping. Taking you for a coffee instead.”
“I wasn’t looking for a sign.”
Tallie turned off her hazard lights and waited until it was clear. Pulled into traffic. This was potentially a terrible idea, but it was happening. It was scary and thrilling, and her heart zapped like her body couldn’t tell the difference between panic and excitement.
“I didn’t want a sign,” he said.
“But you got one,” she said, smiling over at him. Maybe her first true smile of the day. She was busy with appointments in the morning, smiled perfunctorily, ate a salad and a can of tuna in her office alone. She’d had appointments all afternoon, too, and before leaving work had logged in to Joel’s social media account because Joel had never changed the password, and she clicked around on his new wife’s profile like she always did. Looked at old photos of her pregnant belly and photos from the baby shower she hadn’t seen before. She could make out Joel in the background of one of them, grilling. There was still a brand-new gas grill on Tallie’s deck that Joel had bought and never used.
Joel’s baby was almost two months old now, and in one of the new pictures with her, he had his hair pulled into a ponytail. A fucking ponytail. Tallie had closed her laptop and cried into her hands before leaving for the day. She’d run four miles at the gym across the river, disappointed in herself for not pushing for her usual six. And on her way home she saw Bridge—what she’d begun calling him in her mind since Bridge Guy wouldn’t tell her his name.
He shrugged; apparently he didn’t believe in signs, although clearly she had just saved his life. She’d never literally saved a life before; she felt warm all over thinking about it. She looked at him, considered his profile. He was probably handsome and could’ve been anywhere between twenty-five and thirty-five.
“Do you like coffee?” she asked.
She used a lot of different techniques in her therapy sessions—holistic, behavior modification, Gestalt, cognitive—but also believed in the power of simplicity: listening, a warm drink. Her clients opened up more when they were holding a steamy mug. She sometimes felt guilty billing them when all she’d done was boil water. The coffee shop she was taking him to was her favorite, a stop she made almost every day. A safe place. He couldn’t murder her there; she knew the baristas.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said with enough breathtaking sadness to stop clocks.
“It matters. You matter. Your life matters. It does,” she said and waited for a response. When she didn’t get one, she continued, “Um…we’re almost there. The coffee shop is just up the road. You may know that. Are you from around here? I’m kind of winging this, but I’m trusting God right now.”
“What if there’s no God?” he asked, looking out his window, the raindrops slicking down in a beaded curtain.
Then I don’t know. That’s why I have to believe there is, she thought.
“Your name is Tallie?” he asked after several moments of silence.
“Tallie. Tallie Clark. Short for Tallulah. It means running water…jumping water. But everyone calls me Tallie except my brother and his family. They call me Lulah.” She could see the coffee shop ahead on the corner, the viridescent sign wrapped in neon, lit up and waiting for them.
“Huh,” he said, turning to her. Transfiguration—a suicide smile. Kind of creepy. Kind of nice. Ted Bundy had a creepy, nice smile, too. So did the Zodiac Killer, probably, and most of the murderers who ended up on Dateline. “It’s pretty. But my name isn’t Tallulah,” he said. The smile was gone.
She pulled into the coffee shop parking lot, thankful to be in a public place. She’d get him something warm, and she hoped to learn more about him in the process, figure out what kind of help he needed. Soon she’d be home in her pajamas with her cats, watching some trashy thing on TV, a soothing avocado sheet mask on her face, wine in her glass, feeling good about saving a life.
They parked and walked into the coffee shop together. He cowboy-walked slowly, and she matched his strides. When he held the door for her, she got a clear look at his face. Yep. He was Probably Handsome. Bridge was also probably five feet eleven, nearly the same size as Joel. Or maybe she was imagining it. Was she obsessed, making every man into Joel now? Bridge had shaggy hair, and she pictured Joel’s new ridiculous little ponytail swatting her in the face.
Tallie could see Bridge was wearing a white undershirt beneath his flannel, the gold chain of a necklace peeking out. She would ask him his name again later, but perhaps if she talked to him more, he’d offer it up on his own. She used the same technique with her clients, the ones who arrived an hour early but then clammed up when they came into her office. The ones who would talk about their mothers but not their fathers. The ones who would talk about everyone else but not themselves. She sometimes turned down the lights or played soft classical music if the clients preferred. Bach’s cello suites were disarming. Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, Haydn.
