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There are the families you are born into and the families you choose. 


Suburban New Jersey—the quintessential quagmire of coexistence. Neighboring communities where people of multiple ethnicities and financial status converge at the local gas station, supermarket, and café— speaking in feigned and genuine cordiality snippets. People with whom we rarely envision sharing anything more of ourselves … until we do.

Seventeen years after losing the love of her life on 9/11, Lila, a nurse aide, and her teenage son Dante find solace in unlikely companions— a group of Mahjong-playing octogenarians. There's Lila's client Thea, struggling with Alzheimer's, and her sweet husband, Joseph; Mali, a lonely Holocaust survivor living far away from her only daughter; childless and recently widowed Frank; and the persnickety, divorced Gladys, whom Mali disliked from the moment the two met. When Brian, a duplicitous new neighbor, and Dante’s friends Rashon and Giselle join the mix, all their lives take surprising turns that raise questions about the concepts of family, loyalty, and love.

A bighearted novel with an endearing and diverse cast of characters, MAHJONG AT MARA’S illustrates the bumpy ride to understanding experienced by the complicated patchwork of people who make up suburban America.


"An hour later, having tried on a quarter of what she’d found, with two bags stuffed full of high-waisted jeans, miniskirts, and colorful wide-legged corduroys, she came across the wedding gown she’d designed twenty years ago. The memories flooded back. How naïve she’d been about so many things then, especially about what kind of people Dante’s father came from—the wonderful first impression they’d made at the family cookout, so different from their behavior after that horrible day when they had all lost so much. Perhaps, back then, if she hadn’t been so busy with her sketchbooks and learning the difference between silk and twill, she’d have understood the fabric from which they were truly cut.”


“A touching, multifaceted story about unexpected connections fostered by a shared love of an ancient game. Each member of this found family weaves a colorful thread into the greater tapestry of the novel."

—Heather Frimmer, author of Bedside Manners and Better to Trust


“In Mahjong at Mara’s, Debra Green paints a complex cast of characters—from teens to seniors, widowers to single moms—who persevere through a year filled with life, death, college applications, grow houses, new romances, orchids, and even a dognapping.  Fans of Clare Pooley and Elyssa Friedland will love this portrait of the hope that comes from human connection."

—Andrea J. Stein, author of Typecast


“Debra Green’s Mahjong at Mara’s is a beautiful portrait of mainstream America spanning age groups from teenagers to the elderly. Protagonist Lila’s life is central—though several secondary characters are so well drawn that they could also claim leading roles. This novel is a delight to read.”

                                                            —Adele Holmes, MD, author of Winter’s Reckoning


“For those of us missing community in these uncertain times, when we’ve had way too much of

our own company, Debra Green’s hopeful novel serves as a reminder that when we take a risk and reach out to each other, we may find we have more in common than we ever thought possible. Mahjong at Mara’s is a sometimes lighthearted, sometimes serious, but always heartwarming reminder that maybe, just maybe, all you need is love, understanding-- and a little friendly rivalry.”

—Deborah K. Shepherd, author of So Happy Together


“Mahjong at Mara’s, Debra Green’s generous, warmhearted new novel, weaves a compassionate tale of intergenerational connection and support. In the wilds of New Jersey, a hodgepodge of souls, including a group of Jewish and Italian retirees, a Black healthcare worker, her sixteen-year-old son, his friends, and a reluctant mob operative come together over mahjong, to the benefit and betterment of all. Green deftly handles her large cast of characters, building individual story arcs to a thrilling and suspenseful climax. Exciting and wise, Mahjong at Mara’s shows us that, regardless of age, everyone has something to teach and something to learn. It’s a worthy life lesson. This book will linger long after you’ve turned the last page.”

—Gail Lehrman, author of Across Seward Park


“No matter who we are or where we come from, life can be a difficult and often lonely journey. Debra Green’s Mahjong at Mara’s is the heartwarming story of how an unlikely group of people come together and forge ties that might overcome entrenched biases and a near tragedy.”

—Heidi Hackford, author of Folly Park


“Mahjong at Mara's showcases Debra Green's stunning talent for intertwining the stories of individuals whose starkly different lives share the impacts of their unique dreams and vulnerabilities. It also reveals the delicate beauty and fragility that underlies complex and often unexpected relationships.”

—Robin Rosen Chang, author of The Curator’s Notes


Debra Green’s Mahjong at Mara’s skillfully takes an ensemble set of diverse characters and briskly intermingles their lives the way mahjong tiles come together and separate to bring the players victory—or defeat. Young and Black,  old and white, or other, the characters draw the reader along on a journey well worth traveling together.

—Esther Erman, author of Rebecca of Salerno


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