Set in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia, Take What You Need traces the parallel lives of Jean, and her beloved but estranged stepdaughter, Leah, who’s sought a clean break from her rural childhood. In Leah’s urban life with her young family, she’s revealed little about Jean, how much she misses her stepmother’s hard-won insights and joyful lack of inhibition. But with Jean’s death, Leah must return to sort through what’s been left behind.
What Leah discovers is staggering: Jean has filled the house with giant sculptures she’s welded from scraps of the area’s industrial history. There’s also a young man now living in the house who’s played an unknown role in Jean’s last years and in her art.
With great verve and humor, Idra Novey zeroes in on the joys and difficulty of family, the ease with which we let distance mute conflict, and the power we can draw from creative pursuits. Passionate and resonant, Take What You Need explores the continuing mystery of the people we love most, and what can be built from what others have discarded—art, unexpected friendship, a new contentment of self. This is Idra Novey at her very best.