Still grieving his wife’s early death, DJ has spent the last three years—and the money from her insurance policy—collecting guitars, composing music, and continuing to shop the Brooklyn stoop sales and flea markets they’d always enjoyed. When his building is sold, he takes refuge in his younger sister’s half-finished basement, imagining a comfortable and solitary retreat in the small Hudson Valley town where they grew up. Instead, he finds himself caught up in her troubling divorce, drafted as caregiver for his 11-year-old niece, and unable to afford the storage unit crammed with hundreds of vinyl records and every other scrap of his former life. DJ gifts his niece a marbled glass egg, a porkpie hat, and one of his prized guitars. But what’s asked of him is not to give the perfect object—it’s to give of himself.
Winner of the Madville Publishing 2021 Blue Moon Novel Award, Provenance is a story of hope in ruin. With subtle poignancy and humor, it offers a fresh take on contemporary conflicts, exploring pivotal moments of sorrow, longing, and renewal in the lives of three deeply textured and indelible characters
What People Are Saying:
“If you’ve ever suffered a loss, if you’ve ever had to start over, you will find kinship and hope and even joy in Provenance, the story of a widower seeking to salvage his life after moving back to his small hometown in upstate New York. I cannot recall reading a debut novel imbued with such depth of understanding and compassion for its characters, or one that better captures the messy business of living. Sue Mell writes like a dream.”
-WILL ALLISON, author of the novels What You Have Left and Long Drive Home
"Provenance is a beautifully supple book about the power of renewal and the everyday, small redemptions hiding within families. Sue Mell artfully captures the hold of the past in all its intoxicating, tumbledown glory and sings it to life in the present."
- DOMINIC SMITH, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
“This novel taps into the characters’ reserves of motivation and strength in service of what we all want: another chance, and what might still be possible when our best efforts fall short.”
- AMY HEMPEL, author of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
"Sue Mell’s searingly beautiful prose and her truly troubled, truly decent characters make Provenance a gorgeous, unforgettable novel about learning how to value what is most important in life: those we love and those who show us how to be better.”
- SUSAN SCARF MERRELL, author of Shirley: A Novel
"Provenance is about moving forward, about compassion and companionship, about learning what to let go of and what to hold onto.”
- PETER TURCHI, author of Maps of the Imagination
"Sue Mell’s Provenance is a relatable, intricate novel about later-life reckoning that (like the antiques store it features) offers up plenty of treasures for the reader."
- DEBRA SPARK, author of Unknown Caller
“Wisdom of great depth and span marks each page of Sue Mell’s Provenance. The reader intimately experiences the characters making the difficult effort to recognize who they were and who they are, not for the sake of easy absolution, but for the intention of living more authentically.”
- KEVIN MCILVOY, author of One Kind Favor
"Sue Mell's Provenance is a novel of irresistibly messy lives, loves, and legacies that, ironically, reads immaculately. Not a letter, not a paragraph, is out of place in this beautiful, beautiful book."
- LIAM CALLANAN, author of Paris by the Book
"In clear-eyed, luminous prose, Sue Mell tells the story of a man submerged in grief and impossible yearnings who digs his way out of the remnants of a former life. D.J. scrutinizes his vanishing options with the startling honesty of a man bewildered by circumstance, adrift in his suddenly unrecognizable existence, but always articulate, always a charmer. In this wise and beautiful novel, everyone falls in love with D.J., including the reader."
- MEGAN STAFFEL, author of The Exit Coach
"Sue Mell is a master of quiet tension. Packed with exquisite prose, Provenance fills the reader with both admiration and anxiety—until the very end, when the main character, who fizzled away his previous life and has come to live in his divorced sister’s basement, realizes he might need to rethink his purpose.”
- JANE ANNE STAW, author of Small: The Little We Need for Happiness
"Long after I read the last page, this book sings in my heart."
- OLGA ZILBERBOURG, author of Like Water & Other Stories