Genre: Adult Lit Fic/Contemporary
Word Count: 73,000
After twenty-two years of abuse on the family farm, mixed-race David turns the whip on his abusive white father and escapes to Chicago, dreaming of being a 21st-century black Gatsby.
Clutching his mother’s copy of The Great Gatsby, David survives twenty-two years of abuse on the family farm only by dreaming of an escape to the big city. One hot summer day, David finally turns the whip on his father and escapes to Chicago to become a 21st-century black Gatsby.
Fast forward to ten years later, when David would punch Gatsby out if he ever saw him. Even after marrying the love of his life and mopping floors together at their janitor jobs, David has experienced no American Dream. Instead, he descends into a nightmare: his daughter is diagnosed with an organ-destroying disease. Knowing they have no way to pay for the medicine, their insurance manager forces Mary into sexual blackmail.
But they need more money, and the cheapest option is to move to the south side. To David—whose mother, by extolling Gatsby’s virtues, raised David to cower in fear from his own dark skin and scrape it out with stones—it's the incarnation of a childhood nightmare. Sleepless nights waste him away, haunted by Mary’s relationship, by this black neighborhood, and by the life he thought he’d have. But David can’t see what’s right in front of him; these new neighbors might do the most to save Penelope's life, David's racist self-hate, and their marriage—if he lets them.
In the vein of Barbara Kingsolver, if this book was nonfiction, it would fit in Jonathan Cohn’s SICK, a collection of American health care horror stories.
It’s odd to be told, by doctors, that your daughter is going to die. There’s just no one else to run to after that. And when Dr. Sheridan began his sentence with, “I’m so sorry,” my stomach flipped even though the rest of the sentence—“your daughter has had amyloidosis for a while”—made no sense to me.
He sat behind his desk. My black fingers pressed tightly around Mary’s white ones, knuckles so cold under the mahogany desk. Dr. Sheridan pushed forward some pictures and diagrams of Penelope’s organs.
“It’s a disease that causes build-up of protein in the major organs. If caught quickly, it’s relatively easy to treat. But her amyloidosis went untreated. Even if I gave her medicine now, Penelope’s organs will still shut down.”
“Dr. Manti told us she was fine,” I said, running my fingers over the pictures of small lumps in my child’s tissue. Penelope’d been vomiting in bed for the last few months, sick and pale and deteriorating. We wanted to find the reason, we switched jobs to get Dr. Sheridan. We expected there to be something wrong.
“Dr. Manti must have misread the signs,” Dr. Sheridan said. “It’s hard to tell—”
“Wait, wait, Doctor,” Mary said, rubbing her forehead. “Shut down? What do you mean, shut down?”
Dr. Sheridan glanced at me and I inhaled. My arms clenched.
“I’m truly sorry.” He cleared his throat. “I am sorry.”
“Doctor,” Mary said. “Doctor, come on, we came here. We came here. That—that can’t be it. You haven’t even given her any medicine.”