Stray City by Chelsey Johnson


I was not ready for this one to end. In fact, I enjoyed the story and writing so much I found myself slowing down my normal reading pace to savor it more carefully as it unfolded. Quiet and lyrical, this book manages to create an amazing sense of place while also being character driven and introducing you to layered and interesting people that begin to feel like acquaintances and friends you know. In particular, late 90’s Portland is its own character. You develop a good sense of the scruffy and gritty city it used to be before it became the mecca for hipness and hipsters. But, the sense of place is carried expertly throughout the story as Johnson winds through the many locations in the west and midwest so that you can envision yourself there as she is describing them. The story itself could be described as many things including coming of age, LGBTQ, first loves and forever loves, and dysfunctional family (both the ones you are born with and those you chose). I don’t think it really matters which draws you in, and the reality is that these are all themes woven into our own lives in some capacity, which is probably what makes the story as a whole such a gift to us as readers. For me, I went to college and began the prolonged process of figuring myself as an adult at the same time as Andrea, so in some ways the time and cultural references were a flashback to some of my own adventures, confusion, and angst. The LGBTQ storyline did not feel like a manifesto or lesson, but yet introduced me to nuanced thoughts and ideas that I hope will help me continue to grow as a supportive and understanding friend to those in my life who have this as a central identity. - Cori

From Harper Collins:

A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-three-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.