True Love

True Love

by Sarah Gerard


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A Glamour Best Book of 2020  A Bustle Best Books of 2020 • Winner of an Audiofile Earphones Award  An Entertainment Weekly 30 Hottest Book of the Summer A Refinery29 25 Book You’ll Want To Read This Summer Selection  A Chicago Review of Books 10 Must-Read Books of the Month A LitHub Most Anticipated Book of the Year  A The Millions Most Anticipated Book of the Year • A Shondaland 15 Hot Books for Summer

One of today’s most provocative literary writers—the author of the critically-acclaimed Sunshine State and the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award finalist Binary Star—captures the confused state of modern romance and the egos that inflate it in a dark comedy about a woman's search for acceptance, identity, and financial security in the rise of Trump.

Nina is a struggling writer, a college drop-out, a liar, and a cheater. More than anything she wants love. She deserves it.

From the burned-out suburbs of Florida to the anonymous squalor of New York City, she eats through an incestuous cast of characters in search of it: her mother, a narcissistic lesbian living in a nudist polycule; Odessa, a single mom with even worse taste in men than Nina; Seth, an artist whose latest show is comprised of three Tupperware containers full of trash; Brian, whose roller-coaster affair with Nina is the most stable “relationship” in his life; and Aaron, an aspiring filmmaker living at home with his parents, with whom Nina begins to write her magnum opus.

Nina’s quest for fulfillment is at once darkly comedic, acerbically acute, and painfully human—a scathing critique of contemporary society, and a tender examination of our anguished yearning for connection in an era defined by detachment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Gossip, sexual desire, and the uncompromising economics for aspiring artists guide the action in Gerard’s lurid, captivating tale (after the essay collection Sunshine State). Nina Wicks, a 20-something writer with an eating disorder and pill addiction who dropped out of college in New York City, is back home on the Florida Gulf Coast, dating a pretentious artist named Seth while sexting with her magazine editor, Brian, and talking on the phone with her best friend, Odessa, about an attempt to reconnect with her emotionally distant mother. Nina and Seth move to Brooklyn for her to begin a writing program, and she finds a low-paying gig that affords her a space to write. After Nina reconnects with Aaron, an acquaintance from college, they discuss making a movie titled True Love, and their volatile attraction leads to her dizzying breakup with Seth and harrowing fights between Nina and Aaron, which reach a fever pitch after Nina becomes the victim of revenge porn from Brian. Aaron’s movie idea (“a series of ill-conceived relationships that flame out in humiliating ways”) partially describes the book, but Nina’s defiance against labels and mansplaining as she works through her pain on her own terms adds an arresting feminist layer. Gerard’s unflinching look at youthful desperation marks an exciting turn in her work. (July)

Nicole Rudick

Gerard’s prose is unlabored, flatly observational, and the interwoven mini stories are at once tender and cold, exhilarating and regrettable—each undermining the one that precedes it.

Idra Novey

"In the aching pages of TRUE LOVE, Gerard holds nothing back. What’s at stake in this frank, ferocious novel is the brutal, ever-elusive salvation of oneself.  A smart, tender, startling work of brilliance." 

Elle Nash

A scouring tale of how a person moves through toxic relationships while maintaining a sense of agency, subsisting with awareness in a noxious world.

Entertainment Weekly

"[A] darkly comic dissection of desire."


Nina’s search for love, fulfillment, and demonstrative success becomes a scathing critique of modern hustle culture and the privilege of making art… in this smart, dark riot of a novel.


Written with an acerbic deadpan.... [Gerard’s] stylistic innovation brilliantly captures the way contemporary technology bifurcates our brains into different conversational tracks….  The novel thrums with tension, and Gerard captures the dynamic of a failing relationship with lacerating honesty—made all the worse by the challenges of working freelance in the dystopian era of late-stage capitalism…. A fascinating read for anyone looking to understand the world we’ll inhabit when the smoke of the Trump era clears.

Juliet Escoria

TRUE LOVE is a brash, sexy, and addictive novel about bad decisions. Gerard’s uncompromising honesty and graceful, precise sentences make me jealous. I didn’t want the book to end.

Kristen Arnett

True Love is a look at what happens when we lie to each other, but also what happens when we lie to ourselves. Sarah Gerard has written a book both funny and dark, a fantastically mesmerizing read. Its settings are dreamy and unsettling. The book showcases beauty and ugliness in equal measure, highlighting both pain and pleasure. It is bold and wildly imaginative, an overall deeply human novel. Gerard is a fiercely talented writer and TRUE LOVE is a real page turner.

SJ Sindu

Sarah Gerard's TRUE LOVE is a devastating portrait of loneliness and self-destruction. It's both a compassionate portrait of an addict and an incisive commentary on how our capitalist, individualist culture rips us away from ourselves. Nina's compulsions and anger, her selfishness and yearning, her wisdom and naïveté—Gerard handles it all with deft poeticism and mastery of scene-building. This novel is a pleasure to read even as it gouges you and turns you inside out.

Colette Bancroft

Acerbically funny and sharply observant.

Catherine Lacey

An unapologetic drama about a woman's insistence on living at the apex of desire and self-destruction—what a rush!

Sarah Neilson

This book is both appalling and hilarious, and is, at turns, surprisingly poignant. It’s an extremely resonant social satire that will definitely heat you up [from] a magnetic and influential literary figure.

