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Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

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Mona at Sea


Mona Mireles is a quintessential overachiever: a former spelling-bee champion and valedictorian of her college class, she has a sterling résumé and a wall of plaques and medals in her bedroom that stretches floor to ceiling. She's also broke, unemployed, back at home with her parents, and completely adrift in life and love. Seven months out of college, she’s desperately trying to reassemble the pieces of her life after the Wall Street job she had waiting for her post-graduation dissolves in the wake of the Great Recession. When her reaction to losing her job goes viral and she is publicly branded the Sad Millennial, she begins a downward spiral into self-pity, bitterness, and late-night drunken binges on cat videos. She's the sort who says exactly the right thing at absolutely the wrong moments, seeing the world through a cynic's eyes. In suburban Tucson amid the financial and social malaise of the early 2000s, thirty-three-year-old Mona must not only find a job but also quickly learn to navigate the complexities of adult relationships within the black hole of her parents' shattering marriage. At her mother's urging, she grudgingly joins a support group for job seekers, and she slowly begins to see that all is not lost—and that perhaps losing the job on Wall Street was a blessing in disguise. She might even learn what it is she finds meaningful in life. The only question is whether or not she’ll be brave enough to go after it.

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About the author

Elizabeth Gonzalez James's stories and essays have appeared in The Idaho Review, StorySouth, The Rumpus, PANK, and elsewhere, and have received numerous Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. In 2021 she is a regular contributor to Ploughshares Blog. Her debut novel, Mona at Sea, was a finalist in the 2019 SFWP Literary Awards judged by Carmen Maria Machado, and is forthcoming, June 2021. Originally from South Texas, Elizabeth now lives with her family in Oakland, California.


Mona at Sea is a delightful debut, one that marks Elizabeth Gonzalez James as a writer to watch.”

Adam Johnson , National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son

Mona at Sea is a hilarious, high-octane novel about coming into one's own without coming undone. The millennial, bicultural narrator, Mona Mireles, is smart and skewering, contending with a troubled past threatening to derail her present. Elizabeth Gonzalez James is a fresh new voice in contemporary literature. Bienvenida!”

Cristina García, author of Here in Berlin and Dreaming in Cuban

Mona at Sea reads like an intimate late night conversation with the friend you never knew you needed. Written with humor and insight and vulnerability, it's a tribute to the struggle to stay upright as the world around you comes falling down.”

Mat Johnson , author of Pym and Hunting in Harlem
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