Molly McGhee ’19 To Publish Surrealist Debut Novel ‘Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind’

Lisa Cochran
September 22, 2023

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind, a novel by Writing alumna Molly McGhee ’19, will be published by Astra House on October 17, 2023. 

In McGhee’s novel, the titular character has seemingly reached the nadir of his adult life: he is incompetent, in a great deal of debt, and lacks ambition and friends. Jonathan finds a beacon of hope in a new loan forgiveness program that allows him to work as a “Dream Auditor.” In this capacity, he is tasked with entering the subconscious thoughts of middle class employees to remove traumatic memories and unpleasant images from their waking lives. 

On the job, Jonathan’s conception of reality gradually shifts and he starts to feel immense existential dread. When he is assigned to enter the thoughts of a romantic prospect, Rhoda, his crisis of morality only grows. McGhee’s work critically engages with topics from late-stage capitalism and debt anxiety to navigating love in difficult situations. 

Associate Professor of Writing Sam Lipsyte writes, “McGhee has seen enough of the world to know that you’ve got to start some trouble in it. She also knows that seeing the humor in our personal foibles and social absurdities (cruel as the latter often are), will always be a powerful way to commiserate with your fellow humans.”

“The unreality of the setting is expertly used to suggest the inhumanity of many accepted norms," Alexander Moran writes for Booklist, "and the narrative unfurls into a superlative state-of-the-nation novel like no other. Full of astoundingly resonant and eminently quotable points about labor, capital, and depression, this wondrous literary creation brilliantly captures the excessive demands of contemporary work.” 

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is available for preorder here.

Molly McGhee is from a cluster of towns near Nashville. In addition to completing her MFA at Columbia, where she received a Chair’s Fellowship, she also taught in the undergraduate writing department. She has done editorial work for NOON, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Tor, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux and her writing can be read in The Paris Review.