They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey

This gorgeous, heartbreaking novel movingly evokes family ties and betrayal, love and forgiveness against a backdrop of professional ballet.

They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey (Blind Sight; The Cranes Dance) is an unforgettable novel of scintillating beauty and heart-buckling pain about ballet, loyalty, forgiveness and the many forms of love.

Carlisle grows up feeling distant from her mother, with whom she lives most of the time in Ohio, and with a deep and yearning love for her father and, even more, for her father’s partner, James. When she stays with Robert and James at their Bank Street apartment in Greenwich Village, Carlisle basks in the arts education James shares with her. She’s been born into ballet: her mother a former professional dancer, her father briefly the same before managing ballet companies and festivals. James still teaches ballet. Carlisle loves dance and works hard, but tops six feet tall in high school, “the height that–for a woman–is rarely allowed to pass without comment in the outside world, let alone the ballet one.” (There may be other shortcomings as well.) By her early 40s, she is one of the first women to make it as a successful-but-struggling choreographer. She’s been estranged from Robert and James for 19 years when she gets the call that her father is dying.

The estrangement began with a betrayal that takes most of the novel to reveal. Carlisle’s first-person narrative bounces between the present, as she delays and eventually travels back to Bank Street to her father’s deathbed, and the past, her coming-of-age years as a visitor to Bank Street during the 1980s AIDS crisis. James is a mentor and a hero. “My father, I love, and James I sort of want to be. Maybe I mean: have?” It is a young person’s love, pure, ardent and jealous, wrecked by a mysterious episode that shapes the rest of Carlisle’s life–absolutely including her choreography career. Naturally, along with James’s news about Robert’s pending death comes a big opportunity to compose a modern version of the classical ballet Firebird. Carlisle both knows this is a big chance (maybe the big chance) and resists it. The reader will understand before Carlisle does that Firebird and her relationship with her father are part of the same wound.

Meg Howrey’s writing is dazzlingly, mind-bendingly good, and so true it hurts. She considers ballet, music, the artist’s drive to create, being a woman in a man’s world, desire and betrayal, family and the bottomless, haunting hunger to belong (“Are any of these questions danceable?”; “Emotions have a way of collecting and hardening inside us, like neglected grease. We are all smoking stoves”; “There might be undanceable truths.”) Her prose can be as funny and pithy as it is poignant and grand. They’re Going to Love You tackles a broad range of themes, but Howrey is superlatively up to the task. As Carlisle grows from longing, awkward youth to lonely, gifted working artist, Howrey conjures “all this gorgeous, unrepeatable wreckage” in spectacular fashion. Readers will laugh and cry and be changed.


This review originally ran in the October 13, 2022 issue of Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade. To subscribe, click here.


Rating: 9 gorgon pearls.

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