Unseen City

Winner of the 2021 IPPY Gold Medal in Literary Fiction!

Unseen City is a multi-generational portrait of New York and the unexpected connections between a lonely Brooklyn librarian, a widower returning to his roots, and a ghost still lingering in a home that was once part of an activist-founded farming settlement.

In a city teeming with stories, how do lost souls find one another? It’s a question Meg Rhys doesn’t think she’s asking. Meg is a self-identified spinster librarian, satisfied with living with her cat, stacks of books, and her dead sister’s ghost in her New York City apartment. Then she becomes obsessed with an intriguing library patron and the haunted house he’s trying to research. The house has its own story to tell too, of love and war, of racism’s fallout and the ghost story that is gentrification, and of Brooklyn before it was Brooklyn. What follows is an exploration of what home is, how we live with loss, who belongs in the city and to whom the city belongs, and the possibilities and power of love.

Unseen City was chosen as The Nervous Breakdown's September Book Club pick; included on Hidden Timbers Books' Bookshop.org list of Small Press Books We Love, CLMP's 2020 roundup, The Roadrunner Review's Best Books of 2020 list, Always With a Book's Best of 2020 list, Apartment Therapy's Best Fall Books list; and recommended as a book that should be on everyone's radar by Writer's Bone.

Buy Unseen City directly from the publishers, Red Hen Press, here.

Unseen City is also available as an audiobook!

A percentage of the proceeds from Unseen City will be donated to the Weeksville Heritage Center. Please visit their site and support their mission of preserving the unique history of Weeksville!


"Luminous...The presence of ghosts is easily believable, helped along by the characters’ shared sense of grief. Shearn’s nimble storytelling unearths a fascinating and fraught history."Publishers Weekly

"Like the ghosts who inhabit its pages, the novel lingers long after you’ve put it down."Kirkus Reviews

"Amy Shearn’s modern fable Unseen City is anchored by smart, sly humor. It delves into the layered social, psychological, and historical architecture of New York City, a place that’s paved over the bones of its dead, who are transmuted by needs of the living or clarified by their own unmet demands. Somewhere between the two poles lies the finite present, a co-constructed mythology that’s revealed to be volatile, and as susceptible to emotional anesthesia as it is to radical hope."Foreword Reviews

"A librarian, a ghost, and New York city walk into a book—and there you have a recipe for what I never realized is my perfect novel, Unseen City. What can be described as a love letter to New York, Amy Shearn’s novel serves as a romantic, haunting story that weaves together the metropolitan behemoth’s past and present."Apartment Therapy's Best Fall Books


"Amy Shearn's new novel Unseen City showcases her estimable storytelling skills and is a vivid portrait of life in New York City."—Largehearted Boy 

"A poignant tale exploring how we deal with loss and loneliness, Unseen City is steeped in joy, melancholy, and hope."—Bas Bleu

"Funny, spooky, sad, and yet hopeful, Amy Shearn’s Unseen City is at times a family drama, a ghost story, a commentary on race relations, an intense flirtation, and a love letter to Brooklyn. It’s a book of contrasts: the very real world of modern Brooklyn and a long-ago past in the same location. Odd
juxtapositions are woven together to create a 
compelling novel that combines the mysterious past with the relatable present, creating a story that is heartbreaking while also being full of wit and laugh-out-loud zingers."-Rain Taxi Review of Books


“Gripping, moving, and vital, Unseen City asks how human life might defy its lifespan—in the throes of love, the conviction of belief, and each person's mark upon a city that will survive them. For two days, I laughed at Amy Shearn's wry humor and gasped at her gorgeous sentences; I couldn't put this brilliant book down until its perfect final line (and I'm haunted still—which is appropriate, I suppose)!”—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, bestselling author of June and Bittersweet

“Atmospheric, poignant, well-observed, and sneakily funny, Amy Shearn's Unseen City is one from the heart, an absorbing read for all those who love Brooklyn, great writing, and the human spirit.”—Kevin Baker, bestselling author of The Big Crowd and America the Ingenious

​“If Amy Shearn’s fiction is as much fun to write as it is to read, that’s welcome news because it’s impossible to read her novels without wanting more, more, more. In true Shearn style, Unseen City is whip-smart, hilarious, and also deeply touching, and this story about mismatched New Yorkers finding common ground in a city they’ve decided—come hell or higher rent—to adore, will delight and charm you long after the last page.”—Courtney Maum, author of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You and Touch and founder of the learning collaborative, The Cabins.

“In Unseen City Amy Shearn has written a sad and funny and profound book. This is a novel about grief and human connection, about today and yesterday. And it is damn hard to put down.”—Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life and More Than It Hurts You

“I wish I had written this book. I wish I could publish this book tomorrow. It's smart, funny, and gorgeously written. I am in awe.”—Julia Fierro, author of The Gypsy Moth Summer and Cutting Teeth, and director of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop

Unseen City is a bold take on the way that history binds us and how our stories are woven into and overlap in the very interstices of the city. It is an entrancing story of falling in and out of love and grief with a city, a person, a home.”—Naomi Jackson, award-winning author of The Star Side of Bird Hill