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Book of Extraordinary Tragedies


From the best-selling author Joe Meno, a moving novel about the impossibility of fate and family

Forthcoming: 9/6/22

$17.95 $13.46

What people are saying…

“At heart, these are good people, in tough circumstances, making the same mistakes that many of us make. Will they allow themselves the chance to obtain happiness? A family of gifted individuals can’t seem to stop sabotaging their own lives, but you’ll want them to.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Meno knows how to make you love his characters, want what they want. But don’t think he’s going to let things turn out well for them.”
New York Times Book Review

“I don’t know how Joe Meno does it—if I did know, I’d copy him. This book has such velocity that it generates wind, yet it is meditative and steeped in love, music, and human connection. It’s stunning.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

“Set on Chicago’s southside, this is a quirky, tender, and absurdly funny coming- of-age novel about not only caring for the ones we love, but also tending to the dreams they have for our future. It’s a novel about work and the relentless grind of surviving paycheck to paycheck. Joe Meno writes beautifully of the way tragic stories become a kind of inheritance in this bittersweet love letter to the immigrants who built Chicago.”
—Leigh Stein, author of Self Care

“’Catastrophe will never let you down,’ we’re told in Joe Meno’s deeply felt new novel, one that plumbs the depths of family, all the painful ways we’re bound to the people who shaped us, and all the generations previous. But having been a fan of Meno’s work for so long, I also know that he will never let you down, that he will find some measure of the extraordinary in any story, some deeply human and beautiful thing that keeps us reading. A sensitive and imaginative work by a writer who deserves every reader.”
—Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

Included in Adam Morgan’s 2022 Chicago Books List


Aleksandar and Isobel are siblings and former classical music prodigies, once destined for greatness. As the only Eastern European family growing up on their block on the far southside of Chicago, the pair were inseparable until each was forced to confront the absurdity of tragedy at an early age and abandon their musical ambitions.

Now in their twenties, they find themselves encountering ridiculous jobs, unfulfilling romantic relationships, and the outrageousness of ordinary life. Doomed by fate, a family history of failure, an odd mother, an absent father, and a younger brother with a peculiar fondness for catastrophes, the two siblings have all but given up.

But when an illness forces Isobel and her three-year-old daughter to move back into the family home, Aleks becomes deeply involved in the endless challenges that surround his relatives. Once Isobel begins playing cello again, Aleks comes to see a world of possibility and wonder in the lives of his extraordinarily complicated family.

Told in Aleks’s exuberant voice, and full of as much comedy as tragedy, this entertaining novel asks, Is it ever truly possible to separate our fates from those we’ve come to love?

Book Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Published: 9/6/22
  • IBSN: 9781636140612
  • e-IBSN: 9781636140629
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781636140605


JOE MENO is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. Winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a finalist for the Story Prize, Meno is the best-selling author of several novels and short story collections including Marvel and a Wonder, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, and Hairstyles of the Damned. He is a professor in the English and Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Book of Extraordinary Tragedies is his latest work.

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