Ours: A Novel (Hardcover)

Ours: A Novel By Phillip B. Williams Cover Image

Ours: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Chosen as a Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by Oprah’s Book Club, Elle, Reader’s Digest, The Rumpus, Kirkus Reviews, The Millions, Lit Hub, and more

“An inventive ode to self-determination and also a surrealistic vision of Black life as forged within the crucible of American history . . . [written in] lush, ornamental prose.” —The New Yorker

“Fans of The Underground Railroad, The Water Dancer, and Let Us Descend will devour this lyrical and surreal saga.” —Oprah Daily

From a writer of singular voice and vision, a mesmerizing epic that reimagines the past to explore the true nature of freedom

In this ingenious, sweeping novel, Phillip B. Williams introduces us to an enigmatic woman named Saint, a fearsome conjurer who, in the 1830s, annihilates plantations all over Arkansas to rescue the people enslaved there. She brings those she has freed to a haven of her own creation: a town just north of St. Louis, magically concealed from outsiders, named Ours.

It is in this miraculous place that Saint’s grand experiment—a truly secluded community where her people may flourish—takes root. But although Saint does her best to protect the inhabitants of Ours, over time, her conjuring and memories begin to betray her, leaving the town vulnerable to intrusions by newcomers with powers of their own. As the cracks in Saint’s creation are exposed, some begin to wonder whether the community’s safety might be yet another form of bondage.

Set over the course of four decades and steeped in a rich tradition of American literature informed by Black surrealism, mythology, and spirituality, Ours is a stunning exploration of the possibilities and limitations of love and freedom by a writer of capacious vision and talent.
Phillip B. Williams is from Chicago, Illinois, and is the author of two collections of poetry: Thief in the Interior, which was the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and Mutiny, which was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection and the winner of a 2022 American Book Award. Williams is also the recipient of a Whiting Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently teaches in the MFA in creative writing program at New York University.

Product Details ISBN: 9780593654828
ISBN-10: 059365482X
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Pages: 592
Language: English
Praise for Ours:

“[An] ambitious debut . . . In lush, ornamental prose, Williams, who is also a poet, traces many characters’ entwined journeys as they seek to understand the forces that assemble and separate them. The novel is an inventive ode to self-determination and also a surrealistic vision of Black life as forged within the crucible of American history.” The New Yorker

“Transcendent.” —Time

“A captivating, complex debut.” People

“Williams finds new ways to ask age-old questions: How do we have both safety and freedom? What makes a ragtag group into a community? And most important, how do we find the missing parts of ourselves in other people?” The Washington Post

“Deeply absorbing . . . Ours, for all its elements of magic, fantasy, and mythology, is a realistic depiction of how we might arrive at utopia: through people who are always trying to become, always finding ways to navigate and survive harsh realities, always reaching for moments of joy and intimacy.” Los Angeles Times

“There’s nothing that hits like a truly magnetic work of magical realism, and Ours by Phillip B. Williams has all the makings of a stunner. . . . Williams is unabashedly brilliant.” —Elle

“Williams transports us back to the antebellum South—but with a liberatory, supernatural twist. . . . Fans of The Underground Railroad, The Water Dancer, and Let Us Descend will devour this lyrical and surreal saga.” Oprah Daily

Ours joins a canon of similar works that have appeared in recent years, such as Jesmyn Ward’s recent novel Let Us Descend and Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 2016 The Underground Railroad. . . . By taking such care to document the horrors of slavery alongside the ‘freedom [his characters] deserve,’ Williams seems to offer the possibility of a world beyond trauma.” —Financial Times

“A transcendent and lyrical exploration of freedom that delivers a fluid, spiritual and empowering meditation on the complexities of reclaiming identity . . . Williams has assembled a vivid and theatrical ensemble in ‘Ours’ and given them plenty of room to access their humanity as their lives intersect and intertwine. The result is a spiritual, redemptive and stirring look at the numerous shapes autonomy takes.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A multigenerational epic that will sweep you off of your feet . . . Williams possesses a brilliant imagination and understanding of storytelling. . . . [He] uses his poet’s ear in crafting his prose, and the words shine on every page.” —Book Riot

