The Exhibition of Persephone Q
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A WALL STREET JOURNAL AND VOGUE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2020
NYT BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE
A surreal and satirical portrait of a pregnant woman adrift in a haunted, post-9/11 Manhattan…
Percy is pregnant. She hasn’t told a soul. Probably she should tell her husband—certainly she means to—but one night she wakes up to find she no longer recognizes him. Now, instead of sleeping, Percy is spending her nights taking walks through her neighborhood, all the while fretting over her marriage, her impending motherhood, and the sinister ways the city is changing.
Amid this alienation—from her husband, home, and rapidly changing body—a package arrives. In it: an exhibition catalog for a photography show. The photographs consist of a series of digitally manipulated images of a woman lying on a bed in a red room. It takes a moment for even Percy to notice that the woman is herself . . . but no one else sees the resemblance.
Percy must now come to grips with the fundamental question of identity in the digital age: To what extent do we own our own image, and to what extent is that image shaped by the eyes of others?
Capturing perfectly the haunted atmosphere of Manhattan immediately after 9/11—and the simmering insanity of America ever since—Jessi Jezewska Stevens’s The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a darkly witty satire about how easy it is to lose ownership of our own selves.
Praise for The Exhibition of Persephone Q
“The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a resonant and uncanny novel, a moving meditation on “how casually one version of reality detaches from the truth; it peels away naturally, like damp wallpaper in a neglected room.” Jessi Jezewska Stevens is a promising, persuasive new writer, and I will be surprised if this doesn’t turn out to be one of the strongest debut novels of 2020.”
Justin Taylor, Bookforum
“Stevens’s writing proves that both time and technology are best understood in retrospect, sequences made logical long after each moment has passed. The novel has a romantic slowness, unfurling gracefully, little by little, to show how quickly the present gives way to the future, or concedes to the past.“
Haley Mlotek, New York Times
“I was magnetized not just by a great story, but one that felt uncannily timely…Percy is forced to confront questions of identity and selfhood that feel both poignant and meta during a time of crisis.
Michael Baron, Literary Hub
“Finally a book that exposes how dull Occam’s Razor has become after all these years. Adroitly crafted, The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a fun, urbane look at the faulty heuristics of perception and authenticity. Proof positive that in the age of Photoshop and Trumpian Denialism, the simplest explanation no longer applies.”
Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout
“Stevens has combined the surreal with the actual to create a book painfully relevant to this new age of female testimony . . . A fantastic debut.”
Noelle McManus, Women’s Review of Books
“Stevens’ dreamlike first novel is a delicate and drifting exploration of Percy’s relationships with friends, lovers, neighbors, and the many not-quite strangers who form the fabric of city life. As Percy wanders, New York itself is reflected through the prism of her many identities . . . in luminous prose that captures the essence of a place in the middle of its most defining transformation. A stellar debut.”
“Stevens’s striking, unique debut explores the increasing alienation a young woman feels as eerie phenomena creep into her life . . . Stevens is a talented writer, and her debut is a propulsive experience.”
“Stevens’ debut is a compelling and visually rich novel that explores alienation in all its forms. The book’s poetic language and realistically absurd characters will keep readers intrigued until the final page.”
Leah von Essen,