The Fifty-First State

The Fifty-First State


“…a clear-eyed and tender look at the mistakes we make and how forgiveness can heal. There are no perfect endings, but there are ways forward.”

— Jan Blodgett, for Library Journal


A novel of grief and renewal, set in rural South Jersey

Hallie and Josh Corson share a father but little else—until a grisly highway accident leaves them both without parents. Forced to leave her New York City life as an aspiring photographer and return to the rural southern New Jersey town where she and Josh grew up, Hallie soon finds herself managing not only her family’s insolvent tomato farm, but also, Josh’s transition to adulthood. Struggling to become both a parent and a sister, Hallie must help Josh navigate his final years of high school in the shadow of grief while coping with the escalating threat posed by a violent former employee of their father’s. Amid a lush natural landscape where toxins have poisoned vulnerable wildlife, Josh draws on a newfound inner-strength to grapple with his own coming-of-age which, despite his grief, is replete with a vibrant romantic and intellectual awakening. He and Hallie grow in ways they never expected, and ultimately, they discover that even in death’s wake lives can change for the better.



 Hear Lisa read The Fifty-First State’s prologue, “The Accident,”  for The Drum



Reviews and Praise



“Ultimately, bravery, love and hope are celebrated in The Fifty-First State, a state that is imagined, a state in which a better life is possible.”
(Read the full review)

— Debra Leigh Scott, for the New York Journal of Books

An “engaging … story of building family where one was fractured, and how friends and neighbors create community during times of unbearable pain.”
(Read the full review)

— Jacqueline Cutler, for The Star-Ledger

“Deeply affecting and compulsively readable, The Fifty-First State displays Lisa Borders’ emotional acuity, first-rate skills as a storyteller, and profound empathy not only for her two compelling main characters but for an oft-neglected region and a disappearing way of life.”

— Christopher Castellani, Author of Leading Men and All This Talk of Love

“It’s funny that I felt so safe in the world of a novel that opens with heart-stopping tragedy (in the best prologue since The Corrections); it’s because Lisa Borders writes with such empathy, humor and hope that she holds the reader’s heart in her hands as well as her characters’. And as a Jersey Girl, I can vouch Borders writes with the authenticity to match Springsteen and David Chase, while mapping out new territory. I love this novel.”

— Jenna Blum, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Those Who Save Us,
The Stormchasers and The Lost Family

The Fifty-First State is an embrace of a novel—warm, intimate, enveloping—and, like all the best embraces, it starts with a thrill and ends before you are entirely ready to let go. I read it in one sitting and would have found a way to do the same even if it were twice as long.”

—Yael Goldstein Love, author of The Passion of Tasha Darsky

The Fifty-First State is a place of tenderness and terror, with beautiful vistas of generosity of heart. I read this novel in one sitting, moved by its deeply imagined coming-of-age story, grateful for a writer whose compassion is matched by her talent.”

— Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away and Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

“A big-hearted novel about the surprises—big and small, tragic and gloriously sweet—that turn the tables on seemingly quotidian lives. The Fifty-First State is a place where good news and fluke disasters live side by side, whether in the lurking menace of a sorry neighbor or the shifting nuances of developing love. That is to say, a delightfully realistic world readers will enthusiastically recognize as their own.”

— Daphne Kalotay, author of Blue Hours, Sight Reading and Russian Winter

The Fifty-First State is a riveting, intricately detailed, passionate novel, with a powerhouse pair of characters that will fascinate and perplex you from the opening page until the final gorgeous paragraph. Lisa Borders is a writer who not only understands how to break your heart, but also how to piece it together again.”

— Scott Heim, author of Mysterious Skin and We Disappear

“Lisa Borders is a writer of fine emotional intelligence and boundless compassion for her characters. In The Fifty-First State, a story of finding family after devastating loss, estranged siblings Hallie and Josh face problems so credible and realized that I worried for them as if they were friends of mine, and they surprised me in the way friends do.”

— Sheri Joseph, author of Where You Can Find Me, Stray and Bear Me Safely Over