She had dark chocolate with almonds and hard candy in a sheesham wood bowl handcrafted by Indian women. She’d bought several for the office, and the money went to ending sex trafficking. She made a mental note to donate to the cause again as soon as she was in front of her computer. Those poor girls. Maybe Bridge was one of those disgusting creeps who bought little girls. Those guys could be anywhere. It sickened her, thinking about it.
She considered herself a decent judge of character when she trusted her instincts. She gave him a hard look to gauge his energy, tried to decide if he really had the face of a man who wanted to die. He had kind, redwood-brown eyes. Redwood called up cedar, her favorite smell. She’d bought Joel an expensive cedar-based cologne for their last anniversary. He wore it once and told her he didn’t think he could wear it anymore because it got all over him. “It was everywhere,” he’d said, and she’d thought, That’s the point. She’d loved the day he smelled like it, when it was everywhere. She still had the bottle at home: a glass rectangle the color of sunlit bourbon. She wished she could give it to Bridge, tell him the cedar scent matched his eyes. Maybe he’d understand what that meant. Maybe his senses infused one another, too, leaked out, left stains. Like how the rain could make her go gray-blue and how the gray-blue left her with the cloying taste of blueberries in her mouth.
The coffee shop was warm and crowded, everyone busy on their phones or laptops or with their books or children or boyfriends or girlfriends or friends or cakes or cappuccinos. She’d gladly pay for his coffee and a snack if he was hungry. Did Bridge have money? A phone?
“So you’ll drink a coffee if I buy you one? Or would you like a pop or a milk?” Tallie asked him as they walked to the counter together. His boots squeaked, the cuffs of his jacket dripped.
“I’ll drink a coffee,” he said, nodding.
He nodded again. She convinced herself she’d imagined his creepy smile. He didn’t seem creepy in that coffee shop. His eyes were delicate, crinkled in the corners. He couldn’t have been in his twenties. Definitely thirties. He seemed like a smoker, although he didn’t smell like it. Smoker’s energy, she knew it well. Her mom had it bad.
She couldn’t text her best girlfriend, Aisha, because she was out of town on an unplugged Thursday-to-Sunday hippie yoga retreat. Tallie considered texting her brother, Lionel, to say hi and casually let someone know where she was, just in case. But she couldn’t tell him about Bridge. He’d get really angry. He’d said something to her about being careless in the past week because she’d gone to visit him, parked in his steep driveway, forgot to pull the emergency brake. When she came out, she saw that her car had rolled down the driveway and into the grass, narrowly avoiding the front line of trees edging his property. “Sometimes you’re so careless,” her big brother had said. But Tallie wasn’t careless. Lionel was obsessed with perfection, leaving no room for honest mistakes. Her mother and brother often insisted on saying what didn’t need to be said. Hurtful things. It was one of the reasons Tallie had become a therapist—to help people be kinder to themselves and others. To make the world a safer, sweeter place.
Once when Tallie was ten and playing in her room by herself, content and humming, her mother had told her she was a lonely little girl. She’d never forgotten it. What an awful thing to say. Maybe someone had told Bridge he was a lonely little boy once.
“Did you want something to eat? Would probably be a good idea,” she said. She stood at the counter and ordered two coffees from the barista after exchanging hellos. Bridge looked down at the glass pastry case. Without waiting for an answer, she ordered the last two old-fashioned pumpkin doughnuts they had left. She paid and went to the condiment station to pour soy milk in her cup, a small shake of raw sugar. Bridge followed her, and they found a table together. They sat in the corner next to a pole with white twinkle lights wrapped around it, their atomic halos softening everything in their glow. He peeled off his jacket. Thanked her for the coffee, the doughnut.
