A finely observed, wry social satire set in Philadelphia over the course of a single day, this soaring debut novel paints a moving portrait of a family at a turning point.
Leopold Portman, a young IT manager a few years out of college, dreams of settling down in Philly’s bucolic suburbs and starting a family with his fiancée, Nora. A talented singer in mourning for her mother, Nora has abandoned a promising opera career and wonders what her destiny holds. Her best friend, Stephen, Leopold’s brother, dithers in his seventh year of graduate school and privately questions Leo and Nora’s relationship. On June 16, 2004, the three are brought together—first for a funeral, then for an annual Bloomsday party. As the long-simmering tensions between them come to a head, they are forced to confront the choices of their pasts and their hopes for the future.
Clever, lyrical, and often hilarious, The Sixteenth of June is a feat of storytelling and a sharp depiction of modern American family life. It delves into the tensions and allegiances of friendships, the murky uncertainty of early adulthood, and the yearning to belong. This remarkable novel offers a nod to James Joyce's celebrated classic, Ulysses, and it is about the secrets we keep and the lengths we’ll go to for acceptance and love.
About the Author
Maya Lang is the first-generation daughter of Indian immigrants. She was awarded the 2012 Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholarship in Fiction and was a Finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and lives in New York with her husband and daughter.
"As Joyce displayed in Ulysses, a single day can make for an epic journey, every step containing multitudes, but a day can also change a person in smaller ways, can clarify rather than obscure, as Maya Lang proves in her wonderful debut. Instead of the winding streets of Dublin, we have the pathways of family and the roles we often play despite ourselves. The language is lovely, the insights heartfelt. We care deeply for these people and by the end of the novel we want to say Yes to Stephen, Yes to Leopold, Yes to Nora, and the biggest Yes of all to Maya Lang."
— David Gilbert, author of & Sons
“You need not have read Ulysses to savor The Sixteenth of June. Maya Lang's debut novel refracts the notoriously challenging classic with the expertise of a Joycean scholar, but its accessible 21st-century pleasures are all its own: an insightful portrait of the postmodern family, written with grace, humor, and compassion."
— Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
“Maya Lang's exquisitely written debut is at heart a love story, a triangle, that swirls around issues of passion, pretension, and the way art can be both a salvation and a crutch. Readers will see some of themselves in these two brothers, Stephen and Leopold, and the sensitive young woman they both adore. A triumph.”
— Helen Schulman, New York Times bestselling author of This Beautiful Life
“The Sixteenth of June is incisive and revelatory, a finely-tuned novel of friendship, loss, and self-forgiveness. This is a new voice of the highest caliber, one that articulates the things we never knew we thought, the things we never thought we knew. If Joyce was a master of epiphany, Maya Lang is one, too.”
— Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower
“Clever and well-crafted, this absorbing novel explores the interplay of love, ambition, and family. It's a delightful blend of emotional resonance and graceful prose.”
— Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure
“The Sixteenth of June celebrates people who don’t easily fit our culture’s definitions of happiness and success, who have to fight their way to a sense of self they can live with. Combining the narrative sensibility of a nineteenth-century novel with a contemporary snap and verve, Maya Lang’s debut asks probing questions about friendship and love. The final scene is one of the most lovely I’ve read in recent fiction.”
— Pamela Erens, author of The Virgins
"Here are three lives in one day, subtly and powerfully interwoven, building toward a climax both inevitable and surprising. Here is the fullness of life, the addictive mystery of family, the collision of love and grief and art. Here is a powerful debut from a writer blooming before our eyes."
— Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love
“The Sixteenth of June has deep and intricate roots. The novel takes place over a single day and yet, for Stephen, Leopold and Nora, it is from these tangled roots that a lifetime of love and hope will grow. This is a big-hearted and generous novel.”
— Ramona Ausubel, author of the No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born
"A promising writer gives the love triangle an engaging workout under challenging constraints."
"A perfect book for fans of Jonathan Tropper, Meg Wolitzer and, yes, James Joyce."
— Meganne Fabrega
"Lang’s clever first novel tracks three twentysomethings... They all find some resolution by the end of the day, although it isn’t necessarily the one they expected or hoped for... What matters more is the family dynamic and its currents of longing, loss, and love.”
"Addictive, outstanding... elevates family dysfunction to an art form."
— Natalie Papailiou
"The plot of THE SIXTEENTH OF JUNE hums along at a quick pace. Lang’s writing is clear and self-assured, and despite being based on ULYSSES, it is a pleasure to read. Lang’s metaphors are beautiful. With humor and insight, she ends up creating... a novel that reflects modern life."
— Shelby Wardlaw
"One feels the influence of Woolf in the writing.... The concerns of the 20th century have been updated for our own time—the qualities and benefits of different types of art, the indignities of making a living as an academic, sexuality, women’s roles and obligations, the desire to be someone else, what we deem 'disorders' in our society, our inability to express our true selves, death—all are explored here with honesty, complexity, and compassion.... A small corner of the world is brought to vivid life for one busy day."
— Emily Burns Morgan