In this beautiful, searing novel, Ethel Rohan deftly maneuvers the aftermath of violence, of a woman losing and finding herself, of a mother remembering who she is. With the gorgeous prose and heart-wrenching detail Rohan is known for, Sing, I is a battle cry drenched in grace. It, quite simply, sings.” Lindsay Hunter, author of Hot Springs Drive
“Sing, I grips the reader from its early harrowing pages, when protagonist Ester Prynne faces a life or death situation that brings her life choices into sharp relief. As violence mounts in the background, and Ester paradoxically inches towards her truer self, Rohan examines the cost of living in the shadow of both a uniquely American violence and the age-old constrictions that curtail women’s lives with obligation over authenticityand, ultimately, the joys of breaking free.” Gina Frangello, author of Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason
“Ethel Rohan’s Sing, I is a narrative marvel. A terrifying robbery at gunpoint in the convenience store where she works forever changes Ester Prynn, in ways big and small. It’s a captivating experience to be inside Ester’s always-working mind as she figures out who she is and who she wants to be.” Marcy Dermansky, author of Hurricane Girl “I was enraptured by Sing, I, the story of the cracking open of one woman’s life and her reexamination of the connections within. Ethel Rohan’s writing is as lyrical as a cantata and as soul-stirring as a gospel choir. Romantic, thrilling, and pitch-perfect it will have you applauding from the first chapter to the very last line.” Dominic Lim, author of All the Right Notes “Ethel Rohan’s irresistible, affirming new novel Sing I deftly balances along the axis of stasis and agency as it wrangles with the question of how to live an honest, fully integrated life in our current moment of chaos and constant overwhelm. We are in rock-solid hands with Rohan, a consummate stylist, storyteller and deep humanitarian, who brings her characters to life through wry humor, a big heart, and an insightful eye. You will root for these characters. This is a gratifying and propulsive read. I ate it up!” Sara Lippmann, author of Lech “Ester Prynn is haunted, like her almost-namesake, by shame. She is living the same life so many of us are, going through the paces, in a loveless marriage, parenting a struggling kid. When a gunman holds up the store where she works, she knows she must change her life. With great compassion and an eye for the beautiful moments of regular life, Ethel Rohan tells the story of how shame can reveal to us that we aren't being true to ourselves. Rohan is one of our finest writers and this book, like its title, sings.” Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder “Sing, I hooked me immediately. There is an intense intimacy to Ethel Rohan’s depictions of the physicalfrom food to bodies to gunmetal. These pages ring with a visceral bond as they bring us Ester Prynn, a narrator who yanks you right into her world, who’s honest and real and impossible not to love.” Shanthi Sekaran, author of Lucky Boy and writer for NBC’s New Amsterdam
A middle-aged California woman struggles to be true to herself.
Ester Prynn, whose mother named her in admiration of Hawthorne’s passionate heroine, lives in the small coastal town of Half Moon Bay with her husband and two teenage sons. One morning, at the convenience store where she works for an angry, misogynist boss, a masked robber barges in, violently threatening her and her co-worker, making off with a few hundred dollars, and, it turns out, unsettling Ester’s life. Restless and unfulfilled, Ester is a familiar character: a woman who has devoted herself to the care and feeding of her family, is bored with her husband and frustrated by her sullen younger son, and is watching her father succumb to dementia while she confronts her fears about aging. The long-ago deaths of her mother and college boyfriend still haunt her. She fantasizes about “packing up and starting over someplace new, where no one knew her,” but she doesn’t have the money, or the will, to leave Half Moon Bay. As Rohan’s novel gently unfolds, Ester is prodded toward different paths of self-discovery. One is joining a newly formed women’s chorus. When the director asks for suggestions for the group’s name, Ester suggests Sing, I: “a salute,” she explains, “and a commitment to putting ourselves and our voices front and center.” Another is quitting her dead-end job. She soon finds a better one, as hostess at a popular restaurant, where she is shaken by her attraction to her female boss. Rohan’s panoply of characters—cisgender, transgender, lesbian, nonbinary, and pansexual—bring diversity to Ester’s small world. “Don’t you think most of us are on a spectrum,” a transgender woman opines, “and we could go any which way depending on attraction and connection.” That’s the question Ester and her friends ask themselves as they examine deeply held prejudices and hidden desires.
Issues of sexuality and gender complicate a predictable plot.