Constellations: Patricia Leavy's Second Must-Read Book This Year

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

This is a popular refrain about author Patricia Leavy: She's done it again!

Having just written that about her book Twinkle a few months ago (and about her book Shooting Stars last summer), I hadn't expected to write it again so soon. And's an honest statement that rings true, including for her latest book, Constellations. It might be some sort of record for goodness, because, as with every book she writes, I couldn't put it down. It's a story of family (born and chosen), kindness, love, and connection. 

Constellations: Patricia Leavy's Second Must-Read Book This Year

This is the third book in a series (following Shooting Stars and Twinkle), and each one resonates deeply within me. I delve into them again and again, and every time find new gems to ponder. I love these characters, the joy that radiates from them, and the incredibly important and timely themes that Leavy weaves in seemingly effortlessly. As with every book she writes, I come away feeling richer for having read it, more thoughtful about kindness and relationships, and happy to be in this world again. Highly recommended!

We were lucky enough to catch up with Leavy, and ask about Constellations, relationships, role of place in the book, and more. Here’s what she had to say… 

Please tell us about your new novel, Constellations...
It’s a love story about family – those into which we’re born and those we create. It also explores the human desire to belong and feel connected, missed opportunities and redemption, the true and multilayered nature of intimacy, and the power of love to heal and redeem. This book came to me like a bolt and held my hand. I hope it does the same for others. It’s very special to me; it’s my personal favorite of my own books, and the only one I read time and again when I need to feel warmth. The epilogue includes my all-time favorite line.

Constellations is a part of a serial, although it can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel. What inspired you to write this book?
I absolutely love these characters, not only Tess and Jack, but all of their friends and loved ones. While they have their struggles, like we all do, these are fundamentally good people who love each other in extraordinary ways. They model what love looks and feels like, day-to-day. Of all my books, these characters are nearest and dearest to me. When I finished Shooting Stars, I knew there were more stories to tell and I hoped readers would enjoy following their journey as much as I love writing about them. Twinkle came next, and now Constellations. I’m using these characters to explore love, to write a grand love letter to love in all its forms and with all its complexities, one that will unfold over at least five books. In Constellations, I really wanted to explore love, family, and intimacy. Specifically, I wanted to pay tribute to chosen families—those we build in our adult lives. 

Relationships are central to the narrative—romantic, friendship, familial. What is the story this novel tells about our intimate relationships?
Human beings crave a sense of belonging. We want to feel connected to others and like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s not always easy to have the relationships we desire, and sometimes we get in our own way, so the characters in the story struggle with a sense of missed opportunities, but they help each other through with gentleness and grace. When our friends or partners are unable to make the connections they want to with others, how can we lend our support and help build those bridges? That’s an act of love. The relationships in this novel are beautiful—they demonstrate what different kinds of love and intimacy look like and feel like—how we “do” love for one another in both the good and challenging times.

The novel unfolds over a series of holidays. Please talk about that.
Holidays can be a challenging time for a lot of people, whether it’s because they aren’t connected to their childhood family, or they find it difficult being with their relatives, or because they are lonely. I thought an exploration of love and family that took place over a series of holidays would provide unique opportunities so the story begins on Thanksgiving with major plot points occurring over Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. I used the holidays to celebrate the different meanings of family and what those different kinds of relationships look like in our lives. So for some holidays, Tess and Jack are alone as a couple, for others they are with Jack’s childhood family, and for others they are with their dearest friends who are their chosen family.

The novel takes place in Hawaii, Washington DC, and a small town in Pennsylvania. What was the role of place in this book?
The places are very much linked to the relationships in the book. The book opens with Tess and Jack alone in their Maui home. It’s their special place, where they both feel the freest. In fact, across these books, Tess and Jack always wear black, white, and gray clothing, except when they are in Hawaii where they wear bright colors. It’s meant to symbolize how in much of life they are learning to balance darkness and light, but in their special place, they live in color. DC is their home-base and those scenes are always fun because it’s where they connect with their friend group. They visit Jack’s family twice in Pennsylvania, which is really the heart of the book. I chose a small town because there is a commentary in the book about how we all search for a place where we belong. Tess has some revelations in Pennsylvania because it’s the kind of place that could be “anywhere USA.” 

As with all your fiction, Constellations can be used in the classroom in a range of college courses? How can educators use this book to teach?
As a sociologist who loved to bring films and novels into my courses, I’m always thinking about how a novel I write might be used as a springboard for reflection in a range of social science courses and the like. Constellations deals with issues surrounding intimate relationships, relational communication, family, abuse, healing, and gender. My hope is that professors in communication, sociology, social work, and other fields will consider it for their courses. I think the novel would be particularly well-suited to any classes that deal with the topic of family. Students often love reading fiction and it can be used to stimulate reflection and discussion on subjects covered in a range of classes. I’ve included a further engagement section with discussion questions and a wide array of activities to facilitate use of the book in college courses.

What does Constellations offer for the general reader?
It’s truly a novel that can be read by anyone. It’s ultimately a feel-good book, that mixes romance, drama, and humor. The scenes between friends make me laugh out loud. For some, the love story may be what’s most appealing. Tess and Jack have a beautiful relationship. The bonds of friendship in the book are equally strong. In the end, there’s a positive message that we can find where we belong, no matter our early life experiences. That’s a message for everyone. 

What do you hope readers will take away from Constellations?
We can build families of choice. True intimacy is possible when we love unconditionally, whether it comes in the form of sexual passion, the way we laugh with one another, or the way we take care of one another during our darkest or most vulnerable moments. Redemption is possible. If we reflect on missed opportunities, we can do things differently. Every relationship matters. Those we’ve loved are never really gone, even when they are no longer in our lives, and even when they return to stardust.

What's up next for you? 
I’ve been on a creative writing burst, in part due to the pandemic. There are two more Tess Lee and Jack Miller novels forthcoming: Supernova and North Star. I’m looking forward to releasing them. I’ve also recently finished two different novels, both love stories. One is set in Hollywood and explores the nature of passion in our lives—passion for love and work, and the other explores “the big” questions in our lives. For many years, I’ve also been working on a dark novel about betrayal in America, and I hope to finish that one eventually. I’m also working on a couple of nonfiction books about writing. Right now, I’m mainly just eager to release the remaining Tess Lee and Jack Miller novels. 

Constellations on Amazon

Constellations: Patricia Leavy's Second Must-Read Book This Year
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Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., is an independent sociologist and best-selling author. She has published more than 35 books, earning critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction and her work has been translated into numerous languages. Over her career she has also served as the creator and editor for ten book series with Oxford University Press, Brill/Sense, and Guilford Press, the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, and a blogger for numerous outlets. Patricia has received numerous book awards as well as career awards from New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the National Art Education Association, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. In 2016 Mogul, a women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the State University of New York-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” Her website is 


More interviews with Dr. Leavy here on Wandering Educators:

Read This: Why Shooting Stars is One of the Most Important Books You’ll Ever Read

Breathe Into Love: Twinkle is Already the Must-Read Book of the Year

Read This: Inspiration, Joy, and Life in Patricia Leavy's SPARK

Write This: Author Patricia Leavy on Setting, Inspiration, and Teaching in her New Novel, Film

Blue: Identity, Self, and Possibility

Read this: Living a Big Life in Patricia Leavy’s Candy Floss Collection


All photos courtesy and copyright Patricia Leavy, PhD, used with permission