This Close to Okay: A Novel (Paperback)
A powerful, vibrant novel about the life-changing weekend shared between two strangers, from the award-winning writer Roxane Gay calls "a consummate storyteller."
On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home from work when she spots a man precariously standing at the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally shares his name: Emmett.
Over the course of the emotionally charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe space for Emmett, though she hesitates to confess that this is also her day job. What she doesn’t realize is that Emmett isn’t the only one who needs healing—and they both are harboring secrets.
Alternating between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge’s edge—as well as the hard truths Tallie has been grappling with since her marriage ended—This Close to Okay is an uplifting, cathartic story about chance encounters, hope found in unlikely moments, and the subtle magic of human connection.
Longlisted for the 2022 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award
Longlisted for the Goodreads Choice Awards
Book of the Month December Pick
Good Housekeeping Book Club February Pick
Marie Claire Book Club March Pick
Most Anticipated by Elle, Today (according to Goodreads), The Millions, She Reads, and Real Simple
Recommended by Refinery29, Shondaland, Oprah Daily, Washington Post, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Electric Literature, Bookriot, Parade, Harper's Bazaar, and more
About the Author
Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and the author of Every Kiss A War, Whiskey & Ribbons, So We Can Glow, and This Close to Okay. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two teenagers. Find more at LeesaCrossSmith.com.
"Leesa Cross-Smith is a consummate storyteller who uses her formidable talents to tell the oft-overlooked stories of people living in that great swath of place between the left and right coasts."—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author
“This book hits the ground running. Cross-Smith writes tenderly about the trial and error of intimacy and draws you in with enormous warmth and control.”—Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster
"Leesa Cross-Smith writes the way many people wish they could: ferociously, tenderly, and with a tremendous amount of heart. The stories contained in So We Can Glow showcase the very best of Cross-Smith's voice. They stick with readers long after the book is closed. This collection is tantalizing and Cross-Smith is a delight."—Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things (on So We Can Glow)
“Leesa Cross-Smith has written a book to help us through these bleak and confusing times. This Close to Okay is a story of loneliness and wrenching loss, perfectly counterbalanced by the compassion of strangers and the love of family. This book is a hand-knitted sweater in the middle of a cold winter night.”—Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckless Oath We Made
"This Close to Okay is such a joy to read! It at once delights and moves, its sweetness and sass and sexiness balanced with deep questions about honesty, intimacy, and heartbreak. Leesa Cross-Smith is a confident storyteller and, in her hands, her characters come alive; they are fallible, charming, complicated, and--like all of us--aching for connection."
—Edan Lepucki, New York Times author of California and Woman No. 17
"This Close to Okay is the kind of novel that allows the reader to slip into a world rich with both comforts and troubles. The story of Emmett and Tallie is delicious, romantic, cozy, and satisfying, and it's also mysterious, unstable, and loaded with loss. This book opens up hard emotions and truths, but it also offers moments of relief and attention to the sustaining pleasures of life."—Naima Coster, author of What's Mine and Yours and Halsey Street
"One of those rare feel-good novels that also crackles with wisdom, This Close to Okay introduces readers to two characters who will come to feel like cherished friends. . . Over the course of a single weekend, their many conversations on love, loss, grief, and joy coalesce into a primer on human goodness.”—Elle
“With an effortlessly Baldwinian style of misleading simplicity, Leesa Cross-Smith's beguiling prose lures readers in from the first moments. Reading Cross-Smith is like stepping into seemingly calm water, only to be swept away by the force of a story so immediate, and characters so intimate and bewitching, that you do not want to come up for air.”
—Bethany C Morrow, author of Mem and A Song Below Water
“Another page-turner . . . A story about the power of vulnerability and connection, This Close to Okay is a moving reminder of the importance of authentic human relationships.”—Refinery29
“One of the most charming and uplifting stories I’ve read recently. It’s the perfect dose of escapism.”—Maisy Card, Glamour
“Leesa Cross-Smith is the most intimate and tender writer on my bookshelf. Once I started reading This Close to Okay, I couldn't stop. Weekend reading at its finest, this story about chance strangers in the mist will spark every ember in your chest and leave you breathless. Cross-Smith's wondrous and nimble heart beats true on every page.”
—Amy Jo Burns, author of Shiner
“A novel about just how powerful someone could be in another person’s life.”—Shondaland
"This Close To Okay is a story to be savored with prose at once lavish and lithe. A voice unmistakable and unforgettable, Smith is a stylist in the most wondrous sense of the word." —David Joy, author of When These Mountains Burn
"A touching story about two strangers who meet under the worst of circumstances, but end up finding love and healing within each other."—Marie Claire
“This is a heartfelt and moving novel about grief, love, second chances, and the coincidences that change lives. Leesa Cross-Smith is a wonderful writer and a wonderful caregiver of her characters, showing them the kindness they can't always show themselves, and giving readers a tender, intoxicating reading experience we won't soon forget.”
