Named by the National Book Foundation as a 5 Under 35 Author.  Finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction.  Winner of the California Book Award Gold Medal for First Fiction.  Winner of the Northern California Book Award for Fiction.


In Jennifer duBois’s mesmerizing and exquisitely rendered debut novel, a long-lost letter links two disparate characters, each searching for meaning against seemingly insurmountable odds. With uncommon perception and wit, duBois explores the power of memory, the depths of human courage, and the endurance of love.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, world chess champion Aleksandr Bezetov begins a quixotic quest. With his renowned Cold War–era tournaments behind him, Aleksandr has turned to politics, launching a doomed--and potentially lethal--dissident presidential campaign against Vladimir Putin.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, thirty-year-old English lecturer Irina Ellison is on an improbable quest of her own. Certain she has inherited Huntington's disease—the same illness that ended her father's life—she struggles with a sense of purpose. When Irina finds an old, photocopied letter her father had written to the young Aleksandr Bezetov—asking how one proceeds in a lost cause—she decides to travel to Russia to find Bezetov and get an answer for her father, and for herself.

Praise for A Partial History of Lost Causes:

“Hilarious and heartbreaking and a triumph of the imagination. Jennifer duBois is too young to be this talented. I wish I were her.”
— Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story
“Astonishingly beautiful and brainy . . . [a] stunning novel.”
— O: The Oprah Magazine
“I can’t remember reading another novel—at least not recently—that’s both incredibly intelligent and also emotionally engaging.”
— Nancy Pearl, NPR
“…Precise and unsentimental…Spinning an ambitious plot, unpredictable but never improbable, [duBois] moves with a magician’s control between points of view, continents, histories, and sympathies.”
— The New Yorker
“[A] terrific debut.”
— Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
“...Gorgeous...DuBois writes with haunting richness and fierce intelligence…A Partial History of Lost Causes is a thrilling debut by a young writer who evidently shares the uncanny brilliance of her protagonists.”
— Elle
“Tender but sharp-edged…Irina’s voice possesses a grim humor and quiet determination that is nothing short of charismatic.”
— The Daily Beast
“[A Partial History of Lost Causes] is an ambitious and remarkably assured work…That its characters remain humane, funny, and relatable throughout a thorny tale of Eastern bloc politics is a tribute to the author’s exciting, formidable talent.”
— TimeOut New York
“A Partial History of Lost Causes seems to assert that everything we strive for in life is likely to be, ultimately, a lost cause. But then why is the book so beautiful, so hopeful, so full of life? The beauty, hope, and vitality are all conveyed in the telling of this gorgeous story, rather than in the outcome. Such an important book coming from such a young writer should give us all hope in the glorious lost cause of American fiction.”
— David Mallmann at Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, WI
“[A] mesmerizing debut…a tour de force…”

Buy the Book

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Indiebound  |  Random House  |  Powell's Books