Friday, May 10, 2024


Elise Juska’s new novel, Reunion, was named one of People Magazine’s “Best Books to Read in May 2024.” Her previous novels include The Blessings, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and If We Had Known. Juska’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri ReviewPloughshares, The Hudson Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize from Ploughshares, and her short fiction has been cited by The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Juska applied the Page 69 Test to Reunion and reported the following:
On the opening page of Chapter Five, Polly has just driven eight hours from New York and is, reluctantly, nearing her old college campus on the coast of Maine. She has no desire to attend her twenty-fifth reunion, for reasons that are revealed later, and agreed to this trip only because her son Jonah—after struggling through his senior year of pandemic schooling online—surprised her by suggesting he come with her and visit a friend on an island nearby.

The simple beauty of the Maine island is far different from Brooklyn, where mother and son have been stuck in a small apartment for much of the past fifteen months, and from the classically elegant college campus to which Polly is apprehensive about returning:
A quiet two-lane road ambled down the middle of the island, dotted with humble cottages and pockets of evergreens, splashed with sunlight. Behind them, serene coves and wooden docks slipped in and out of view, the water salted with boats and buoys. Polly was an avowed indoor person, but the few times she’d come out there with Adam in college, she’d been stunned by its beauty. It had seemed incongruous that this place should exist so close to campus, and still did; it nearly allowed her to forget where she was going next.
In some ways, The Page 69 Test misses the mark, because so much of the novel takes place at the reunion and focuses on the three friends and this moment does neither. Yet in a larger sense, the test works. The scene where Polly and Jonah arrive on the island is about leaving one place for another, a dynamic that’s revisited throughout the novel and very much at the core of what it’s about: moving from childhood to adulthood, from college to the real world, from life before the pandemic to life after, and the difficulty of ever going back.
Visit Elise Juska's website.

--Marshal Zeringue