What are the boundaries between imagination and delusion? What would it be like to learn the life you believed in never really happened?


For more than twenty years, Ella has learned to live without her mother, learned to forget the woman with paranoid delusions who abandoned their small family the summer Ella turned ten, learned to accept the likely scenario that her homeless mother died on the streets. But when Ella’s father John dies unexpectedly, Ella begins to uncover a series of secrets. The unsettling questions raised by John’s death and Maggie’s unwanted reappearance send Ella on a journey to discover the truth – the truth about the woman who abandoned her and the man who raised her and why they kept their story a secret. This is a novel about loss and forgiveness, about imagination and that gift’s more menacing form, delusion.

Unfurled, Ig Publishing, October 2018


2019 National Reading Group Month Selection for
Great Group Reads


Interviews and Links

Playlist for UNFURLED at Large Hearted Boy

Interview with Jo Varnish at PANK

Interview with JJ Marsh at The Woolf


Praise for Unfurled

“Bailat-Jones creates a complex and nuanced portrait of a family torn apart by mental illness and of the rebuilding process, making this novel both fascinating and stirring.”

Publisher’s Weekly, starred review.

“Michelle Bailat-Jones has written a stark, haunting novel that explores the binds of family, of marriage, and of mothering and being mothered. In the wake of Ella’s father’s death, what appears to be an ending is in fact the beginning of unraveling a life’s worth of mysteries, as well as what it means to forgive others and forgive oneself. This is a gorgeous, sea-drenched book of exceptional lyricism that drew me in from the very first page.”

Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down

Unfurled is a poignant novel about the chaos of life, and the mind and heart. Bailat-Jones writes with clarity, control, beauty, and a crystalline understanding of people—our fragility and strength, flaws and virtues, wounds and recovery. A wonderful accomplishment.”

Ethel Rohan, author of The Weight of Him

“In the end, this taut and well-crafted novel resolves the mystery of the mother’s mental health situation, capping a jagged journey with a new truth. The novel more than succeeds at portraying how mental illness involves all the members of a family in an accessible and poetic style. Unfurled deserves a wide readership and many accolades.”

—Laura Moretz, Ploughshares. Read the full review here.

“Bailat-Jones writes with elegance and precision, much like a ballet dancer, using imagery of sea, storms, knots and a sailor’s respect for the ocean. But like a dancer, the artistry comes from strength. One of the loveliest and most haunting books I’ve read this year.”

—JJ Marsh, Bookmuse. Read the full review here.

“What I found fascinating about Unfurled was the way in which revelation and concealment act like two tectonic plates that are approaching each other and vying to dominate. … She writes with such emotional intensity that reading Unfurled suddenly seemed like the most urgent thing I needed to do.”

—Terry Pitts, at his marvelous book blog Vertigo. Read full review here.