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The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

This stunning debut novel set in New York City explores a relationship from two sides. What happens when life gets in the way?


It was a story that made sense. An old story, but one that felt truer for it. Young love goes stale and slackens. You change, and you shed what you no longer need. It’s just part of growing up.

I thought I had understood. It seemed so simple at the time.

We moved in on a humid morning in June. Our suitcases bumped and scuffed the walls as we climbed three flights of stairs, the rest of the boxes and furniture waiting unguarded in the foyer. The locks were clunky and finicky, resistant on the first few attempts. Sunlight streamed through the smudged windows, and the floorboards creaked beneath our weight. The apartment looked smaller than it had before, on the day we signed our lease. "I’m going down for some boxes," Evan said, holding the door open with one foot. "You coming?"


Who was this man next to me, his body curled up against mine? 

"I’ll be there in a minute," I said. I stood in the center of the room, alone, finding that I couldn’t breathe.

What else was I going to do? He had a job and a place to be. I didn’t, but I had him. I could feel the tremors of change even before we graduated, growing more pronounced as the date approached: time to get serious. We’d been dating for more than three years, and we loved each other, and my friends already had roommates, and I couldn’t afford to live by myself. So we signed a lease. We packed our things in shared boxes. It felt sensible and grown‑up. And maybe taking this plunge would repair whatever hairline crack had already appeared between us, in the late months of senior year. Double or nothing.

In New York, we settled into a routine along with our friends, accruing habit fast. We all endured the same things: shoebox apartments, crowded subways, overpriced groceries, indifferent bosses. What kept everyone going was the dream: store windows on Madison Avenue, brownstones lit golden in the night, town cars gliding across the park. Imagining what it would be like when you got there, someday. Manhattan was like a dazzling lifesize diorama. A motivation to work harder, stay later, wake earlier. Fantasy is the only escape valve – what’s all the pain worth without it? But not for me. I’d screw my eyes shut and try to imagine it, what the future would look like, what alchemy might transform our current situation. But nothing came. There was no thread of hope. Who was this man next to me, his body curled up against mine? What was this feeling of vertigo that sometimes came with the blurry edge before sleep? I realized that I had made a mistake. Evan wasn’t the one. We weren’t meant to be.

And so my life in New York grew smaller and smaller, a thorny tangle of dead ends. I rattled around in the tiny apartment. I hated my job. Evan was too busy. My friends were too busy. I was lonelier than ever. The problem was obvious. I was trapped in an airless bubble, with no plan to get out. My life lacked any escape.

Until, against my better instincts, I went looking for it in the wrong place.

More about the author

The Futures

Anna Pitoniak

'A cathartic read: a story that feels familiar yet wholly original, like every heartbreak ever' Marie Claire

A stunning debut novel set in New York City that explores a relationship from two sides. What happens when life gets in the way?

This is a story about falling in love, and of a relationship that's falling apart . . .

It's the story of a young couple, graduating from Yale and moving to New York in search of the shared future they'd always dreamed about. Of crisp morning strolls through Central Park, taxi horns and the bustle of tourists, salty hot pretzels and the glitter of Broadway and long summer days that stretch like shadows across the sidewalk.

It's a story of high expectations and missed opportunities, of growing up, taking chances and making terrible mistakes.

This is Evan and Julia's story.

This is a love story.

But nobody said it ends happily.


'The next great New York novel' Town & Country

'Tender and wise ... Pitoniak's voice is stylish and authentic, and perfect for exploring this rich territory: youth and love and New York City' Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles

'An unflinchingly honest tale of two young people trying to navigate expectations and learning to live with their own mistakes. A compelling and memorable debut' J. Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements

'The Futures reminded me of Brightness Falls, Jay McInerney's great novel of New York, for Pitoniak, like McInerney, possesses an instinctual understanding of the mechanisms that make the city run and a knack for embracing her characters' thornier sides. Utterly enjoyable' Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

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