What Jonah Knew: A Novel (Paperback)
“A spellbinding literary thriller packed with psychological suspense and profound questions about motherhood, trauma and how death illuminates life.”—Amy Tan, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and Where the Past Begins
“Barbara Graham is a literary alchemist. What Jonah Knew not only grabs you from the first page, it makes the mystical believable and the human predicament shine with wit, wisdom, and love.”—Tara Brach, meditation teacher and bestselling author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion
A seven-year-old boy inexplicably recalls the memories of a missing 22-year-old musician in this psychological thriller about the fierce love between mothers and sons across lifetimes, a work of gripping suspense with a supernatural twist that will mesmerize fans of Chloe Benjamin and Lisa Jewell.
Helen Bird will stop at nothing to find Henry, her musician son who has mysteriously disappeared in upstate New York. Though the cops believe Henry’s absence is voluntary, Helen knows better.
While she searches for him—joined finally by police—Jonah is born to Lucie and Matt Pressman of Manhattan. Lucie does all she can to be the kind of loving, attentive mother she never had, but can’t stop Jonah’s night terrors or his obsession with the imaginary “other mom and dog” he insists are real.
Whether Jonah’s anxiety is caused by nature or nurture—or something else entirely—is the propulsive mystery at the heart of the novel.
All hell breaks loose when the Pressmans rent a summer cottage in Aurora Falls, where Helen lives. How does Jonah, at seven, know so much about Henry, Helen’s still-missing son? Is it just a bizarre coincidence? An expression of Jung’s collective unconscious? Or could Jonah be the reincarnation of Henry?
Faced with more questions than answers, Helen and Lucie set out to make sense of the insensible, a heart-stopping quest that forces them to redefine not just what it is to be a mother or a human being, but the very nature of life—and death—because of what Jonah knows.
About the Author
Barbara Graham is an essayist, playwright, and author who has written for Time; O, The Oprah Magazine; Glamour; More; National Geographic Traveler; and Vogue. She is a columnist for Grandparents.com and has two granddaughters.
“Fans of compelling fiction might want to check out this psychological thriller by Barbara Graham that delves into the concept of past lives, while also exploring trauma and memory through a variety of lenses, including Tibetan Buddhism.” — Parade
“This riveting psychological thriller raises provocative questions about life and death.” — People (Best New Books)
“In Graham's genre-bending fiction debut, two women’s lives become intertwined in a heartrending story about grief, trauma, and the love between mothers and sons. . . . The emotional payoff [is] well worth the effort. For mystery fans who like to ponder the larger issues.” — Booklist
"Both spellbinding and full of heart." — Saturday Evening Post
“Barbara Graham has succeeded not only in writing an engrossing murder mystery, but one that raises fundamental questions about birth, death, and whether we live one life or many. What Jonah Knew is also a testament to mother love, how strong that bond becomes in life and even after death. An engrossing read.” — Woman Around Town
"A terrific mystery, but it is more. Readers looking for a philosophical examination of the life and its unknowns will take to this book immediately." — Great Mysteries & Thrillers
"A spellbinding literary thriller packed with psychological suspense and profound questions about motherhood, trauma, and how death illuminates life.” — Amy Tan, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and Where the Past Begins
"I was hooked from the very beginning by the wonderful characters, unique plot, and mystical influences of this fine, complex thriller." — Anne Lamott, bestselling author of Bird by Bird and Dusk, Night, Dawn
"Both a riveting mystery and a deep dive into the impact of grief, What Jonah Knew offers us not only hope but a fascinating meditation on the nature of love, identity and reality itself.” — JoAnne Tompkins, author of What Comes After
“Barbara Graham writes with clarity, courage, and heart. What Jonah Knew shines light on complicated issues and brings the reader to a new understanding of what it means to be fully human.” — Molly Giles, author of Wife with Knife and Rough Translations, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
"Profoundly entertaining and entertainingly profound. What Jonah Knew is a celebration of the vital and powerful ties that bind us—to our children, to our selves, and to each other—across space and time." — Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness
“In this captivating novel, Barbara Graham takes us straight to the heart of devastating human emotion, love, loss, and the mysteries of life and death. What Jonah Knew is a metaphysical journey wrapped up in the breathtaking pages of a psychological thriller.” — Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten
“Barbara Graham is a rare talent who blends comic brilliance with psychological and spiritual insight. What Jonah Knew plumbs the depths of the human heart while ingeniously tackling life’s hardest questions.” — Mark Matousek, author of Sex Death Enlightenment
“Barbara Graham is a literary alchemist. What Jonah Knew not only grabs you from the first page, it makes the mystical believable and the human predicament shine with wit, wisdom, and love.” — Tara Brach, meditation teacher and author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion
“Barbara Graham’s shimmering novel brings new meaning to the concept of inherited family trauma and the very divide between life and death.” — Mark Epstein, MD, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life and The Zen of Therapy
"I love What Jonah Knew. As a Buddhist teacher and a reincarnation skeptic I was delighted to find that having read the first page, I read it straight through cheering the book's wit and complexity, and wondering, after all, who knows?” — Sylvia Boorstein, Buddhist meditation teacher and author of It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness