book cover of Take What You Need
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Take What You Need

A novel by

A New York Times Editor's Choice

Named One of the Best Fiction for Spring 2023 by
Wall Street Journal

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by
Oprah Daily, Vulture,, Elle, and Lit Hub.

“A heart-rending book, but also a beautiful celebration of ‘the glorious pleasure of erecting something new,’ be it a work of art or a human connection.”
—The Wall Street Journal

From “one of the finest and bravest novelists at work today,” (
Vulture) award-winning writer Idra Novey has conjured a novel of “astonishing and singular” honesty (Rumaan Alam) with two determined, unforgettable female voices.

Set in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia,
Take What You Need traces the parallel lives of Jean and her beloved but estranged stepdaughter, Leah, who’s sought a clean break from her rural childhood. In Leah’s urban life with her young family, she’s revealed little about Jean, how much she misses her stepmother’s hard-won insights and joyful lack of inhibition. But with Jean’s death, Leah must return to sort through what’s been left behind. 

What Leah discovers is staggering: Jean has filled her ramshackle house with giant sculptures she’s welded from scraps of the area’s industrial history. There’s also a young man now living in the house who played an unknown role in Jean’s last years and in her art. 

With great verve and humor, Idra Novey zeros in on the joys and difficulty of family, the ease with which we let distance mute conflict, and the power we can draw from creative pursuits.

Take What You Need explores the continuing mystery of the people we love most with passionate and resonance, this novel illuminating can be built from what others have discarded—art, unexpected friendship, a new contentment of self. This is Idra Novey at her very best.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Idra Novey's Take What You Need is a story about art and passion, about the people and places who forge us. This singular and astonishing novel probes one of the biggest questions of the day: In a moment of cultural and political fracture, how do we live with one another?" - Rumaan Alam

"An extraordinarily moving novel. Take What You Need is a masterful depiction of the radical, transformative power of outsider art. I'll never forget Jean and her scavenged metal towers, or the hard-earned beauty and truth waiting at the heart of this stunning new American fairy tale." - Matt Bell

"It's impossible not to become invested in these characters. The palpable tension between Jean and Leah and those they hold close, burns and burns. Reader, you may be emotionally wrecked by this book, but I assure you-- your heart is in the hand of a masterful storyteller." - Angie Cruz

"In crystalline sentences, Idra Novey has created a suspenseful work of deep moral imagination. The relationship between step-daughter and mother has the explosive power of fairy tales, myths, and ancient texts." - Alice Elliott Dark

"Exhilarating, a major novel. I read it in a white heat." - Garth Greenwell

"Novey fully renders the inarticulable parts of artmaking - the antagonism of an artist's material, the pleasure in that difficulty, the way it troubles tidy ideas of legacy." - Raven Leilani

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