January 31, 2021
Leesa Cross-Smith
Grand Central
Hardcover, 320 pages
Leesa Cross-Smith's new novel is the story of a life-changing weekend shared between two strangers—and the love that grows between them.

On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home when she spots a man precariously standing on the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally, reluctantly, shares his first name: Emmett.

Alternating between Tallie and Emmett's perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge, This Close to Okay is an uplifting, powerful story of two strangers brought together by wild chance at the moment they need it the most.

 “A page-turning pleaser with a heroine to love.”

"Cross-Smith explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people...As dark and tense as it is flirty and humorous, this moving novel offers consistent surprises.”
-Publishers Weekly
Dear Reader,

I write often of comfort and coziness and the things that get my characters through life. As much as possible, I try to provide them with soft, safe spaces to land when their worlds are falling apart. Even when it seems like the world can’t get darker or more difficult, I fight for my characters to stay afloat and to look for light; to take comfort in small pleasures.

Comfort food is my favorite. Savory or sweet, I love the meals that remind me most of home, peace, and happiness. When my character, Tallie, puts on her raincoat and wellies, she says she feels a bit like Paddington Bear and I think often of Paddington and his marmalade sandwiches. How he keeps one with him always, “in case of emergency.” If she could, Tallie would surely keep a teapot with her always, “in case of emergency.” As a therapist, she knows how important it is to get people to open up and share their hearts and she believes in the power of a warm drink in order to make that happen. In This Close To Okay, my characters feed both their bodies and their hearts with the food they make together and the food they seek out together. And although they are both tenderhearted, each in their own stages of healing, they do find easy common ground there—in sharing meals and having tea, in being together in the kitchen and cleaning up afterward.

My hope for you, dear reader ,is that you cozy up with This Close To Okay and feel like you’re on Tallie’s soft couch, waiting to hear the teakettle whistle as the rain falls against the windows. There are pumpkins on the porch! The candlelight flickers! And someone is sitting across from you, listening. Really listening and chatting with you. They ask if you’re okay and even hand you a handknit blanket as the cats wander and purr.

Leesa Cross-Smith
Leesa Cross-Smith's Book Club Menu and Recipe
In This Close To Okay, my character Tallie encounters a man named Emmett on a bridge in the rain. He’s considering suicide and Tallie is a therapist but doesn’t tell him that. Instead, she plays him some music and talks to him, listens to him, shares her heart with him. She convinces him to get in the car with her and she takes him out for a cup of coffee. They have old-fashioned pumpkin doughnuts too. Eventually, she invites him back to her home. When they get there, they change out of their wet clothes and make dinner together. They make rigatoni alla Norma and she says to him: “Everyone likes pasta, right? It’s comforting.”

They eat together and talk about their lives and slowly, the man begins to open up to Tallie as the rain falls against the windows.

In This Close To Okay, there's a lot of food. My characters eat and make a lot of meals together. I always knew they’d make pasta as soon as they got back to Tallie's place because pasta is so comforting and making meals together can be so comforting, too.

One of my favorite Pasta alla Norma recipes is from Jamie Oliver: Sicilian spaghetti with aubergine (eggplant), baby capers, and basil.

*Pasta alla Norma
*Steak and potatoes
*Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (best if made after midnight)
*Endless cups of tea (& conversation) by candlelight
"The pumpkin chocolate chip cookies were perfectly gooey, both of them eating two and leaving nothing but tiny crumbs on the plates next to their newly refilled mugs of tea."
-This Close to Okay

Tallie and Emmett spend a rainy Halloween weekend together, eating and drinking and talking in Tallie’s cozy home. Pasta and red wine. Eggs and bacon. Cookies and tea. They also go out for meals. A diner, an Irish pub. Any This Close To Okay menu has to be filled with comfort food! And all of the deliciousness pairs well with rainy windows, soft blankets, warm drinks, autumn leaves, and spilling secrets.

-Leesa Cross-Smith
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