You Only Call When You're in Trouble: A Novel (Paperback)

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Stephen McCauley’s rollicking and touching novel asks an increasingly important question: Is it ever okay to stop caring for others and start living for yourself?

After a lifetime of taking care of his impossible but irresistible sister and his cherished niece, Tom is ready to put himself first. An architect specializing in tiny houses, he finally has an opportunity to build his masterpiece—“his last shot at leaving a footprint on the dying planet.” Assuming, that is, he can stick to his resolution to keep the demands of his needy family at bay.

Naturally, that’s when his phone rings. His niece, Cecily—the real love of Tom’s life, as his boyfriend reminded him when moving out—is embroiled in a Title IX investigation at the college where she teaches that threatens her career and relationship. And after decades of lying, his sister wants him to help her tell Cecily the real identity of her father.

Tom does what he’s always done—answers the call. Thus begins a journey that will change everyone’s life and demonstrate the beauty or dysfunction (or both?) of the ties that bind families together and sometimes strangle them.

Warm, funny, and deeply moving, You Only Call When You’re in Trouble is an unforgettable showcase for Stephen McCauley’s distinctive voice and unique ability to create complex characters that jump off the page and straight into your heart.

About the Author

Stephen McCauley is the author of several novels, including the national bestsellers My Ex-Life, The Object of My Affection, and Alternatives to Sex. Three of his books have been made into feature films. The New York Times Book Review dubbed him “the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen,” and the French Ministry of Culture named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. He currently codirects the Creative Writing program at Brandeis University.

Praise For…

An IndieNext Pick for January 2024
One of Pure Wow's “9 Books we can't wait to read in January”
Named one of Electric Literature's “42 Queer Books You Need to Read in 2024

“As he has done for nearly four decades, McCauley weaves a witty social critique from the interplay between his characters and the day’s breaking news. . . McCauley’s gifts for prose, plot and provocation are likely to offer you a few fast-flying hours in his sunny, slightly futuristic world.”
—Meredith Maran, The Washington Post

“A wryly funny family drama interlaced with astute observations on aging and academia.”

You Only Call When You're in Trouble. . . offers readers not only the expansive gift of laughter but, also, a more expansive image of what family can be.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“Shot through with bright dialogue and smart observations.”
–Joanne Kaufman, The Wall Street Journal

“Stephen McCauley sits on my I-know-it'll-be-funny-and-smart-about-people bookshelf right next to Elinor Lipman and Cathleen Schine. . . . McCauley is gifted at character details that are amusing but also help us understand why his people behave the way they do.”
—Chris Hewitt, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Big hearted and quick witted. A boisterous family drama laced through with razor-sharp insight, this book will make you laugh, think, and want to call your mom—or your golden-hearted gay uncle, if you happen to have one handy.”
Charley Burlock, Oprah Daily

“This moving and bewitching novel will lift your mood, inspiring you to want to be a better person. McCauley is at the apex of his extraordinary gifts.”
Brian Bromberger, The Bay Area Reporter

“Brimming with his characteristic wit and withering observations of human behavior — [McCauley’s] new book You Only Call When You're in Trouble tells the story of family bonds, and why we tend to load up on the louses in our lives.”
WGBH, The Culture Show

“To find another book this year as affecting or as heartening . . . is going to be one difficult task.”
—Steven Whitton, The Anniston Star

“A wonderful book. Stephen McCauley is one of my favorite writers...the best at these dysfunctional, melancholy, but comedies.”
Bill Goldstein, on NBC's Today in New York

“Every page pleases. . . .The story is beautifully written and replete with laugh-out-loud pronouncements. . . . Add to this fully realized, empathic characters (well, a few of them are real stinkers), and you have an unmitigated delight and a book that you'll hate to see end.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“Another chronicle of modern disappointments and their occasional consolations from a master of the modern social novel.”
Kirkus Reviews

“McCauley writes sentences that ring with the clear and true tones of melodies spun from crystal glassware. . . . This incandescent mixture of observational humor and humane characterizations makes Stephen McCauley worth calling on again and again.”
—Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness

“I read You Only Call When You're in Trouble at a moment when I needed to be around the intelligence and humanity of the novel's characters, and I'm still grateful for being so happily entertained and totally engrossed.”
—Francine Prose, author of Blue Angel and The Vixen

“McCauley’s novels are always a cause for celebration, and You Only Call When You’re In Trouble shows why.”
Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less Is Lost

“I can’t find the words to say how much I love You Only Call When You’re in Trouble. This perfect novel has profoundly moving observations of human nature, emotional acuity, and brilliant insights wrapped up in warmth and wit. I don’t think I will find a book I love more this year.”
—Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author

“Picture F. Scott Fitzgerald with tongue in cheek and you get the gift of Stephen McCauley's You Only Call When You're in Trouble. I loved these deliciously flawed characters and every thought that runs through their heads. As with all things Stephen McCauley, it has the highest of wit and the sharpest of social commentary plus tenderness and much love.”
—Elinor Lipman, author of Ms. Demeanor

“Stephen McCauley’s delicious new novel follows its characters, light on their feet as they search for their best selves. Along the way, they dodge with agility an assortment of contemporary obstacles—flagging relationships, employment insecurities, delusional parents. The author’s rare ability is finding the humor lining sadness to create a complex story with emotional depth.”
Carol Anshaw, author of New York Times bestseller Carry the One

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250296818
ISBN-10: 1250296811
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 7th, 2025
Pages: 336
Language: English