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The Likely World

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Twenty years of addiction to cloud, a drug which wipes the user's short-term memory, have left single mom Mellie with her mind in fragments. With the help of a tough-minded sponsor, and motivated by her own medically-challenged daughter, Mellie clings to a fragile sobriety. Then, on the evening of her twenty-ninth day sober, a stranger pulls into her driveway and her heart ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Red Hen Press
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Average rating 4.58  · 
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 ·  73 ratings  ·  16 reviews

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Suzanne Balaban
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Should the addict mother of a damaged baby relinquish her child? Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s debut novel, The Likely World (Red Hen Press; August 4) attempts to answer that question, and some others, in a bizarro, post-modern coming of age story whose central actor is a fictional drug that generates alternate realities and amnesia. One of the most profound literary antagonists ever created, Cloud detours, manhandles and almost wipes clean Mellie Itzkowitz-Kearns’ search for salvation in dystopian A ...more
Joshua Goldman
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Don't do that Mellie -- an addict struggling to recover her life and her memories, not a light read

How is your memory? Forgetting small things, worried about forgetting more? I’d like you to meet Mellie, she’s forgotten whole swaths of her life and isn’t always sure who she is. It’s not age loss or dementia, but the 30’s something protagonist of Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s The Likely World has been addicted to a (thankfully) fictional drug Cloud for 20 years.

Why am I thankful cloud is fictional?
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read "The Likely World" this summer while camping out at an airbnb during COVID. My husband and I saw no one for days. I got up early so I could make coffee and just sink into this complicated and intellectual novel. I felt like I was both living and reading about a parallel reality.

The book is told in a braided narrative between the past and present of the main character, Mellie's life. Mellie is a mother who is recalling a life being spent addicted to cloud, a drug that users let melt on the
Michelle  Hogmire
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
First Novel Prize Review #9 (thanks to The Center for Fiction and Red Hen Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review/expected pub date Aug 4, 2020):

Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s The Likely World is a Memento-esque puzzle of a novel, about a single mom named Mellie who’s addicted to a drug called cloud. Cloud is a strange ingestible lemony/waxy substance that causes short-term memory loss. Unfortunately, for long-term addicts, life becomes a confusing, jumbled mess of forgotten names a
Cindy Cunningham
Feb 08, 2021 rated it liked it
It took me a bit to get used to the feel of the book--and that makes total sense because the book deals with a drug addict who has spent her life addicted to cloud, a drug that sits on a spoon and sends you into forgetfulness (and actually seems almost to eat your memory.) The book moves in a braided narrative of the protagonist (antihero?), Mellie's life. Mellie has a toddler who is clearly not okay, yet the author kind of makes us want the main character to be able to keep her child. We root f ...more
Ann Lewinson
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never had much patience with drug-addicted protagonists, but if, as a teenager, I’d been offered a spoonful of a lemony something that would have erased the memory of my latest adolescent humiliation, I wouldn’t have said no. So I was captivated by Mellie, a single mother piecing her life back together, and happily followed her as she pinged back and forth through 20 years of lapsed memories involving a conceptual artist, an internet pornographer, a Jewish summer camp, an experimental theat ...more
Melanie Conroy-Goldman mixes mystery, crime, parenting, and literary fiction to create a compelling read. She is at her most powerful in writing about the deep feelings which motivate her protagonist, Mellie, to both make and unmake her life. Mellie's addiction to a drug which makes her forget is in complete conflict with her desire to love and parent her child, and this conflict leads to a deep exploration of a woman's life. Most importantly, Conroy-Goldman writes frankly about desire, women's ...more
Eileen Daly-Boas
Sep 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
This is a challenging book, and it’s possible that I just didn’t have the energy for something so difficult and hard to stick with. I’m confident that this is pretty accurate for how drug addiction affects people, and mothers aren’t immune to it. The book has really strong writing, but it was punishing in a way that made it extremely hard to keep reading. The disjointedness, which fit very well with the topic, kept me from finding any comfort in reading. Again, after more than a year of pandemic ...more
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
I actually could not put this book down. I found Mellie to be a very compelling character. Things that draw me to her: just her response to cloud in general, but also her conviction that no one knows she is an addict, even though people definitely know. I really appreciated the writing style as well. After my first pregnancy and early motherhood, my memory declined significantly, and I don’t feel like it has ever fully recovered. Mellie’s experience with cloud felt so relatable (and exaggerated) ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This one took me a couple of months, because it isn’t a light and fast read. But it’s a good one – one I am glad I took the time to read, and digest, and think about. It went places I definitely did not expect it to go, from issues about drug abuse and addiction, to motherhood, and love to bad relationships all the way to sex tapes.
Tatiana Krokar
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The protagonist is beautifully drawn and psychologically complex-- if you like unreliable narrators that are grappling with womens issues and drug addiction, this is definitely for you. The book delves into the complexity and heartbreak of addiction and recovery. Will be of particular interest for anyone who has struggled with addictions.
Jennifer Kelly
Apr 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A debut author with a unique and powerful voice takes you on a journey to follow a mother who's addicted to a fictional memory-scrambling drug called cloud as she tries to piece her memories and her life back together. At once cerebral, mysterious, and deeply emotional, I couldn't put this book down. ...more
Oct 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Jennifer Pullen
May 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A book that will open your brain and replace whatever used to be there with fevered images fraught significance. Gorgeous prose and a control of point of view that can pivot on a dime.
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
DNF- couldn't catch on, made it to page 200 and couldn't convince myself to continue. There were moments in the book where I was completely lost. Good premise, just not for me. ...more
M. Patrick
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A deep dive into the world and life of an unlikely heroine. The Likely World takes the reader on a journey back and forth between the 80s in gritty Boston, a porn set in the glitzy hills of California and the lofts of 90s NYC. The short detour to a train in Soviet Russia is an unlikely jump, but fits and is worth the pages.

The fictional drug that Conroy-Goldman creates is addictive in its realism. I found myself wanting to taste cloud the more and more I read. Her dialog is sparkly and sharp and
Melanie Conroy-Goldman
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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Melanie Conroy-Goldman is the author of The Likely World, a novel to be published by Red Hen Press in 2020. A Professor of Creative Writing at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, she was a founding director of the Trias Residency for Writers. Her fiction has been published in Southern Review, StoryQuarterly, in anthologies from Morrow and St. Martin’s and online at venues such as McSweeneys.net. Sh ...more

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