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A luminous cross-generational story, this sweeping debut novel tells the tale of those who dare to challenge the boundaries of their circumscribed lives.
Four women, separated by time and distance—from rural Illinois to the far reaches of China—are forever changed by the disappearance of a missionary during the Boxer Rebellion.
In 1890, a young Addie has come with her husband to the mission town of Lu-cho Fu, dreaming of making her mark on the world. Duties to family threaten to constrict her sphere, but the arrival of a brash and thoroughly modern woman offers the opportunity to change her destiny, even as tensions between the Chinese and foreigners grow. All the while, letters from Addie reach her sister Louisa back home, recently married and struggling with the isolation of being a farmer’s wife. When violence erupts overseas, the sisters’ connection is forever severed.
By 1958, Louisa’s daughter Hazel is fighting to maintain control of her land and family in the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death. Reeling from the tragedy, she embarks on an affair with a neighbor and at the same time grows closer to his wife. Mirroring the experience of the aunt she never knew, Hazel learns that the tradeoff for some freedoms is more precious than expected.
One hundred years after Addie’s disappearance, Juanlan returns to her hometown without any options. She finds her father ailing and her pregnant sister-in-law restless and angry, yet while China is rapidly changing, Juanlan feels frozen in place. In search of an outlet for the live wire she feels buried inside, she makes a reckless decision that threatens her own future.
Interconnected by action and consequence, each character’s tale takes up the fleeting intensity of youth, the obligation of family, and the dramatic consequence of charting your own destiny. A vibrant story of compassion and discovery set against a century of complicated relations between China and America, Rebellion celebrates those who fight against expectation in pursuit of their own thrilling fate.
“I found Molly Patterson’s Rebellion hypnotically compelling. I was taken by the grand sweep of the story, the simple, direct beauty of the prose, and above all these characters—people I came to know so well. Patterson captures rich, complex lives with great sensitivity and humanity.” — Peter Orner, author of NBCC Award Finalist Am I Alone Here? and Love and Shame and Love
“Molly Patterson is a writer of the first order, and her debut novel is a revelatory, immersive miracle. Ambitious in scope and exacting in its language, Rebellion becomes a grand exploration of fate and circumstance. It becomes its own wondrous universe.” — Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn
“Emotion simmers throughout the novel. It’s hard to believe this is Patterson’s debut; her prose and characters bring visions of Jane Smiley and Marilynn Robinson to mind. I was captivated by Rebellion and sad to leave it. I will definitely be on the look out for what Molly Patterson has next.” — Molly Gillespie, Joseph-Beth Booksellers
“The women who occupy Molly Patterson’s debut novel share a bond that stretches across continents and generations: a desire for more out of life. Rebellion is an epic, electric novel about the large and small ways defiance can transform a person.” — Michele Filgate, writer and contributing editor at LitHub
“Molly Patterson has crafted an immersive tornado of a novel. With equal parts force and intimacy, Rebellion reaches across time and continents to connect the inner lives of four kindred women, each of them at battle with the limitations of their lives. Patterson writes with tremendous attention, the strokes of her words fluent and vivid, and it is a rare pleasure to feel that what we have conjured in our minds is exactly what Patterson intended. Rebellion is a throbbing, visceral saga about the brave acts of women.” — Cecily Wong, author of Diamond Head
“Patterson’s epic narrative derives its propulsive intimacy from the personal insurrections of four women against their circumstances and expectations…Patterson adroitly zigzags in time, threading the women’s journeys with subtle detail and embellishing them with metaphors specific to each character.” — New York Times
“Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, novels in which the characters’ yearning is so realistic you feel yourself inside their very skin. Molly Patterson’s debut, Rebellion, is just such a novel...This is a beautiful book—fast-moving, sensuous and vividly detailed.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] super debut...Patterson creates intimate moments that are moving but not manipulative. By not connecting all the dots, she allows her readers to bond more deeply with her characters in this refreshingly unsentimental historical novel.” — BookPage (a “Top 10 Books of August” selection, and a “favorite debut of 2017”)
“A talent to watch, Patterson manages to travel broad swaths of history and geography while creating intimate moments with a refreshing lack of sentimentality; and the novel’s sense of adventure makes it addictive reading.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“[S]trong women and their acts of rebellion in disparate circumstances are intriguingly connected in this vividly rendered, impressive debut...Most remarkable is the subtle way Patterson ties all [their] lives together.” — Publishers Weekly
“In precise, detailed language we experience the beginning of a life; a sudden, tragic death; and the awakening of the soul in these flesh-and-bone characters…The Pushcart Prize-winning Patterson has written quite a debut, truly a page-turner… She’s a natural storyteller with empathy for the plight of women… [A] sweeping, far-flung novel.” — Library Journal, Starred Review
“[A] remarkable debut...This is a book about the quiet unfolding of lives and the kind of rebellion that comes from following one’s heart.” — Booklist
“Patterson has a gift for fluid storytelling and evocative prose. Each section of the book pulls the reader forward with a need to understand the connections between the story lines and the resolutions of the conflicts...The women in this deeply layered and skillfully narrated novel must rebel against who they are supposed to be, only then discovering who they actually are.” — Colorado Review
“Patterson’s beautiful prose makes the book sing...It’s a worthy, meaty read, meant to be savored.” — Edwardsville Intelligencer
“This novel makes a strong claim on the reader’s empathy, demanding that we break out of easy understandings. I strongly recommend making Molly Patterson’s Rebellion your last big read of the summer.” — Ann Arbor Observer
Click here for the Rebellion Reading Guide.
Head over to Library Love Fest to read about visiting the Library of Congress while writing Rebellion.
“Six of the brightest new names in fiction” includes Molly Patterson, according to BookPage.
Check out Molly’s “Behind the Book” guest post on Book Club Girl.
Read “History, Revision, and Rebellion: An Interview with Molly Patterson” at Volume 1 Brooklyn.
Get book recommendations from Molly at BookPage’s “What They’re Reading”
Read about Molly’s idea that “Writing a Long Novel is a Feminist Act” on The Hairpin.