From “a writer at the top of her game” (The New York Times) comes a bighearted and sharply funny debut novel about two estranged sisters and the crossroads they face after becoming unexpectedly pregnant at the same time.

Two years after the death of their mother, Jada and Maddy Battle both navigate unplanned pregnancies. Jada, a thirty-one-year-old psychology PhD student living in Pittsburgh, quietly obtains an abortion without telling her husband, but the secret causes turmoil in her already shaky marriage. Back home in rural Pennsylvania, nineteen-year-old Maddy, who spends her time caring for birds at a wildlife rehabilitation center, is paid off by the man who got her pregnant to get an abortion. But an unsettling visit to a crisis pregnancy center adds to her doubts about whether to go through with it.

Although Maddy still hasn’t forgiven Jada for a terrible betrayal, she goes to her for support, only to discover the cracks in the façade of her sister’s seemingly perfect life. As their past resentments boil over, the sisters must navigate the consequences of their choices and determine how best to care for themselves and each other.

With luminous prose and laser-sharp psychological insight, How to Care for a Human Girl is a compassionate and unforgettable examination of the complexities of choice, the special intimacy of sisterhood, and the bizarre ways our heated political moment manifests in daily life.

About the author(s)

Ashley Wurzbacher is the author of How to Care for a Human Girl and the short story collection Happy Like This, which won the 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award and was named a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, she currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and teaches at the University of Montevallo. Learn more at


"In a lovely and tender way, Wurzbacher presents a heartwarming novel about grief, sisterhood, and the scary but liberating power of choice."Booklist

"This is the heart of the novel: the story of sisters who figure out how to support each other, how to know each other, and how to love each other regardless of the choices either might make."—Chicago Review of Books

“Ashley Wurzbacher has written the kind of page turner you want to reread as soon as you’re done, a book that belongs, tragically and comically, to our moment––and to every moment that led us here. I laughed and cried and saw myself—saw every woman I’ve ever known—in the story of the Battle sisters.” —Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V

“Ashley Wurzbacher writes so well about the battle between the head, the heart, and the body—the rare, beautiful moments when they're all in harmony and the brutal moments they're not. How to Care for a Human Girl is a trenchant and bounteous story of two sisters fighting for autonomy and how even in the grips of indecision women must get to decide their own lives.” —Michelle Hart, author of We Do What We Do in the Dark

"Ashley Wurzbacher's How to Care for a Human Girl is a heartfelt, compelling story told in an artful blend of sophistication and beauty. This is a fierce look at family, resilience, and love. Wurzbacher is a powerful new voice in fiction."—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed