Thursday, May 16, 2024

Elise Juska's "Reunion"

Elise Juska’s new novel, Reunion, was named one of People Magazine’s “Best Books to Read in May 2024.” Her previous novels include The Blessings, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and If We Had Known. Juska’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri ReviewPloughshares, The Hudson Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize from Ploughshares, and her short fiction has been cited by The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Here Juska dreamcasts an adaptation of Reunion:
The main characters in Reunion are three college friends—Polly, Adam, and Hope—who are emerging from the pandemic and returning to their twenty-fifth reunion. They’re bringing with them not only mixed feelings about their college years but concern about their children, particularly Polly’s teenage son Jonah, who’s traveling with her to Maine.

When working on my previous novels I never had actors in mind, but strangely enough, for this one, from the beginning I pictured Polly as Catherine Keener. I am a huge fan of her performances as witty, slightly acerbic, vulnerable women in indie films like Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking and Please Give.

Adam is youthful-looking and young at heart—naturally my mind goes to Paul Rudd. Not only is Rudd seemingly age-defying, but I’ve been watching him since the nineties, in classics like Clueless, in which he looked how Adam might have in the novel’s flashbacks to his college years.

For Hope, upbeat and popular, the actor of my dreams is Reese Witherspoon. She’s so good at portraying women who are sunny on the surface and then gradually revealing their complicated, sometimes melancholic depths.

And for Jonah—sensitive, smart, pissed off at the state of the world—I’d fantasy-cast Dominic Sessa. He gave such an amazing, spiky, sympathetic performance as a high school student in the movie The Holdovers—another story in a campus setting, which is one of my favorite kinds.
Visit Elise Juska's website.

The Page 69 Test: Reunion.

--Marshal Zeringue