His shirt seemed dry. He had nice hands, coffin-square shoulders. A light brown-reddish beard that matched his freckles. He slicked his damp hair back, rolled up the cuffs of his sleeves. She waited for him to take a drink of his coffee. When he took a drink of his coffee, they could begin. This was a therapy session whether he knew it or not. He had to expect her to ask a lot of questions. They’d met under extraordinary circumstances; they were in this together. He sipped his coffee, broke off a piece of doughnut and ate it. He was very neat, careful to keep the crumbs on the plate.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“I need to take my medicine,” he said after he’d chewed, swallowed.
Antidepressants? That’s all this was. The chemicals in his brain were off-kilter, and his medicine would fix it. She’d had clients who went off their meds, and it wasn’t until they had an extreme wake-up call that they realized how much they needed their prescriptions. Had the bridge woken Bridge up? She could take him to get his meds, pay for them.
“Where is your medicine?”
“My backpack,” he said, tilting his head toward his feet, where it was. He kept eating. She mirrored him, dug into her doughnut, a treat she allowed herself only every now and then, but tonight was obviously different. The crumbs were sticking to her fingers, and she wiggled them to shake them off.
“We could get a bottled water. And um, is there someone you can stay with? Do you think you need to go to a hospital? I could take you there,” she said. There were people she could call. She had connections. Doctors, a fireman who used to be a neighbor. She could piece a rescue together. Didn’t he need to be rescued?
“Antihistamines. It’s my allergy medicine,” he said after he drank more of his coffee. Like, Look, lady, why would I go to a hospital for allergy medicine? You are being crazy. I am fine. Please stop being crazy and let me drink my dark blend in peace.
“Well, I mean because of the bridge.” Hospital because you were going to jump to your death. That’s why hospital.
“That was then. This is a new moment.”
“Still important to discuss, though, don’t you think?”
“I’m not from here. My family’s from Clementine,” he said. Tallie had heard of it, knew Clementine was a small city in southeastern Kentucky, about three hours away.
“You’re half black? I don’t imagine there are a lot of us in Clementine,” Tallie said, leaning forward. She’d never seen a face like Bridge’s before. Mixed with a million things—his thick, Kennedy-like dark blond hair blushed with red.
“My grandmother was black. And no, you’re right. Not a lot of us, no,” he said.
She liked that he told her something about his family and how he blew across the top of his coffee, the ripples it made. She liked watching him finish his doughnut. Her brain fizzed. This man wanted to die less than an hour ago, but now he was sitting across from her, careful not to burn his mouth. He seemed to purposely flood himself with more gentleness as he thanked her again. His necklace had slipped to the front of his undershirt—a small gold cross winking light.
“Should we call your family?” she asked, pulling her phone out of her pocket and setting it on the table in between them, though she couldn’t say she expected him to agree. In order to keep him talking, she would have to tell him about herself. “My family is from here and Tennessee. Some are from Alabama. Do you get along with your family?”
“I don’t care about things like that,” he said.
“What do you care about?”
“I don’t care about small talk.”
“Neither do I. That’s why I’m asking you about big things. So we don’t waste our time together,” she said.
The corner of his mouth rose and twitched. “I like this song,” he said. The coffee shop speakers were playing Radiohead down low. “Knives Out.”
“I do, too. It’s so moody and strange,” she said. Commiseration. Empathy. It usually worked, got people to bloom like flowers. “Was this your…um, first suicide attempt?”
“I don’t know what it was. But I guess I feel better now. It’s hard to say.”
He felt better? This quick? She didn’t believe him.
“I’m going to the bathroom.” He stood, taking his backpack with him.
“Okay,” she said, nodding.
