Oprah Daily on ‘The Survivalists’

Discover The Survivalists, Kashana Cauley’s Sharp and Witty Debut

The fear of potential personal, political, and environmental apocalypses turns a population into survivalists, one and all.

By Meredith Maran

In today’s America, what constitutes success? What are the obstacles to achieving it? How do race, class, age, and location affect the odds?

These oh-so-serious questions are tackled with scathing, lol-inducing wit in The Survivalists, Kashana Cauley’s smart, sharp debut novel. Cauley transports us to the overpriced real estate and marginal residents of hipster Brooklyn, as seen through the wide eyes and increasingly jaded heart of protagonist Aretha. Despite her adherence to the American bootstrapping story, when we meet the 30-something Black attorney, Aretha’s chances of success — professional, financial, romantic, familial — seem to be slipping from her grasp.

“Aretha stood in front of her dresser, waiting for something in her wardrobe to declare itself up to the existential challenge of her third first date in a week.” Like the novel itself, its smart, satiric opening line is right on point for the era into which the novel and its characters have been born. Cauley’s comedic and literary chops had this reader guffawing at her characters’ self-serving, oh-so-trendy ridiculousness, then flunking the mirror test. Wait a minute. That’s me.

And you, maybe. Who among us wouldn’t nod knowingly at such a well-crafted, emotionally astute sentence as this: “Loneliness had a noise to it, a hum like a running refrigerator had settled down right inside her head that intensified when she saw happy couples on the street or in restaurants, looking at each other with something she’d never felt for anyone.” Read the full review at Oprah Daily.

© Literary Affairs, 2005-2023. All Rights Reserved.