It should come as no surprise that Ayşegül Savaş’s new novel The Anthropologists (Bloomsbury, July) is about a couple searching for home and community, hoping to belong somewhere and put down roots. The 38-year-old author was born in Istanbul; grew up in Turkey, England, and Denmark; and went to college in Vermont, where she met her future husband, who is from Latvia. After graduation, they moved to San Francisco; they currently live in Paris.

“This is probably the most autobiographical book I’ve written,” Savaş says over Zoom from a book-lined room in her home. “There’s that sense of trying to make a life together when you have nothing that grounds you.”

The Anthropologists follows married scholarship students living in an unnamed city in a foreign country, each from a different culture. Asya is an anthropologist and documentarian who is filming in the local park; her plan is to portray “the slow and leisurely rot of a day.” Manu works for a nonprofit. Along with their friend Ravi, the expats eat too much, drink too much, and talk and talk and talk.

“I’m interested in the very, very brief time when one is young but also an adult: no responsibilities, no children—a sort of professional life,” Savaş says. “You pay your own rent but you’re still curious. You’ve achieved enough of an adulthood to be able to indulge in life. You have time for long meaningless philosophical conversations that go on late into the night. I wanted to portray not the experience of a particular expat or immigrant but the universal sense of growing up and trying to root yourself and also having aging parents and family far away.”

Asya and Manu have an elderly neighbor with whom they read poetry. “In Tereza’s presence,” Asya narrates, “the world seemed less urgent.... Sitting around the table, I felt that we should try and live like this, reassembling the world in poetry, where things were a little lopsided.”

“I wanted the book to not feel locked into its own age,” Savaş says, “but to have intergenerational relationships. These friends become substitutes for brothers, sisters, grandparents.”

In reviews, Savaş’s writing has been called sensual, cool, spare, and elegant. Cool and elegant describes the author herself. Lovely, with long brown hair, Savaş is erudite and self-possessed. She writes in English, is fluent in Turkish, and, she says, is “very good” in French.

“There’s a particular kind of reader who gets pissed off by my writing,” she says. “They want to know, where’s the plot? I even had an agent early on send me a description of how plot structure works and telling me it would be useful for me to keep in mind while I revised.”

Clearly, critics and readers don’t agree. Savaş’s first two novels were well received—and are steeped in storytelling and memory. In her 2019 debut, Walking on the Ceiling, a young Turkish writer reminisces about her relationship with an older British author who writes about Istanbul. They wander the streets of Paris as she tells him about her life, her complicated relationship with her mother, and the political situation in Turkey. White on White (2022) is the story of a young woman in Paris whose upstairs neighbor, an older painter named Agnes, shares stories as she unravels emotionally.

The Anthropologists, the plot of which hangs on Asya and Manu’s hunt for an apartment, has its roots in a short story titled “Future Selves” that Savaş published in the New Yorker in 2021. It was also about a couple looking for an apartment. “It was very solemn,” she says. “A serious short story, tonally different from this novel, but it was a satisfying framework to work in, the project of looking for a place to live. I thought I could expand it into a novel.”

Savaş’s nomadic life took her to Middlebury, Vt., in 2003, to attend Middlebury College. The school has a respected writing program, but Savaş never took a literature class. (“A shame,” she says.) Though she loved writing, she felt college was serious and studied anthropology and sociology. For her senior thesis, she spent a summer doing field work in Istanbul interviewing Kurdish women.

After graduation, she got a “terrible” job in San Francisco at a tech startup in 2007. On her lunch hour, she would write stories based on her field work.

“I was trying out my voice with short stories,” she says, “writing traditionally, experimentally—writing so many things.” She and her husband moved to Paris in 2012, because it was closer to Turkey and Latvia. But it wasn’t until 2018, when she attended a writing conference in Mexico, that she started working on a novel.

While at the conference, she went for walks with poet Paul Muldoon; these, she thought, would make a good framework for a novel. Her instincts were correct. She set to work on a draft that would eventually become Walking on the Ceiling.

“When I was ready to send it out,” she says, “my husband, who is a computer scientist, made an algorithm using keywords like experimental and international” to help find agents who might be a good fit. He came up with a list of 100 and suggested she send it to all of them.

“At that point, I knew no one and had no idea of the literary world,” Savaş says. “I was just looking for someone who would read my work. I decided that if I didn’t find an agent, I would stop writing fiction and get a PhD in comparative literature. I couldn’t spend years telling people, ‘I’m writing my novel.’ ”

These fears were unwarranted. “There were agents who understood what I was trying to do,” she says. In the end, she signed on with Sarah Bowlin of Aevitas Creative Management. “Sara was so attuned to my voice. That was all I cared about.”

Bowlin sold Walking on the Ceiling to Laura Perciasepe at Riverhead, who later took White on White. A few years after that, when Savaş was about to give birth to her daughter, Bowlin sold The Anthropologists to Callie Garnett at Bloomsbury.

“She was so enthusiastic and it was so great to hear that it was good,” Savaş says. “Callie didn’t ask for big structural changes, and it was perfect timing.”

One of the most exciting things about the novel, Garnett says, is that “it lives within the reality of secure rather than neurotic love. This strikes me as such a rare quality in the fiction of early adulthood; I didn’t realize how much I hungered for an alternative until Sarah sent this submission. The Anthropologists finds drama in daily observation.”

But for Bowlin, the novel’s themes—about home and belonging—are what make the book special. “She is asking a question here that is so universal,” Bowlin says. “How does one build a good life? And it’s a true pleasure to be with these characters as they both flail and ponder what that might mean.”

It’s a question with which Savaş—in both her work and her life—will likely continue to wrestle. “I don’t have a family home,” she says. “We moved throughout my childhood, and teenage years. The longest I have ever lived anywhere is Paris, which is ironic because I certainly feel like a foreigner in this city, and a newcomer. At the same time, I feel very attached to it, as I’ve felt attached to most places I’ve lived in, perhaps because I am looking for a home wherever I go, and I am rootless enough that I can set the foundations anywhere that I land.”