A historic presidential campaign changes the trajectory of a young Black man’s life in the highly anticipated debut novel from one of The New Yorker’s rising stars.
"Brilliantly written, piercingly smart, quietly subversive, Great Expectations will be one of the talked-about novels of the year.”—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, winner of the National Book Award “Cunningham’s remarkable first novel matches the scale of its namesake.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
I’d seen the Senator speak a few times before my life got caught up, however distantly, with his, but the first time I can remember paying real attention was when he delivered the speech announcing his run for the Presidency.
When David first hears the Senator from Illinois speak, he feels deep ambivalence. Intrigued by the Senator’s idealistic rhetoric, David also wonders how he’ll balance the fervent belief and inevitable compromises it will take to become the United States’ first Black president.
Great Expectations is about David’s eighteen months working for the Senator's presidential campaign. Along the way David meets a myriad of people who raise a set of questions—questions of history, art, race, religion, and fatherhood—that force David to look at his own life anew and come to terms with his identity as a young Black man and father in America.
Meditating on politics and politicians, religion and preachers, fathers and family, Great Expectations is both an emotionally resonant coming-of-age story and a rich novel of ideas, marking the arrival of a major new writer.
About the Author
Vinson Cunningham is a staff writer and a theatre critic at The New Yorker. His essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Fader, Vulture, The Awl, and McSweeney’s. A former staffer on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign and in his White House, Cunningham has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Yale School of Art, and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He lives in New York City.
“This is a novel of so many things—love and pride and pity and politics and sex and God and fatherhood—but, ultimately, it is about the human ambition to make sense of the troubled waters of our times. Brilliantly written, piercingly smart, quietly subversive, Great Expectations will be one of the talked-about novels of the year. I couldn’t help thinking that there was a touch of Fitzgerald in Cunningham’s words, borne back not just ceaselessly but also gracefully into the too-recent past.”—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, winner of the National Book Award
“The aptly titled Great Expectations announces Vinson Cunningham as a novelist of singular style, wit, and ambition. Read Great Expectations and see our recent past, our present, and even our future anew.”—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House, finalist for the National Book Award
“Vinson Cunningham’s Great Expectations is epic, intimate, and brimming with brilliance. Cunningham’s prose both soothes and scalds; he crafts a bildungsroman, a tragicomedy, and the panorama of an entire nation, juggling humor and sensitivity and honesty with ease. Great Expectations is a phenomenal, transfixing work, and Cunningham is a singular, dazzling writer.”—Bryan Washington, author of Family Meal and Memorial
“In Great Expectations, gospel is both a formative rhythm and a means of seduction. Cunningham writes thoughtfully about aspiration, fatalism, and the complexity of bearing witness to the creation of a mythology. I always look forward to reading his work.”—Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster
“Recent history becomes both thrillingly vivid and achingly past in Vinson Cunningham’s spellbinding debut novel, Great Expectations. A coming-of-age novel of the richest, most expansive kind, it’s a rare debut, one that feels both intimate and revelatory.”—Megan Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Turnout
“An electrifying first novel and bildungsroman of consummate artistry and sensitivity, honed vision and wit.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Alive in its intellectual detours, with Cunningham considering religion, race, sex, film, politics, fatherhood, and more . . . A top-shelf intellectual bildungsroman.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A theater critic at The New Yorker, Cunningham is one of my favorite writers working today, so I was thrilled to learn of his debut novel, which cheekily steals its title from the Dickens classic. . . . Great Expectations tackles questions of politics, race, religion, and family with Cunningham’s characteristic poise and insight.”—The Millions
“Vinson Cunningham is a brilliant culture writer and theater critic whose New Yorker pieces have made him one of the magazine’s rising stars, so I was delighted to see that the 2020 National Magazine Award finalist has now written a novel.”—Lit Hub