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Leesa Cross-Smith’s highly anticipated THIS CLOSE TO OKAY, touching on mental health, illness, infertility, with a comforting hand + writing prompt, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A cathartic novel about two strangers coming together under adverse conditions, a bevy of emotional baggage, that in the end is hopeful and comforting.

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February Spotlight: Women Writers of Color

Marie Claire’s The 2021 Book Releases to Pre-Order and Thank Yourself Later
10 new books the RUSSH team will be reading in 2021
10 most anticipated novels to read this winter @ The Everygirl
16 Passionate Book Recommendations From Your Favorite Authors @ Glamour
Here Are The Best Books To Read in 2021 (So Far) @ Good Housekeeping
32 Great Books To Start Off Your New Year @ Refinery29
43 Books by Women of Color @ Electric Literature
Most Anticipated BIPOC Winter Releases @ SheReads
The 21 Novels We Can’t Wait To Get Our Hands On in 2021 @ Off The Record
10 Most Anticipated Books of 2021, According to Goodreads @ Today
The Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2021 @ Parade
The 55 Most Anticipated Novels of 2021 @ Elle
Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview @ The Millions
The Best New Books to Read in 2021 (So Far) @ Real Simple

THIS CLOSE TO OKAY(Grand Central, Feb 2021) is a dark but ultimately balmy novel about loss, grief, and the generosity of strangers.

It’s a rainy night in Louisville, KY when Tallie Clark is on her way home when she spots a
 man precariously standing on the edge of the bridge.
 She’s a therapist (but he doesn’t know that). She stops, gets out of her vehicle, and talks him down. They share a cup of coffee at a local diner. Here, they connect in ways that seem fast, but also authentic. She convinces him to come back to her home, where she takes care of him for the night–he’s reluctant. It’s a weekend and so Tallie makes it her mission to get provide a safe and comfortable place for this man to unload and recharge. She wants to help him–and in the end, they both heal one another.

Alternating between POVs–Tallie’s and Emmett’s, we learn just the emotional heartache both are slogging through. There are issues with divorce, infidelity, infertility, mental health, even the prison system. While the overall aesthetic and mood of this book is hopeful, cozy, uplifting, it certainly deals with some darker, authentic moments. I really felt a connection with both Tallie and Emmett, for multiple reasons. Tallie is warm, comforting, sunny despite all she has going on. And Emmett, there was such a tender vulnerability there, and also he’s a bit handsome. At times, I wasn’t sure about the safety and reality of this event.

THIS CLOSE TO OKAY is glowing with sensory detail, smells, emotion, and the warm touch of a comforting hand.


What Leesa Cross-Smith does so in THIS CLOSE TO OKAY is evoke emotion through all senses. There are candles and savory smells wafting from the kitchen, searing meat, and bubbling water fountains. Write a scene in which you tap into all of the senses–then write the same scene without them. Which do you prefer and why? If reading is truly a collaboration between writer and reader, what do you find truly connects? 

Also, there was a cover change mid-way through production of THIS CLOSET TO OKAY. Which cover do you prefer? Does one evoke more emotion or a sense of place than the other? How are covers designed to grasp reader’s eye? And do they have any bearing on the season in which they are released? 

Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer.


For more information, to connect with Leesa Cross-Smith via social media, or to purchase a copy of THIS CLOSE TO OKAY, please visit: 



You might also like AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones


A PEN Open Book Award Nominee, Leesa Cross-Smith has been a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and Iowa Short Fiction Award. She is the author of the short story collection Every Kiss a War and lives in Louisville, KY


Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.


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#alwayswithabook #authorinterview #loss #grief #suicide #divorce #infidelity #infertility #mentalillness #mentalhealth 

[Cover and author image courtesy of Grand Central Publishing and used with permission. Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Note: the original/early cover design has changed. The finished cover will be the one on the left. Please join me on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more bookish things/nature photography.]

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