Novelist Jakob Guanzon on the divide between scarcity and 'Abundance'

A novel cover and a photo of a person
Jakob Guanzon grew up in Minnesota and now lives in New York City. His debut novel, “Abundance,” was longlisted for the National Book Award in 2021.
Book cover courtesy Gray Wolf Press, photo courtesy of Iqra Shahbaz

Statistics about income inequality are stark. For example, two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

But numbers are inadequate when trying to convey the desperation of living on the sharpest edge of poverty.

New author Jakob Guanzon aims to paint a more gritty and throbbing story with his debut novel, “Abundance.”

With lessons partly gleaned from working on a landscaping crew when he was a Minnesota college student, Guanzon writes about a single father, Henry, and his son, Junior, who have less than $100 to their name.

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It is Junior’s birthday, and Henry decides to splurge on a meal at McDonald’s. While the boy plays on the indoor playground, Henry stuffs ketchup packets in his pockets for later.

That first chapter is titled, $89.34 — which is all the money Henry has. Each subsequent chapter begins with the updated amount of money Henry has left, which is both a striking literary tool and a heartbreaking reality check.

On this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, host Kerri Miller talks with Guanzon about the grim truth of poverty, the quiet despair of parenting without money and, how his years growing up in Minnesota influenced his writing.


  • Jakob Guanzon is a writer who grew up in Minnesota and now lives in New York City. “Abundance” is his first novel.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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