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“A big project knocking around in a small package, portending even bigger projects ahead.”—New York Times
“A little Kafkaesque, a little Hitchcockian, a little Freaky Friday, but McElroy makes this dizzying story their own.”—Electric Literature
From the acclaimed author of The Atmospherians, a gender-bending, body-switching novel that explores marriage, identity, and sex, and raises profound questions about the nature of true partnership.
When Eli leaves the cramped Bulgarian apartment he shares with Elizabeth, his more organized and successful wife, he discovers that he now inhabits her body. Not only have he and his wife traded bodies, but Elizabeth, living as Eli, has disappeared without a trace. What follows is Eli’s search across Europe and to America for his missing wife—and a roving, no-holds-barred exploration of gender and embodied experience.
As Eli comes closer to finding Elizabeth—while learning to exist in her body—he begins to wonder what effect this metamorphosis will have on their relationship and how long he can maintain the illusion of living as someone he isn’t. Will their new marriage wither completely? Or is this transformation the very thing Eli and Elizabeth need for their marriage to thrive?
A rich, rewarding exploration of ambition and sacrifice, desire and loss, People Collide is a portrait of shared lives that shines a refreshing light on everything we thought we knew about love, sexuality, and the truth of who we are.
Isle McElroy (they/them) is a non-binary author based in New York. Their writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, The Cut, GQ, The Guardian, Vogue, Bon Appétit, and other publications. They have received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Workshop, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and they were named one of The Strand's 30 Writers to Watch. In May 2021, Isle founded Debuts & Redos, a reading series for authors who published books during the pandemic. Their first novel, The Atmospherians, was named an Editor's Choice by the New York Times and a book of the year by Esquire, Electric Literature, Debutiful, and many other outlets.
"A more agile, universal book, with its title alluding to the randomness of human connection. It’s a variety of rom-com, really, that somewhat lost art. . . . [People Collide's] naturalness and ease with the most fundamental questions of existence make it a big project knocking around in a small package, portending even bigger projects ahead." — Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times
"People Collide takes a sudden turn in its final pages, building toward an ending that’s genuinely moving and redemptive, though not in the way the reader has been expecting. The finale is so good, in fact, that it elevates the entire book, making it one of the year’s most compelling reads. Ultimately, McElroy discovers that gender-swap narratives may really be about tracing the wavy line between envy and desire." — Charlie Jane Anders, Washington Post
"People Collide's Freaky Friday concept covers a deep exploration of marriage, love, and the ways we know one another—and don't—as well as how slippery a sense of self can be when so much of how we navigate the world depends on how it sees us." — Ilana Masad, NPR
"A hilarious, riveting novel of a married American couple's body swap." — San Francisco Chronicle
"A creative, well-written exploration of marriage, gender, and desire." — Kirkus Reviews
"Engrossing . . . an impressive twist on the familiar trope of marital ennui." — Publishers Weekly
"Compelling, hilarious, and thought-provoking, this is a fascinating Freaky Friday-like thought-experiment that questions the performance and expectations of gender roles, the body-mind puzzle, how class can define a person’s perspective, and the definition of identity." — Booklist
"Beyond the gender binary and the public's assumptions based upon appearances, McElroy's insightful novel also examines class, privilege, the art world, and family relationships....People Collide is sly, clever, funny, provocative, and compelling. It offers a world and a story to get lost in." — Shelf Awareness
"[People Collide] deftly explores partnership, identity, and sex." — Rolling Stone
"Expertly interrogates gender roles and questions the ties that bind lovers together." — Vogue
"People Collide dives deeper into gender and sexuality with the same sharp wit [as their first novel." — Them
"A fresh take on a classic trope." — The Millions
"Fascinating ... an entertaining, thoughtful depiction of how we choose to exist, and its implications for how we love." — Elle
"A little Kafkaesque, a little Hitchcockian, a little Freaky Friday, but McElroy makes this dizzying story their own." — Electric Literature
"[A] profound exploration of marriage, identity, and sex." — Nylon Magazine
"McElroy is sharp on the collaborative failures endemic to love, and the kind of oneness that creates separation. In People Collide, that separation is explored through the body with wonder and frankness." — Raven Leilani, author of Luster
"A profound and moving meditation on love and commitment swapped into the body of a gripping literary thriller—I predict Isle McElroy’s People Collide will inaugurate an entire genre." — Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby
"People Collide is spectacular. McElroy has given us a work of art that's original, stylish, and frequently masterly in the ways it explores the porous and mutable nature of bodies, selves, partnerships, and what we call love. Bravo." — Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different
"People Collide asks how the ambition, power, sweetness, and deep-feeling of our bodies gets policed by those who perceive us, and how we sometimes wind up hurting each other as a result. McElroy writes their characters with compassion for human pain and bumbling, but makes room for all our complexity and occasional grace too. This is the queer novel I didn’t know I so badly needed." — CJ Hauser, author of The Crane Wife