A Swallow Press Book
“Trouble—much of it self-inflicted—follows Maggie Boylan, the unconventional hero of this powerful novel from Henson (Ransack). Maggie is ‘straight as a bullet, foul-mouthed, skinny, death-head-looking, Oxy-addled, thieving’—a folk hero for the fentanyl-ravaged heartland.…Despite its short length, Henson’s novel packs a punch: it’s harrowing, haunted, and often beautiful.”
“Henson’s stories are focused, relentless, and beautifully written.… I read every word of this book, and read it slowly. [Maggie is] a failure at almost everything—yet Henson allows her the subtlest of redemptions.…What a balancing act these stories are. It’s the best book I’ve read all year.”
John Thorndike, author of A Hundred Fires in Cuba and The Last of His Mind
“Michael Henson is one of the finest authors of literary fiction writing today. His Maggie Boylan stories give voice to those among us who are seldom heard. Maggie Boylan is an important work of art, beautifully rendered.”
Amy Greene, author of Long Man and Bloodroot
“Henson gets to the heart of working class and underclass people in ways that break your heart and then put it together again through the power of his art.”
Gurney Norman, author of Divine Right’s Trip and Kinfolks
Set in Appalachian Ohio amid an epidemic of prescription opiate abuse, Michael Henson’s linked collection tells of a woman’s search for her own peculiar kind of redemption, and brings the novel-in-stories form to new heights. Maggie Boylan is an addict, thief, liar, and hustler. But she is also a woman of deep compassion and resilience. The stories follow Maggie as she spirals through her addictive process, through the court system and treatment, and into a shaky new beginning.
In these masterful stories, we rarely occupy Maggie’s perspective, but instead gain a multilayered portrait of a community as we see other people’s lives bump up against hers—and we witness her inserting herself into their spheres, refusing to be rebuffed. The result is a prismatic view of a community fighting to stay upright against the headwinds of a drug epidemic: always on edge, always human.
Michael Henson is author of four books of fiction and four collections of poetry and has worked as an addiction counselor and community organizer. His work has been published in Still: The Journal, Appalachian Heritage, and many other periodicals. He is a coeditor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the annual publication of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. More info →
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When Dawn Jewell—fifteen, restless, curious, and wry—joins her grandmother’s fight against mountaintop removal mining in spite of herself, she has to decide whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place.
Weedeater picks up six years after the end of Robert Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, and continues the story of the people of Canard County, Kentucky, living through the last hurrah of the coal industry and battling with opioid abuse. The events it chronicles are frantic, but its voice is by turns taciturn and angry, filled with humor and grace.
In essays that take wide-ranging forms—ideal for creative nonfiction classes—established and emerging writers with roots in Appalachia take on the theme of silencing in Appalachian culture. They write about families left behind, hard-earned educations, selves transformed, identities chosen, and risks taken.