Mohrbooks Literary Agency Sebastian Ritscher

Published by
Putnam (2014-10-30)
Current material
Final Pages
Original language
Biography, Literature & Literary studies


by Chicurel, Judy

For fans of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country, this debut is about a young woman and the small working-class town she lives in, and how both come to experience the effects of Vietnam and the massive changes on the horizon.

It is the summer of 1972, and Katie has just turned eighteen. She was “finished with school and ready for real life. It was summer, and anything was possible.” When not hanging out with her friends Nanny and Liz, Katie tries to catch the eye of Luke, recently back from Vietnam, whom she has loved from afar for years. Katie and her town, Elephant Beach—a fictionalized version of Long Island, New York’s Long Beach—are both on the verge: Katie of adulthood, and Elephant Beach of gentrification. But quite not yet: Elephant Beach is still gritty, working-class, close-knit; and Katie spends her time smoking and drinking with her friends, dreaming about a boy who barely sees her.This impeccably crafted, hugely affectionate, and ultimately moving novel-in-stories is also a vivid portrait of a place whose conflicts—between mothers and daughters, men and women, haves and have-nots—reverberate down the years to our own time. IF I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO BE THIS BEAUTIFUL, I NEVER WOULD HAVE LET YOU GO shows us where we came from, what we dreamed we could be, and how far we still have to go.

Unlike many collections, this isn’t a book you dip into and out of between stories. You’ll want to read from start to finish. These really are connected stories, or a novel in stories; there’s a single narrator, a recurring cast of characters, and a defined sense of place.

Judy Chicurel’s work has appeared in national, regional, and international publications, including The New York Times, Newsday, and Granta. Her plays have been produced and performed in Manhattan and India. She is currently a resident at the New Perspectives Women’s Work Playwrights Lab and a member of the New York Writers Coalition, and she is a past fellow in the CUNY Graduate Center Writers’ Institute fiction program. She lives in Brooklyn and grew up in Long Beach, Long Island.

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The author's masterful writing makes this short stay in Elephant Beach worthwhile.

Review: Kirkus

n a beautiful and honest coming-of-age story, Katie acquaints readers with the people and character of her hometown—the struggles, losses, hopes, and dreams—in chapters that resemble short stories, all tied neatly together by Katie’s own bid for the future. The result is a stunningly evocative portrait of a down-on-its-luck town and its people, who, like Katie, are trapped between the past as they’ve known it and the promise of the future.

Review: Booklist (starred)

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful is a startling book of linked stories. This is not just another "coming of age" tale, but a wise, clear look at what it was to be a young woman at singular time in our country. Chicurel's portrait of a small town in the 70's speaks volumes about who we are as a culture. "Debut collection" is misleading here. This is a beautiful, accomplished book.

Quote: Kathie Crouch

This collection of mystery stories is by turns chilling and thought provoking and a good choice for readers who enjoy books by Lippman or Jeffery Deaver and who appreciate reading both new authors and proven writers in the genre.

Review: Library Journal (starred)

UK: Headline

Quote: client

If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful, I never Would Have Let You Go is a dazzling debut collection that brings to mind the books of Richard Price and the films of Martin Scorsese. The characters in the stories burrow deeply under your skin and stay there. Wonderful, vivid, funny, heart-wrenching and authentic, I did not want this book to end.

Quote: Julie Klam

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