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Gabriel Bump Pens A Tale Of Utopia Gone Awry

“Race, class and gender collide in all the ways they do in the so-called real world. Gabriel Bump’s prose is fresh and frequently surprising. [The New Naturals] is funny, sad, sad-funny and funny-sad and just plain smart,” praises Percival Everett about Bump’s touching, timely novel exploring an attempt to found an underground utopia and the interwoven stories of those drawn to it. Bump, a Chicago author, will be part of the “Southern Transplants: Diverse Connections with the South” panel at 10 a.m. Friday, April 5. Accompanying him will be Jen Fawkes, Tales the Devil Told Me, and Jennifer Maritza McCauley, When Trying to Return Home, with Michael X. Wang, moderator.

The New Naturals synopsis: An abandoned restaurant on a hill off the highway in Western Massachusetts doesn’t look like much. But to Rio, a young Black woman bereft after the loss of her newborn child, this hill becomes more than a safe haven—it becomes a place to start over. She convinces her husband to help her construct a society underground, somewhere safe, somewhere everyone can feel loved, wanted, and accepted, where the children learn actual history, where everyone has an equal shot. She locates a Benefactor and soon their utopia begins to take shape. Two unhoused men hear about it and immediately begin their journey by bus from Chicago to get there. A young and disillusioned journalist stumbles upon it and wants in. And a former soccer player, having lost his footing in society, is persuaded to check it out too. But no matter how much these people all yearn for meaning and a sanctuary from the existential dread of life above the surface, what happens if this new society can’t actually work? What then?  From one of the most exciting new literary voices out there, The New Naturals is fresh and deeply perceptive, capturing the absurdity of life in the 21st century, for readers of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. In this remarkable feat of imagination, Bump shows us that, ultimately, it is our love for and connection to each other that will save us.