Agatha of Little Neon

A Novel

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Pub Date 03 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 03 Aug 2021

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Description

“An enchanting, sparkling book about the many meanings of sisterhood.” —Kristin Iversen, Refinery29

Claire Luchette's debut, Agatha of Little Neon, is a novel about yearning and sisterhood, figuring out how you fit in (or don’t), and the unexpected friends who help you find your truest self


Agatha has lived every day of the last nine years with her sisters: they work together, laugh together, pray together. Their world is contained within the little house they share. The four of them are devoted to Mother Roberta and to their quiet, purposeful life.

But when the parish goes broke, the sisters are forced to move. They land in Woonsocket, a former mill town now dotted with wind turbines. They take over the care of a halfway house, where they live alongside their charges, such as the jawless Tim Gary and the headstrong Lawnmower Jill. Agatha is forced to venture out into the world alone to teach math at a local all-girls high school, where for the first time in years she has to reckon all on her own with what she sees and feels. Who will she be if she isn’t with her sisters? These women, the church, have been her home. Or has she just been hiding?

Disarming, delightfully deadpan, and full of searching, Claire Luchette’s Agatha of Little Neon offers a view into the lives of women and the choices they make.

“An enchanting, sparkling book about the many meanings of sisterhood.” —Kristin Iversen, Refinery29

Claire Luchette's debut, Agatha of Little Neon, is a novel about yearning and sisterhood, figuring...


Advance Praise

Agatha of Little Neon is the rare kind of book that reads like a transmission from a stranger you don’t know, but who is already nestled close to your heart. Full of small devotions, pith and vigor, and a bounty of tender feeling for a world that is not quite as full of grace as it could be, this bold debut shines with a light all its own and announces Claire Luchette as a true original and a voice to follow closely.”

Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

“There’s not a false step in this novel of sisterhood, belonging, and what it means to choose a life for yourself. Agatha of Little Neon is a brilliant testament to Claire Luchette’s skill and original voice.”

Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

“Claire Luchette is so wildly talented that I would follow her anywhere. Here, it’s to Woonsocket along with four women who are searching for meaning and a sense of belonging from each other and the world beyond. The result is a novel that’s blazingly original, wry, and perfectly attuned to the oddness―and the profundity―of life.”

Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

“Claire Luchette is a dazzlingly gifted new voice, a master at balancing a sneaky deadpan wit with deep and genuine pathos. Agatha of Little Neon brilliantly mixes the sacred and the transgressive, the solemn and the absurd, and the profound, contradictory longings for belonging and independence. This book is a moving meditation on how to be a woman in the world―and how to be a human.”

Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Dreamers

Agatha of Little Neon is the rare kind of book that reads like a transmission from a stranger you don’t know, but who is already nestled close to your heart. Full of small devotions, pith and vigor...


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Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780374265267
PRICE $26.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 36 members


Featured Reviews

"Agatha of Little Neon" by Claire Luchette is a novel about how Agatha and her band of sisters (nuns) move from their original convent to help run a sober living facility in New England. On top of this, Agatha braves the role of high school math teacher at a local Catholic girls school. This is definitely one of the most original novels I have ever read. Luchette takes a group of nuns, with Agatha as the focus, out of their usually habit(at) and shows how empathy and camaraderie are what is needed to help some struggling folks. This move also allows Agatha to see what she may need in her life that she never thought was really missing. This was a really light and enjoyable read.

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Set against the backdrop of the early 2000s during the time the Catholic church's sexual abuse crimes began to emerge, "Agatha of Little Neon" follows four Catholic Sisters as they leave behind their home in Lackawanna, NY for Rhode Island. There, they find themselves taking charge of the residents of a halfway house, a task they know nothing about. The story is set in the year after the women leave New York and told from the perspective of Agatha, who is described as the "eyes" of the four women. Of the women, Agatha is the one selected to teach geometry at the local Catholic girls' school. As she begins her new life, she starts to question what she knows and feels about the world, her faith, and her own self. This is a quiet book, in the best way. Luchette does an amazing job of engaging readers with Agatha and her story. Agatha is witty with a keen ability to observe her world, so this feels like I've been allowed to peer in on a life so different than my own. The cast of secondary characters is fascinating and help to break up Agatha's tendency to mull over her experiences at length. This was a strong debut novel, and I can't wait to see what Claire Luchette does next. Many thanks to NetGalley and FSG for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! (this review will appear on my Goodreads account immediately and on Instagram closer to the publication date. Links will be updated.)

