Seven-year-old Maresa has inch-deep dimples and a voice that can beam to the moon. When the forty-something narrator in THE RISK OF US first sees her in a foster services agency in northern California, she’s convinced Maresa is her future daughter. But does Maresa feel the same? And can she provide the care Maresa needs? As the couple navigates the bureaucratic foster care system, buried trauma and chronic health concerns threaten to crack open their marriage. With her husband, the narrator has a year—during which Maresa approaches the age at which children become nearly impossible to place—to decide to finalize the adoption, or whether what’s best for all of them is the unthinkable option: giving her up.
Drawing closely on her own experience as a foster parent, Howard writes in the tradition of Jenny Offill and Rachel Cusk about the inevitable tests children bring to a marriage, the uncertainties of family life, and the ways empathy can obliterate our defenses. Howard’s voice is a shrewd, lyrical addition to the discussion of the family separation crisis and a newly emerging genre of literature surrounding motherhood.
Rachel Howard earned her MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College and is the author of a memoir, The Lost Night. She is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and her fiction, essays, and dance criticism have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.
Kate Greathead is author of the novel Laura & Emma, which Jonathan Franzen named one of his best books of 2018. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne.