Off the Books

A Novel

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Pub Date Jul 30 2024 | Archive Date Aug 30 2024
Henry Holt & Company | Henry Holt and Co.

Description

A captivating debut following a cross-country road trip that will make you believe in the goodness of people, Off the Books sheds light on the power in humanity during the most troubled of times.

Recent Dartmouth dropout Mei, in search of a new direction in life, drives a limo to make ends meet. Her grandfather convinces her to allow her customers to pay under the table, and before she knows it, she is working as a routine chauffeur for sex workers. Mei does her best to mind her own business, but her knack for discretion soon leads her on a life changing trip from San Francisco to Syracuse with a new client.

Handsome and reserved, Henry piques Mei’s interest. Toting an enormous black suitcase with him everywhere he goes, he’s more concerned with taking frequent breaks than making good time on the road. When Mei discovers Henry's secret, she does away with her usual close-lipped demeanor and decides she has no choice but to confront him. What Henry reveals rocks her to her core and shifts this once casual, transactional road trip to one of moral stakes and dangerous consequences.

An original take on the great American road trip, Off the Books is a beautifully crafted coming of age story that showcases the resilience of the human spirit and the power of doing the right thing. The spirit of Frazier’s characters will stay with readers long after they have arrived at their destination.

A captivating debut following a cross-country road trip that will make you believe in the goodness of people, Off the Books sheds light on the power in humanity during the most troubled of times.
...


Advance Praise

“This book tossed me into the back of the car and drove me out to horizons that were startling, hopeful and utterly captivating."

—Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler, bestselling author of A Series of Unfortunate Events

"Off the Books made me put my kid to bed late—but I'm not mad about it! Instead, I'm grateful to Soma Mei Sheng Frazier for this riveting read. Without a doubt, one of the most complex, cool, hilarious, politically astute, and unexpected yet totally necessary novels I've read in forever."

—Kate Schatz, New York Times bestselling author of Do the Work and Rad American Women A-Z

"What an improbable page-turner! Suspenseful and political, OFF THE BOOKS proves deeply compassionate as well. A real pleasure."

—Gish Jen, author of The Resisters

"In Soma Mei Sheng Frazier’s Off the Books, student-turned-limo-driver Mei and her mysterious passenger travel from San Francisco to Syracuse and back, but also around the world and into the dark corners of humanity, as well as into Mei’s past and her struggle to make sense of her own identity and the recent death of her father. Along the way, we meet one of my favorite characters in a good long while, Mei’s iconoclastic, pot-smoking, funny, and wise grandfather. Soma Mei Sheng Frazier is a masterful storyteller who draws on humor and compassion to show us the world we live in, then asks us not to look away. I could have kept driving cross country with these characters forever."

—Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade

"Off the Books takes us off the beaten path. You will find yourself on a suspenseful ride with treacherous twists and turns that make this debut novel hard to put down. Frazier’s soulful, conversational style welcomes us into an easy friendship with Mei, the quirky, main character. When she discovers what matters to her, it matters to us."

—April Sinclair, author of Coffee Will Make You Black

"Delightfully offbeat yet weighty ... It’s a fresh take on the classic American road novel."

Publishers Weekly

“This book tossed me into the back of the car and drove me out to horizons that were startling, hopeful and utterly captivating."

—Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler, bestselling author of A Series of...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781250872715
PRICE $27.99 (USD)
PAGES 224

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Featured Reviews

Off the Books was a wonderful read. It's such a fresh coming-of-age story with a ton of resonance for college-aged readers, especially. I enjoyed the themes of identity and journeying, and it's a much needed reminder that those two things are deeply connected.

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Yes, Měi is driving handsome Henry Lee across the country without reporting it on her taxes or anywhere else or delving very deeply into the specifics. “My motto … is ’My clients’ business is none of my business,’” Měi notes in Chapter 3. But the title also refers to Měi’s quandary in life. She struggled to get herself into Brown University, only to adopt hipster ways and drop out. Who is Měi anyway? And who does she want to be?

Meanwhile, Henry Lee has some sort of secret. He has an enormous suitcase that he keeps with himself at all times. Something shady? Měi starts thinking about it more and more. How much should be kept off the books and ignored?

Off the Books begins as a carefree road trip novel, but it metamorphoses in an instant about a fourth of the way through. I don’t want to spoil this lyrical novel, but let’s say that readers will watch as Měi tackles some pressing questions of empathy, morality and humanity. A most unique novel, with so many surprises, making it hard to believe that this is author Soma Mei Sheng Frazier’s first novel.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co. in exchange for an honest review.

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Soma Mei Sheng Frazier’s Off the Books (Henry Holt & Co., available 30 July 2024) tells the story of Mei, a recent college dropout struggling to find her footing after a major family tragedy. Her robe-wearing, weed-smoking Grandfather helps her set up her own chauffeur company. Things get a little weird with her newest client, Henry, whose mysterious suitcase and tight-lipped manner arouse Mei’s suspicion. Things take a turn when Mei sees something moving in the suitcase?!

The big reveal raises more questions than it answers for Mei, but what unfolds is a fascinating, fast-paced story that was not at all what I was expecting, but I truly loved. It’s about family, love, and hard choices. Highly recommend pre-ordering it now!

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