Rain Taxi

"Exceptionally well-crafted.... [The protagonist’s] journey… is laden with Gerard’s two greatest talents as a writer: a profound connection to the character’s physical reality, and the ability to aid and abet that character’s twisting of their own life narrative about their worth, safety, and health."

Emmalea Russo

The luster of True Love lies in its ability to hold a tenor, a mood so much so that it becomes a character, living and breathing… the opening scene setting the frenetic, emotional, and sexual multitasking mood. What is love, addiction, marriage, divorce, and sexuality in the age of screens? True Love reminds that we are all always proxies of ourselves, many places at once and also nowhere at all — hovering in the deadening buzz betwixt invisible infrastructures.


This darkly comic novel… cycles through a memorable cast of characters—including…  Seth, an artist whose latest show is composed of Tupperware containers full of trash; and Aaron, an aspiring filmmaker living at home.

Chicago Review of Books

Gerard knows that a large part of identity is performance. [Her protagonist’s] actions, behaviors, language, decisions are at once because of who she is and also serve to define and redefine her evolving self.... The last scene of the novel is simple and devastating.

Heather Scott Partington

Gerard captures the beauty and scientific irony of damaged relationships and ephemeral heavenly lights. Just as with the stars, it is collapse that offers the most illumination.

Becca Godwin

The distinct nature of Florida and its undeniable, magnetic weirdness shines through somewhere in each essay. Yet, despite its title, that enigma of a state isn’t the focus. Gerard takes a magnifying glass to powerful characters, herself included, and the underlying truths she unravels could apply to any number of Americans. The reader becomes invested in the characters’ lives, at times torn between empathy and disdain, but nonetheless needing to know what becomes of them.

Alexandra Kleeman

"Sharp as a knife and wickedly insightful, TRUE LOVE is a ferocious portrait of love, hate, and artistic self-definition in the 21st century. Life, with all its bruises, wounds, and unsightly rashes, becomes real and touchable in Sarah Gerard's masterful hands."

Kristin Iversen

True Love is as fluid and riotous a book as ‘true love’ is as a concept: so, very. And Sarah Gerard has once again proven herself to be one of the sharpest portrayers of the fuzziest parts of being alive.

Martin Riker

The particular genius of 'Binary Star' is that out of such grim material it constructs beauty. It’s like a novel-shaped poem about addiction, codependence and the relentlessness of the everyday, a kind of elegy of emptiness.

Jason Heller

Rhythmic, hallucinatory, yet vivid as crystal. Gerard has channeled her trials and tribulations into a work of heightened reality, one that sings to the lonely gravity of the human body.

Tracy O’Neill

"TRUE LOVE hurts so good. A sharply-observed portrait of a knockdown world of low-wage work, lean belief, and artistic striving, Sarah Gerard's novel captures with acuity and intelligence the brutal and baffling contortions we will twist ourselves into to find, in hairline crevices, connection—even when it is compromised, explosive as it peters out, absurd and painful and frightening."

Dwight Garner

One of the themes of ‘Sunshine State,’ Sarah Gerard’s striking book of essays, is how Florida can unmoor you and make you reach for shoddy, off-the-shelf solutions to your psychic unease…. The first essay is a knockout, a lurid red heart wrapped in barbed wire.... This essay draws blood.


Nina’s search for love, fulfillment, and demonstrative success becomes a scathing critique of modern hustle culture and the privilege of making art… in this smart, dark riot of a novel.

Kirkus Reviews

A young woman moves from suburban Florida to New York City to pursue her MFA in writing but finds she has dragged her old life with her.

It's not so much that Nina has come adrift as that she was never tethered to begin with. Her parents’ preoccupation with their bitter divorce left her “cutting [herself] and sneaking pills” as early as middle school, and when she moves to New York for college, her self-destructive behavior spirals out of control. She returns home before she finishes her degree and spends eight weeks in rehab in Tampa for “weed, wine, sex, starvation….any numbing or mood-altering agent would do.” In the three years that have since passed, Nina has surrounded herself with a cadre of old friends and new bad influences, each embroiled in their own brands of escapist navel-gazing. Chief among these are Seth, Nina’s boyfriend, a self-described “artistic genius” who is incapable of completing either his artistic projects or his job applications; Odessa, a childhood friend who is reuniting with her daughter’s father in spite of the permanent restraining order she has taken out on him; and Brian, an editor at the paper for which Nina freelances, who has a penchant for recording their increasingly humiliating sexual encounters. Through it all, Nina has been working on an autobiographical story cycle based on her and Seth’s love life. When she's admitted to an MFA program, she moves back to New York with Seth. There, she quickly becomes involved with Aaron, a friend from college, with whom she begins another autobiographical project, a screenplay titled True Love. Nina is a brilliantly observant narrator, able to take the caustic material of her squalid living conditions and her increasingly abusive relationships and render it with a precise insouciance. Yet, though Nina’s primary quest is for self-knowledge, she turns every possible insight into a reiteration of what she already knows best: the shape of her ravenous need. The problem, both for Nina and the novel, is that nothing she creates out of her experiences treads beyond the well-worn paths of her narcissism, rendering the narrative static and all the characters who are not Nina into indistinguishable props for the performance of her selfhood.

A book that occasionally provokes introspection but mostly founders under the weight of its own gaze.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062937438
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 468,656
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews