Paige Michaels comes from the kind of wealth that few experience. The daughter of a notoriously successful banker who wielded great political power, she grew up in an extraordinary world peopled by the leaders of tomorrow. Now one mistake rooted in her past is threatening to unravel her perfect life.
After years as a stay-at-home mother in New Jersey, Mollie Johnston convinces her husband to move back New York, to fulfill her dream of living amid the bright lights. Mollie is uncomfortable in her own body and always worried about how others see her. Once she sees how the other half lives, will she come to see herself and her marriage more clearly?
Gwen McAndrews is the ultimate New York socialite, and the envy of those impressed by her grandeur, but is there more than meets the eye? Along with Paige, Mollie and Gwen, a cast of characters’stories are interwoven into the text—parents, children, care-takers, childhood friends, old lovers and spouses.
American Circumstance is a novel about appearance versus reality; how people’s lives and relationships look to others versus how they are experienced, and the complex ways that social class shapes identity and relationships.
American Circumstance provides a window into the replication of wealth, power and privilege. Through the protagonist’s work with an international women’s organization the novel is underscored with a narrative about how gender, social class and race intertwine on a global scale, and problems are all relative. There are also strong narratives about how family and friends influence identity and the things we say and don’t say to each other.
American Circumstance is grounded in autoethnographic observations and more than a decade of teaching and research about gender, class, race, identity and relationships. The novel can be used as supplemental reading in courses that deal with gender, social class, power, family systems, relational communication, intimate relationships and/or identity, or it can be read entirely for pleasure.
The author is happy to provide you with
sample class assignments, activities and discussion questions. If you adopt this book
the author is also available to Skype into your class for a book talk upon mutually convenient scheduling. To request class materials or schedule a Skype visit please email her at
firstname.lastname@example.org Click here to view and downloadSAMPLE CLASS ACTIVITIES
American Circumstance has been nominated for the following awards: Bonnie Ritter Book Award 2014 (Top 10 Finalist) sponsored by the National Communication Association
PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction 2014
The Mirra Komarovsky Award for the Outstanding Sociology Book of the Year 2014 sponsored by the Eastern Sociological Society
The Emily Toth Award for the Best Single Work In Women’s Studies by One or More Authors 2014 sponsored by the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association
Outstanding Qualitative Book of the Year 2014 sponsored by the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry
Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., is an award-winning independent sociologist and best-selling author. See more at
PRAISE FOR AMERICAN CIRCUMSTANCE “
American Circumstance kept me up! I couldn't put it down; I wanted to see how the characters’ lives untangled. I loved how Leavy challenged my cultural assumptions. This book would be a great teaching tool. Students will have a lot to talk about as they discover the’sociology of everyday life' embedded in the fiction.”
Laurel Richardson, Ph.D.,
The Ohio State University
American Circumstance was hard to put down; once you start reading, you are drawn into the story in such a way that the world disappears and time seems to stand still. The characters were so compelling that I couldn't look away, couldn't stop reading; even a bathroom trip seemed like an incomprehensible interruption. I needed to know if Paige, Mollie, and Gwen would resolve their issues. The open nature of the ending forces the story to stay with you for a long time as you try to imagine where their lives will end up. Leavy leaves so much unsaid because life is more about impressions of people, sketches of what we choose to see, rather than perfectly drawn archetypes. I could absolutely see this novel in a plethora of courses aimed at understanding the complexities and limits of life in the modern world. It is contemporary literature at its best: accessible and incredibly well-written, with prose that welcomes a wide-ranging audience, short enough to consume quickly (attractive for students), but with enough depth to satisfy you. Its sociological issues are apparent yet not overwhelming. Its message encourages critical, deep thinking. Ultimately,
American Circumstance is a novel that I have recommended not only to all of my friends as a great beach read, but also to my colleagues teaching Contemporary American Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies.”
U. Melissa Anyiwo, Ph.D.,
“This one is a real page-turner. Just when you think you know what’s going on, it turns out that events aren't at all what they seem.”
Eve Spangler, Ph.D.,
“Leavy shows that the lines between fiction and scholarship are beginning to merge, and that an academic can write an effective fictional account to represent the data of her sociological findings. Leavy writes in an engaging way that helps the reader ask important questions about class issues in America. This story keeps the reader interested and wondering why women make the choices they do.”
Margaret A. Robbins, in:
The Journal of Language & Literacy Education
American Circumstance is an essential component in my university teaching. Leavy weaves the social issues of gender, social class and norms into her story telling and with it her grasp of our individual and collective circumstances. She infuses life into core concepts of sociology. Our semester culminates with a skype interview with Leavy, which further excites and provokes student involvement. A must for Arts & Sciences, Humanities and Integrated Learning Courses.”
Mari Dias, Ph.D.,
Johnson & Wales University
“Semester after semester, my students look forward to reading
American Circumstance. The novel demonstrates the ways in which sociological thinking takes place in the lived experiences of others. Students greatly enjoy learning how our social location matters, from micro-level interactions to large-scale societal issues, as they follow their favorite characters through the story. Students confront and analyze difficult concepts includingsexual assault, structural inequality, and heteronormativity, all within one extraordinary novel.”
Lauren Sardi, Ph.D.,
American Circumstance is wonderful! The characters and story invite you into a world that is both familiar and unfamiliar. While many urgent social issues are raised for thoughtful consideration, the heart of the novel pulses with the experiences and emotions of three women who, while marked by many differences, all share a commitment to living hopefully in love. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole novel, from the first inviting words to the exquisitely poignant conclusion. Highly recommended!!”
Carl Leggo, Ph.D.,
University of British Columbia
American Circumstance is one of my favorite texts to assign to my sociology students. They not only enjoy reading it, but they also leave the classroom with a better understanding of core sociological concepts, including intersectionality, identity, relationships, and power. My students gain a better understanding of how wealth operates at both the micro and macro levels and how class privilege intersects with gender, race, and nationality.
American Circumstance is always a hit with my students and enhances our classroom experience!”
Cheryl Llewellyn, Ph.D.,
University of Massachusetts Lowell
American Circumstance had me hooked from page one. Patricia Leavy creates a compelling, enthralling world that beautifully illustrates what real love and partnership truly is while challenging our assumptions and pushing us to look at our own relationships. Expertly crafted and engagingly drawn. Pick this book up!”
Amy Leigh Mercree, Relationship Expert and author of
The Spiritual Girl’s Guide to Dating: Your Enlightened Path to Love, Sex, & Soul Mates
American Circumstance has a chick lit feel, but rather than following the tired chick lit formula, Leavy subverts the genre with characters that are multidimensional and events that are true-to-life. Paige, the central character, leads what seems to be a charmed life of wealth and privilege, but those characteristics do not define her. Leavy untangles the American circumstance in ways that are relatable and breathes depth into her characters.
American Circumstance is grounded in both sociology and feminism and is a pleasure to read.”
Jessica Smartt Gullion, Ph.D.,
Texas Woman’s University
American Circumstance in my mid-sized, upper division course on American Society and Inequalities. The book was an incredible supplement to the traditional textbook and students really enjoyed it. They read it quickly and were thoroughly engaged by it. They were able to understand complex sociological concepts by relating to the characters. I even had the students write their own fictional piece in which they developed a new character to add to the book. Leavy’s novel not only kept them interested, but it got my creative juices flowing and made for a much more exciting class.”
Amanda Kennedy, Ph.D.,