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Where We Begin

2021 - Shortlisted


In the opening chapters of this novel, 17-year-old Anna is running into the night, fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known. Anna has her own secrets but so does her family. When she arrives at the home of the grandparents she has never met, she discovers the complex story of where she’s come from and questions who she wants to become. 

In deft and fluid prose, Nieman slowly builds a layered, nuanced and engrossing portrait of multiple generations of one family, showing how the grievances and traumas of previous generations can indelibly shape the lives of young people. This is a story of hope and love and discovery told through the lens of finely drawn and fully felt characters. Nieman’s storytelling shifts seamlessly between timelines and viewpoints. She sets up characters that we think we know and understand and then subverts our expectations — an enduring reminder that we can never fully grasp one another’s stories but that we should always be curious enough to keep trying.