How to Care for a Human Girl: A Novel (Hardcover)

How to Care for a Human Girl: A Novel By Ashley Wurzbacher Cover Image

How to Care for a Human Girl: A Novel (Hardcover)


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From “a writer at the top of her game” (The New York Times) comes a bighearted and sharply funny debut novel about two estranged sisters and the crossroads they face after becoming unexpectedly pregnant at the same time.

Two years after the death of their mother, Jada and Maddy Battle both navigate unplanned pregnancies. Jada, a thirty-one-year-old psychology PhD student living in Pittsburgh, quietly obtains an abortion without telling her husband, but the secret causes turmoil in her already shaky marriage. Back home in rural Pennsylvania, nineteen-year-old Maddy, who spends her time caring for birds at a wildlife rehabilitation center, is paid off by the man who got her pregnant to get an abortion. But an unsettling visit to a crisis pregnancy center adds to her doubts about whether to go through with it.

Although Maddy still hasn’t forgiven Jada for a terrible betrayal, she goes to her for support, only to discover the cracks in the façade of her sister’s seemingly perfect life. As their past resentments boil over, the sisters must navigate the consequences of their choices and determine how best to care for themselves and each other.

With luminous prose and laser-sharp psychological insight, How to Care for a Human Girl is a compassionate and unforgettable examination of the complexities of choice, the special intimacy of sisterhood, and the bizarre ways our heated political moment manifests in daily life.
Ashley Wurzbacher is the author of How to Care for a Human Girl and the short story collection Happy Like This, which won the 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award and was named a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, she currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and teaches at the University of Montevallo. Learn more at

Product Details ISBN: 9781982157227
ISBN-10: 1982157224
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: August 8th, 2023
Pages: 352
Language: English
"In a lovely and tender way, Wurzbacher presents a heartwarming novel about grief, sisterhood, and the scary but liberating power of choice."Booklist

"This is the heart of the novel: the story of sisters who figure out how to support each other, how to know each other, and how to love each other regardless of the choices either might make."—Chicago Review of Books

“Ashley Wurzbacher has written the kind of page turner you want to reread as soon as you’re done, a book that belongs, tragically and comically, to our moment––and to every moment that led us here. I laughed and cried and saw myself—saw every woman I’ve ever known—in the story of the Battle sisters.” —Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V

“Ashley Wurzbacher writes so well about the battle between the head, the heart, and the body—the rare, beautiful moments when they're all in harmony and the brutal moments they're not. How to Care for a Human Girl is a trenchant and bounteous story of two sisters fighting for autonomy and how even in the grips of indecision women must get to decide their own lives.” —Michelle Hart, author of We Do What We Do in the Dark

"Ashley Wurzbacher's How to Care for a Human Girl is a heartfelt, compelling story told in an artful blend of sophistication and beauty. This is a fierce look at family, resilience, and love. Wurzbacher is a powerful new voice in fiction."—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

“I was smitten by this story of two sisters teetering on the edge of the rest of their lives, trying to let go and hold on to each other—and themselves—all at once. A tender portrait of the threads of grief and familial devotion, How To Care for A Human Girl asks the essential question of womanhood: what does it mean to live your own life?” —Danielle Lazarin, author of Back Talk

“Ambitious, evocative, and deeply empathetic, How to Care for a Human Girl eloquently examines the many facets of personal choice. In assured, calibrated prose, Wurzbacher plumbs the deep love and complicated history that binds two captivating, troubled sisters. This intricately layered novel is prescient, smart, and heartfelt—a compelling look at family, loss, and forgiveness.” —Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light

“Wurzbacher's novel is so tremendously pleasurable for its stylistic elegance and its utterly charming characters that you might fail to notice its clever interrogation of our current cultural divide. This book is sane, humane, full of heart, and very, very smart.” —Antonya Nelson, author of Bound and Funny Once

"Simultaneously funny and poignant, fierce and thoughtful, How to Care for a Human Girl asks questions about our political and social moment, but there are no positions here, just people, deeply human and full of loves both steadfast and uncertain." —Caitlin Horrocks, author of The Vexations 

“I loved this novel and its twisty, complicated, deeply loving and deeply alive characters. Come to be seduced by—and infuriated and moved and worried for—the Battle sisters and stay to re-consider all the various pressures, complexities, and powers that inhabiting a female body so often necessitates.” —Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

“I was deftly entertained and deeply moved by the Battle sisters’ journeys through love, lust, and loss. With tender writing, fully alive characters, and a story about womanhood, sisterhood, and salvation, this novel is a rare thrill, both charming and electrifying. I inhaled it.” —Aja Gabel, author of The Ensemble

"Ashley Wurzbacher is a prodigiously talented prose stylist with a supernatural ability to capture women in all of their complexity. With her debut novel, she delivers the beautiful, moving, and frequently hilarious story of Maddy and Jada, two sisters whose divergent paths lead them to a fraught, new togetherness. Wurzbacher's unflinching treatment of difficult topics—grief, class, pregnancy, ambition—is handled so brilliantly that you might not realize you're rethinking everything you thought you knew about freedom. A courageous and triumphant debut!"Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest

“A nuanced, brilliant, and balanced examination of choice and consequences and all the mysteries of the heart, How To Care for a Human Girl is psychological realism at its finest and most self-aware:  a novel that is at once richly insightful and utterly engrossing. And surprisingly funny, as well as heartbreakingly honest. Through love, death, marriage, betrayal, pregnancy, abortion, politics, and more, Maddy and Jada are two of the most sympathetic and fully drawn characters I’ve read in decades. I miss them already!" — Gregory Spatz, author Inukshuk and What Could Be Saved