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This is a wonderful book about the lives of four nuns, with the emphasis on Sister Agatha, and the people they serve. It is a very funny, touching and poignant story about faith, lack of faith, compassion, growth, religious misogyny and how events shape our lives. I am an atheist raised Catholic (I’m sure there is a club somewhere for us) and I enjoyed reading about the religious convictions reminiscent of many who I knew. Read it if you have religious convictions or no religious convictions; it is a book whose stories resonate.

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Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. In rural America, the Catholic Church is falling on hard times. A parish outside Buffalo closes and four sisters that work there are sent to Rhode Island where they will change from running a day care center to running a halfway house for local parolees with substance abuse issues. The sisters, all in their late twenties, are described as Frances was the mouth, Mary Lucille the heart, Therese the legs and Agatha, the narrator of the novel, is the eyes. But Agatha is so much more. Anyone can watch all that goes on, but Agatha misses nothing and she’s constantly processing what she sees and what it means to her, her sisters and to the church and how there grow more and more cracks between them. Agatha also starts to teach geometry at the local Catholic girl’s school and connects more to herself at that age. But most importantly, Agatha starts to find her voice. Once she starts asking questions, and questioning who she is, life changes are inevitable. This book is written in short chapters that add up to so much and are told with great humor and love, while not shying away from any of life’s very hard questions. I think this is an extraordinary first novel and I’m excited to see where the author goes next.

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What a charming and emotional novel! I was hooked just after the first paragraph. "Agatha of Little Neon" is a beautiful story about 4 sisters (Catholic nuns) who get transferred to work at a halfway house for recovering addicts. Agatha is the main protagonist and wow; I thought she was such a down-to-earth and relatable character. Agatha really goes an emotional journey throughout this novel, you can't help but root for her. The story takes place during the church abuse scandal in the early to mid 2000's The main plot is not about sexual abuse misconduct, but about Agatha's relationship with her sisters, and the people who live at the halfway house (the house is called Little Neon). Agatha begins a friendships with one of the recovering addicts, Tim Gary, and Agatha begins teaching at the nearby Catholic high school. It's best not knowing much going into this book, it's more character-driven but I still teared up at the end. The writing was hilarious, breezy, and heartbreaking. Hard to believe this Claire Luchette's debut novel. I'll definitely keep my eye out for more by Luchette in the future. I finished this book about a week ago and I can't stop thinking about it. An absolute gem! Thank you, Netgalley and FSG for the digital ARC.

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There was something so calming about this book and how the story is told. I loved reading from Agatha’s perspective—her interesting and unique way of looking at the little things in life. This is the kind of book where you have a clear feeling of where the story is going, but you’re in no rush to get to the end. You want to take your time and enjoy the journey. It’s a book that feels safe

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How do I explain my love for this book? It has skyrocketed to one of my favorite books of all time. Agatha of Little Neon follows a woman, Sister Agatha, along with three other sisters of the Catholic Church. They are all young and zealous, and after many years serving the same community, are sent to work at a house for people struggling to get back on their feet. Sister Agatha starts to question her motives, her abilities, and her desire to continue in vocational work. Written in short little vignettes of her life, she asks the big questions, and finally tries to answer them. I think my favorite part of this book was the tone of it. While it deals with many tough situations, it remains light and strangely hopeful, even when Agatha isn't quite sure she knows what she is doing in the long run. There are moments of humor alongside moments of sorrow and pain. I also enjoyed that it is a book about vocational church women that was able to gently point out the potentially harmful behaviors without vilifying them or shaming them for their work. I think it highlights the good things a church can provide just as well as the harmful things, and I appreciated this nuanced take on something that is often not awarded this care. The characters are unique and loveable and I loved Agatha's perspective on everything. I also would be remiss to avoid my own personal connection with this book. I am one of so so many who have recently found the harmful practices of church organizations (Catholic and other denominations alike) too egregious to ignore anymore. This has been an incredibly painful and confusing time, and I believe this book came at the perfect time and can ultimately serve as a comfort to an entire generation.

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Absolutely unexpected and deeply moving. This is such a tender novel, raw and frustrated in places and full of grace in others. Luchette portrays religious devotion and doubt with grace and sympathy.

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Such a sweet story! Talk about a deep dive into sisterhood and friendship and all the drama in between. This is also all about independent journeys of self-discovery and peeling back all the layers of what it means to be a woman in every capacity.

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