The Risk of Us, a novel, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 9, 2019.

“An emotionally complex and amazingly suspenseful novel about love and fear.”
–Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

The Risk of Us is available from your favorite independent bookseller, or online via IndieBound. It is also available in hardcover here and as an ebook here on Amazon. If you’re on Good Reads, you can add The Risk of Us to your “to-read” list here.

“It starts with a face in a binder. CHILDREN AVAILABLE, reads the cover.” So begins Rachel Howard’s intimate and heartbreaking novel about a couple hoping to adopt a child from foster care, then struggling to make it as a family. Seven-year-old Maresa arrives with an indomitable spirit, a history of five failed foster care “placements,” and a susceptibility to angry panic attacks fueled by memories of abuse. Maresa’s new foster mother, whose name the reader never learns, brings good intentions but also her own history of trauma, while her husband’s heart condition threatens to explode. These three flawed but deeply human characters want more than anything to love each other–but how does a person get to unconditional love? Over the course of a year, as Maresa approaches the age at which children become nearly impossible to place, all three must discover if they can move from being three separate people to a true family—or whether, almost unthinkably, the adoption will fail.

Written in a spare and thought-provoking style evoking aspects of Jenny Offill and Rachel Cusk, The Risk of Us deftly explores the inevitable tests children bring to a marriage, the uncertainties of family life, and the ways true empathy obliterates our defenses.

“It’s a triumph of a book that captures an essential truth not just about how it feels to foster an already formed human being, but about the fragile, shape-shifting quality of any family. Raising a child is always a leap of faith, motivated by love, which is something this narrator has stores of.” –San Francisco Chronicle, full review here

Praise for The Risk of Us:

“I’ve never read anything so beautiful about the intricacies of adoption—the process itself, and the seldom-talked-about aftermath. The prose is elegant and compressed; I often had to stop reading to catch my breath. Anyone who has ever loved a child, in any capacity, should read this book.”
— Jamie Quatro, author of I Want to Show You More and Fire Sermon 

Rachel Howard has given us a portrait of family-building and attachment that is at once beautiful and painful, serious and funny, page-turning and insightful. I was deeply moved by this novel, a powerful reminder of the risks we take on whenever we love anyone.
–Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting


Rachel Howard’s The Risk of Us (so accurately titled) is a novel of deep pain yet also laughs – lots of them. Nothing is easy in this book, and that’s as it should be. With risk comes a kind of awesome grace. A wonderfully written and candid examination of what it means to be a family.
–Peter Orner, author of Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge and Love and Shame and Love

This book reads like a thriller. A beautiful story about connection and love despite and beyond trauma.
–Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives

The Risk of Us is a spare, poetic, and fearless narrative that explores the question of what makes—and keeps—a family together. Be prepared for an absorbing, unflinching chronicle of the formidable difficulties and vast rewards of love.
–Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean and Drifting House

Rachel Howard works with an elegant complexity, rendering family life with its necessary cocktail of pain and humor and pathos. She’s the kind of writer I admire most: an unflinching, savage, and ultimately tender eye trying to make sense of all our confusions.
–Joshua Mohr, author of Sirens and All This Life