The Not Wives traces the lives of three women as they navigate the Occupy Wall Street movement and each other. Stevie is a nontenured professor and recently divorced single mom; her best friend Mel is a bartender, torn between her long-term girlfriend and her desire to explore polyamory; and Johanna is a homeless teenager trying to find her way in the world, who bears shared witness to a tragedy that interlaces her life with Stevie’s.
In the midst of economic collapse and class conflict, late-night hookups and long-suffering exes, the three characters piece together a new American identity founded on resistance—against the looming shadow of financial precarity, the gentrification of New York, and the traditional role of wife.
“A provocative and well-told story about chosen community, friendship, and human frailty.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A terrific literary novel about what it means to belong to yourself while trying to be a part of something bigger.” —Independent Book Review
“The Not Wives is gritty, sexy, very queer, literary social realism that's up-all-night compelling—just what I want from a novel set in NYC in the time of Occupy, with its sprawling cast of adjuncts, bartenders, poets, single parents, little kids, homeless teenagers, and serious organizers embroiled in various romantic and economic complications. When we say report back, this is what we mean!” —Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
“Carley Moore exults in portraying the grit, drama, confusion, and ecstasy of her diverse characters’ daily lives. The Not Wives is not just for not wives; it’s for all of us struggling with how to be human—falling in and out of love/lust, parenting children, teaching young adults, protesting corruption, and just getting by—amid the ongoing clamor and bewilderment of twenty-first-century life.” —Laura Sims, author of Looker
"In The Not Wives, Carley Moore puts her considerable powers—introspection, humor, empathy—into the service of fiction, creating a landscape of achingly authentic female lives that we rarely see given such literary treatment. A compulsively readable novel with deep roots in our gorgeous, messed-up world." —Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms
“I was in dire need of a queer, sex-positive mom in literature—and then the gift of The Not Wives showed up. Here are the wives and not wives so many of us are, have been, have loved, might be. I couldn’t put this extraordinary book down; it offered so much solace, recognition, and hope.” —Lynn Melnick, author of Landscape with Sex and Violence
“The Not Wives is a novel about precarity in the time of Occupy Wall Street, set in a gentrified New York of wealth and insecurity. ‘We are all falling apart and keeping it together,’ Carley Moore writes, conjuring the activist spirit but also the trap of the status quo. Self-awareness is not enough, The Not Wives tells us; the question is how to dream without complicity, how to turn guilt into action. This is a feminist novel for our times—slutty and principled, dedicated and unsure, it dares us to feel everything.” —Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of Sketchtasy
"With seemingly effortless prose, Carley Moore paints a rich portrait of three deeply compelling women navigating the polarities and confining norms of modern-day life." —Etaf Rum, author of A Woman Is No Man
“The Not Wives is at once dark and bright, deeply serious and dryly funny, timeless and of a particular time. Moore’s ability to weave relationships out of the bleakness of the 2011 political climate is unparalleled. This is a story about so many things, but at its heart, it is a tale of love and family that will grip you until its final pages.” —Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s)
“Audacious and exhilarating in its candor, The Not Wives captures the heady mix of pleasures and agonies necessary to turn one’s life in a new, truer direction. Carley Moore attends to the complexities of urban living and activism with riveting clarity.” —Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions for The Not Wives here!
16 Pills opens in the hospital as Moore navigates the medical gaze: becoming spectacle as she is videotaped walking down the hall, talked about as if she were an object, wondered over her body as she drifts, unmoored, before surgery. Moore's essays explore with intimacy and candor the experiences of a contemporary feminist exploring the worlds of co-parenting, the absurdities of online dating, the art of mothering in a time of protest, the complexity of prescription drugs, and reflecting on generations of men and women in her Cuban and Swedish-American family. Moore's book is at once thoughtful and honest, and is ultimately an investigation on making spaces for ourselves and meeting the desires of our own bodies. For readers of Leslie Jamison, Roxane Gay, and Lidia Yuknavich.
16 Pills is everything I want in an essay collection - rawness and humor, intimacy, problems, solutions, and a searing, radical intellect holding us in her brilliance. I devoured this jam-packed, revelatory book, and you will too.
--Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions, and Criticisms
Like sitting with a super keen and deeply forthright friend, 16 Pills confronts childhood, parenting, disability, patriarchy, books, ideas, dating, and sex with an unflinching eye and generous heart; Moore bravely reveals her successes, flaws, and failings as a mirror to our own. A must-read on femaleness and feminism and 21st-century middle age, 16 Pills in an alarmingly honest, crucially timely book.
—Lynn Melnick, author of Landscape with Sex and Violence
"Carley Moore’s debut collection of essays, 16 Pills, is a therapeutic read, and while no book can boast being a panacea for the ills of modern life, this one comes close. Moore writes like her life depends on it. She dissects the stories of her life with intelligence and precision, and invites the reader to share in her examination. Feminist, political, funny, and irreverent, Moore’s essays are masterful, and show a true love of the form; the stories are deeply personal, while still tapping into shared human experience."
--Jessica Mannion in Pank
FROM PORTAL POEM:
April is of uncertain origin
From the Latin, aperio, to bud
April is a deep portal
The storm as it quits
He said, I’m just a man, not a wolf.
I looked over my shoulder at the pile of mythologies
underneath the stairs
They were bones now
I’d licked them clean
and sucked out the marrow.