—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
"Leesa Cross-Smith’s This Close to Okay navigates difficult subjects with great tenderness and the beautiful, emotionally rich language she’s known for. By turns heartbreaking, charming, surprising and funny, Cross-Smith deftly explores what it means to be okay in the face of what life hands us."—Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things
“An emotional, uplifting tale of hope, chosen family, and the healing power of human connection, especially at the moments when we’re most determined to be alone.”—Good Housekeeping
"Few writers are able to tap into our deepest emotions the way Leesa Cross-Smith can. In This Close to Okay she has created characters we will never forget and has taken us to a part of America that too few know or understand, revealing it in all of its complexity and humanity in a way that only she can. Along the way Cross-Smith gives us music, wit, and most of all, a meditation on human connection in a time when we need it more than ever. This Close to Okay is nearly impossible to put down and it solidifies Cross-Smith as one of our best and brightest writers working today."—Silas House, author of Southernmost
“A poignant page-turner about perseverance and two broken people who, like all of at one time or another, just need someone to tell them everything’s going to be all right.”—Real Simple
"With great tenderness and care, Leesa Cross-Smith has written a beautiful, moving story about the ways the heart hurts in this world—and the depths we'll go to help each other heal. This Close to Okay is a balm for anyone who's ever felt their faith in themselves or others begin to fade."
—Natalia Sylvester, author of Everyone Knows You Go Home
"Explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people . . . As dark and tense as it is flirty and humorous, this moving novel offers consistent surprises."—Publishers Weekly
“Cross-Smith once again shows adeptness at exploring the range of human emotions, particularly the fragility of relationships in the wake of tragedy…offer[s] twists that keep the novel interesting and realistic. A page-turning pleasure with a heroine to love.”—Booklist
"Cross-Smith’s writing is reliably a delight—Roxane Gay has called her 'a consummate storyteller'—and in a time of such isolation, a novel about strangers coming together seems especially appealing."—Electric Literature
"In search of a beach read that will give you all the feels and then some feels you didn't know you needed? Start with Leesa Cross-Smith's heartfelt novel This Close to Okay, a story of how human connection and healing are often intertwined . . . This Close to Okay might not seem like an obvious beach read, but in Cross-Smith's def hands, the plot is as powerful as its emotional revelations." —Oprah Daily
"Uplifting." —Harper's Bazaar
"Make sure you have a pack of tissues at the ready."—Cosmopolitan
"Following her wildly successful short story collection, Leesa Cross-Smith has written a lovely novel about two strangers, brought together unexpectedly, and the hope and connection they provide one another."—Ms. Magazine
“A fast-moving, drama-filled roller coaster that will keep you guessing about how things will turn out for these two lost souls.”—BookPage
"The reader cannot help but root for [Tallie and Emmett] to find themselves and their happiness."—SheReads
"An insightful look at grief, pain, and healing."—BookBub
“Inventive. Authentic. Honest.”—Craft Literary
“I’ve laughed with Tallie and Emmett. I’ve cried with them too. We’ve listened to music, watched movies, had meals together. Not to mention all the honest conversations about love, life, grief and death. Now that I finished reading this extraordinary and oh so heartwarming story, I’m not sure how to move on. I miss them both deeply.”
—Carolina Setterwall, author of Let’s Hope for the Best
"I so admire these stirring, sexy, haunting stories about the darkest corners of women's inner lives. A treat for the soul and the senses, and funny too. Leesa Cross-Smith is a wonderful storyteller."—Alexia Arthurs, award-winning author of How to Love a Jamaican (on So We Can Glow)
"So We Can Glow is precise and yearning in all the right ways. Cross-Smith understands sex and lust and love and all the ways they can get crossed up. Inventive in form, drifting from poetry to prose to script to smartphone text to receipt, Cross-Smith explores our affections, how they flourish or, more often, unravel, and her writing delivers this wisdom with blunt honesty and sex appeal to spare. It brings into existence secrets we didn't even know we had."—JM Holmes, award-winning author of How Are You Going to Save Yourself (on So We Can Glow)
"The magic of So We Can Glow is that no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, no matter your gender identity, when reading this book you become the girls and women in these pages. You hope their hopes, dream their dreams, fantasize and love alongside them. Leesa Cross-Smith is some sort of sorceress."—Rion Amilcar Scott, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winning author of Insurrections and The World Doesn't Require You (on So We Can Glow)
"These stories, brief but dense with emotion, will make you feel like you're falling in love—again and again and again. They drop the reader into moments that feel soaked with longing, like strawberries in champagne. Through Cross-Smith's characters, we experience the messiness, the ache, but mostly the glory of female desire."—Amy Bonnaffons, author of The Regrets and The Wrong Heaven (on So We Can Glow)
"An uplifting story of how one encounter can change our lives in the way we don't expect."—Hong Kong Tatler
"This Close to Okay will have you enthralled in the story of Emmett and Tallie—with each character revealing the truths behind that monumental weekend from their own perspectives."—RUSSH