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An indelible love story about two very different people navigating the entanglements of class and identity and coming of age in an America coming apart at the seams—this is "an extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations" (Ann Patchett, best-selling author of The Dutch House).
In the run-up to the 2016 election, Owen Callahan, an aspiring writer, moves back to Kentucky to live with his Trump-supporting uncle and grandfather. Eager to clean up his act after wasting time and potential in his early twenties, he takes a job as a groundskeeper at a small local college, in exchange for which he is permitted to take a writing course.
Here he meets Alma Hazdic, a writer in residence who seems to have everything that Owen lacks—a prestigious position, an Ivy League education, success as a writer. They begin a secret relationship, and as they grow closer, Alma—who comes from a liberal family of Bosnian immigrants—struggles to understand Owen’s fraught relationship with family and home.
Exquisitely written; expertly crafted; dazzling in its precision, restraint, and depth of feeling, Groundskeeping is a novel of haunting power and grace from a prodigiously gifted young writer.
About the Author
LEE COLE was born and grew up in rural Kentucky. A recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he now lives in New York.
“An extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations--this is a fierce, tender, and wholly unforgettable work from a hugely gifted writer.” —Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
"A coming-of-age story inextricably bound with a love story, Groundskeeping gets at the hard work of finding your place in the world, the burden and exhilaration of fighting for who you might be . . . It's frankly preposterous this is a debut novel when Lee Cole's writing has such ease and authority and his storytelling rings so true." —Maggie Shipstead, author of Great Circle
“Scrupulously perceptive . . . Groundskeeping is filled with close observation, detailed shading. It is an absorbing love story, but it is also an examination of class in America, and it captures with sharp insight a moment in recent history.” —Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn
“Groundskeeping is a smart, funny, exhilarating debut about that time in life when you are clawing your way to a future that feels murky and impossible to reach. Lee Cole takes a hard look at our fraught cultural moment, our divides large and small, with fresh insight and wisdom and tenderness. I truly loved it.” —Lily King, author of Euphoria and Writers & Lovers
"It’s one thing for a writer to have a great eye and another for him to know what it’s for. Lee Cole’s constantly roving eye is sharp and unerring and it misses exactly nothing. In his debut novel, Groundskeeping, he witnesses with great sympathy the painful passage between youth and adulthood that leaves us all the worse for wear." —Richard Russo, author of Straight Man