Phillip B. Williams establishes that his lyrical gifts, which work so well in poetry, have the strength to support a nearly six-hundred-page tome in his debut novel. . . . Ours is a novel that touches several centuries, exploring the nature of freedom, the limitations of safety, and the ways that love traps and frees a soul.” —The Rumpus

Ours is so vivid a glimpse into the lives of formerly enslaved people that it reads with the beauty and urgency of a spoken-word poem. . . . This is an important novel, peopled with vivid characters literally and figuratively hidden from view. Every scene portrays a people trying to understand themselves, individuals trying to give and receive love, attempting to balance hope with trauma.” Star Tribune

“A sweeping, epic novel . . . remarkable.” —Town & Country

“Shot through with themes of freedom versus bondage and empowerment versus protection, Ours explores what happens when community members dare to ask if their newfound safety is just a new type of entrapment.” —Reader's Digest, The 30 New Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2024”

“Ours enthralls from its earliest pages . . . Written in distilled, distinct prose (author Phillip B. Williams is an award-winning poet), Ours reads like mythology or folklore paired with ethnography. The inhabitants of the town, their relationships and routines, feel specific, lived-in and complex. Questions about how to form a utopian community—if such an ideal is even attainable—reverberate throughout. Unlike many stories that grapple with slavery, Ours is refreshingly focused on freedom.” Buy Side from The Wall Street Journal 

“Award-winning poet and writer Phillip Williams has crafted a mesmerizing, mythical, multilayered portrait of a unique Black American community formed by an omnipresent witchy woman named Saint . . . Williams' prose is graceful and eloquent in a story that is big and beautiful as it probes the terms and conditions of true freedom. Don't miss it.” The Bay Area Reporter

“Now, this, this is the one. . . . The narrative, bolstered by effervescent prose, Black spirituality, mythology, and surrealism, sweeps over four decades, showing what love can do to you.” —Book Riot

“Williams has a voice that soars across each page, breathing life into his dazzling array of characters—the lovers and the malcontents, the queer and the mystical, the brazen and the cautious. At an incredible six hundred pages long, Ours is nevertheless a novel worth savoring.” Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“A gorgeously written, evocative saga of Black American survival and transcendence, blending elements of fantasy, mythology, and multigenerational history . . . resonant [and] wildly imaginative . . . As in the magical realist sagas of Latin America or the grand fictions of Russian literature, time itself becomes a morphing, enigmatic character in Williams’s novel. . . . What keeps you attentive, and the sweeping narrative anchored, are the rich characterizations and, most of all, the often-startling impact of Williams’s poetically illuminated language. A multilayered, enrapturing chronicle of freedom that interrogates the nature of freedom itself.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Ambitious and lyrical . . . Williams’s accomplished narrative leaves readers with much to ponder.” —Publishers Weekly

Ours is the epic and lyrical debut novel by poet Phillip B. Williams, featuring unforgettable characters woven together with folklore and humanity’s search for freedom.” B&N Reads

“A beautifully written and ambitious epic about the complexity of freedom. Williams crafts an expansive, original world filled with characters who linger long after the final page.” Brit Bennett, New York Times–bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

“In Ours, Phillip B. Williams creates a fictional town with a complicated, magical history that is as thrilling to explore as the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The mysteries at the heart of this novel are deeply considered, as is the concept of freedom itself. With a poet’s precision of language and a seasoned storyteller’s attention to character, Williams has written a truly one-of-a-kind epic.” Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House

“As consummate and compelling a storyteller as he is a poet, in Ours Phillip B. Williams spins a stellar tale of resistance and reconstruction that could school any U.S. history book. Crossing rivers and decades, involving folk culture and the miraculous as a matter of course, and centering on the mysterious Saint and the secret community she creates in the midst of nineteenth-century chattel slavery and the long battle for Black freedom, Ours speaks to our past, present, and future with incomparable poetic verve.” John Keene, National Book Award–winning author of Punks: New and Selected Poems

“Phillip Williams’s Ours is a radical re-creation of our pasts. With a keen eye to historical detail and the expansive imagination of a poet, Williams has constructed a jewel of a novel, a deeply felt exploration of the strengthening ties and broken cords of kith and kin under the weight of complicated histories. In the uncertain future that awaits us, Ours illuminates a greater understanding of what it means to be human and the complex, tangled lives and afterlives of enslavement.” Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of Libertie