- "Leesa Cross-Smith is a consummate storyteller who uses her formidable talents to tell the oft-overlooked stories of people living in that great swath of place between the left and right coasts."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author
- “This book hits the ground running. Cross-Smith writes tenderly about the trial and error of intimacy and draws you in with enormous warmth and control.”—Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster
- "Leesa Cross-Smith writes the way many people wish they could: ferociously, tenderly, and with a tremendous amount of heart. The stories contained in So We Can Glow showcase the very best of Cross-Smith's voice. They stick with readers long after the book is closed. This collection is tantalizing and Cross-Smith is a delight."—Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things (on So We Can Glow)
- “Leesa Cross-Smith has written a book to help us through these bleak and confusing times. This Close to Okay is a story of loneliness and wrenching loss, perfectly counterbalanced by the compassion of strangers and the love of family. This book is a hand-knitted sweater in the middle of a cold winter night.”—Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckless Oath We Made
"This Close to Okay is such a joy to read! It at once delights and moves, its sweetness and sass and sexiness balanced with deep questions about honesty, intimacy, and heartbreak. Leesa Cross-Smith is a confident storyteller and, in her hands, her characters come alive; they are fallible, charming, complicated, and--like all of us--aching for connection."
—Edan Lepucki, New York Times author of California and Woman No. 17
- "This Close to Okay is the kind of novel that allows the reader to slip into a world rich with both comforts and troubles. The story of Emmett and Tallie is delicious, romantic, cozy, and satisfying, and it's also mysterious, unstable, and loaded with loss. This book opens up hard emotions and truths, but it also offers moments of relief and attention to the sustaining pleasures of life."—Naima Coster, author of What's Mine and Yours and Halsey Street
- "One of those rare feel-good novels that also crackles with wisdom, This Close to Okay introduces readers to two characters who will come to feel like cherished friends. . . Over the course of a single weekend, their many conversations on love, loss, grief, and joy coalesce into a primer on human goodness.”—Elle
“With an effortlessly Baldwinian style of misleading simplicity, Leesa Cross-Smith's beguiling prose lures readers in from the first moments. Reading Cross-Smith is like stepping into seemingly calm water, only to be swept away by the force of a story so immediate, and characters so intimate and bewitching, that you do not want to come up for air.”
—Bethany C Morrow, author of Mem and A Song Below Water
- “Another page-turner . . . A story about the power of vulnerability and connection, This Close to Okay is a moving reminder of the importance of authentic human relationships.”—Refinery29
- “One of the most charming and uplifting stories I’ve read recently. It’s the perfect dose of escapism.”—Maisy Card, Glamour
“Leesa Cross-Smith is the most intimate and tender writer on my bookshelf. Once I started reading This Close to Okay, I couldn't stop. Weekend reading at its finest, this story about chance strangers in the mist will spark every ember in your chest and leave you breathless. Cross-Smith's wondrous and nimble heart beats true on every page.”
—Amy Jo Burns, author of Shiner
- “A novel about just how powerful someone could be in another person’s life.”—Shondaland
- "This Close To Okay is a story to be savored with prose at once lavish and lithe. A voice unmistakable and unforgettable, Smith is a stylist in the most wondrous sense of the word." —David Joy, author of When These Mountains Burn
- "A touching story about two strangers who meet under the worst of circumstances, but end up finding love and healing within each other."—Marie Claire
“This is a heartfelt and moving novel about grief, love, second chances, and the coincidences that change lives. Leesa Cross-Smith is a wonderful writer and a wonderful caregiver of her characters, showing them the kindness they can't always show themselves, and giving readers a tender, intoxicating reading experience we won't soon forget.”
—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
- "Leesa Cross-Smith’s This Close to Okay navigates difficult subjects with great tenderness and the beautiful, emotionally rich language she’s known for. By turns heartbreaking, charming, surprising and funny, Cross-Smith deftly explores what it means to be okay in the face of what life hands us."—Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things
- “An emotional, uplifting tale of hope, chosen family, and the healing power of human connection, especially at the moments when we’re most determined to be alone.”—Good Housekeeping
- "Few writers are able to tap into our deepest emotions the way Leesa Cross-Smith can. In This Close to Okay she has created characters we will never forget and has taken us to a part of America that too few know or understand, revealing it in all of its complexity and humanity in a way that only she can. Along the way Cross-Smith gives us music, wit, and most of all, a meditation on human connection in a time when we need it more than ever. This Close to Okay is nearly impossible to put down and it solidifies Cross-Smith as one of our best and brightest writers working today."—Silas House, author of Southernmost
- “A poignant page-turner about perseverance and two broken people who, like all of at one time or another, just need someone to tell them everything’s going to be all right.”—Real Simple
"With great tenderness and care, Leesa Cross-Smith has written a beautiful, moving story about the ways the heart hurts in this world—and the depths we'll go to help each other heal. This Close to Okay is a balm for anyone who's ever felt their faith in themselves or others begin to fade."
—Natalia Sylvester, author of Everyone Knows You Go Home
- "Explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people . . . As dark and tense as it is flirty and humorous, this moving novel offers consistent surprises."—Publishers Weekly
- “Cross-Smith once again shows adeptness at exploring the range of human emotions, particularly the fragility of relationships in the wake of tragedy…offer[s] twists that keep the novel interesting and realistic. A page-turning pleasure with a heroine to love.”—Booklist
- "Cross-Smith’s writing is reliably a delight—Roxane Gay has called her 'a consummate storyteller'—and in a time of such isolation, a novel about strangers coming together seems especially appealing."—Electric Literature
- "In search of a beach read that will give you all the feels and then some feels you didn't know you needed? Start with Leesa Cross-Smith's heartfelt novel This Close to Okay, a story of how human connection and healing are often intertwined . . . This Close to Okay might not seem like an obvious beach read, but in Cross-Smith's def hands, the plot is as powerful as its emotional revelations." —Oprah Daily
- "Uplifting." —Harper's Bazaar
- "Make sure you have a pack of tissues at the ready."—Cosmopolitan
- "Following her wildly successful short story collection, Leesa Cross-Smith has written a lovely novel about two strangers, brought together unexpectedly, and the hope and connection they provide one another."—Ms. Magazine
- “A fast-moving, drama-filled roller coaster that will keep you guessing about how things will turn out for these two lost souls.”—BookPage
- "The reader cannot help but root for [Tallie and Emmett] to find themselves and their happiness."—SheReads
- "An insightful look at grief, pain, and healing."—BookBub
- “Inventive. Authentic. Honest.”—Craft Literary
“I’ve laughed with Tallie and Emmett. I’ve cried with them too. We’ve listened to music, watched movies, had meals together. Not to mention all the honest conversations about love, life, grief and death. Now that I finished reading this extraordinary and oh so heartwarming story, I’m not sure how to move on. I miss them both deeply.”
—Carolina Setterwall, author of Let’s Hope for the Best
- "I so admire these stirring, sexy, haunting stories about the darkest corners of women's inner lives. A treat for the soul and the senses, and funny too. Leesa Cross-Smith is a wonderful storyteller."—Alexia Arthurs, award-winning author of How to Love a Jamaican (on So We Can Glow)
- "So We Can Glow is precise and yearning in all the right ways. Cross-Smith understands sex and lust and love and all the ways they can get crossed up. Inventive in form, drifting from poetry to prose to script to smartphone text to receipt, Cross-Smith explores our affections, how they flourish or, more often, unravel, and her writing delivers this wisdom with blunt honesty and sex appeal to spare. It brings into existence secrets we didn't even know we had."—JM Holmes, award-winning author of How Are You Going to Save Yourself (on So We Can Glow)
- "The magic of So We Can Glow is that no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, no matter your gender identity, when reading this book you become the girls and women in these pages. You hope their hopes, dream their dreams, fantasize and love alongside them. Leesa Cross-Smith is some sort of sorceress."—Rion Amilcar Scott, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winning author of Insurrections and The World Doesn't Require You (on So We Can Glow)
- "These stories, brief but dense with emotion, will make you feel like you're falling in love—again and again and again. They drop the reader into moments that feel soaked with longing, like strawberries in champagne. Through Cross-Smith's characters, we experience the messiness, the ache, but mostly the glory of female desire."—Amy Bonnaffons, author of The Regrets and The Wrong Heaven (on So We Can Glow)
- "An uplifting story of how one encounter can change our lives in the way we don't expect."—Hong Kong Tatler
- "This Close to Okay will have you enthralled in the story of Emmett and Tallie—with each character revealing the truths behind that monumental weekend from their own perspectives."—RUSSH
- On Sale
- Feb 2, 2021
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Grand Central Publishing