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Finalist, 2019 Weatherford Award (Fiction) • A Great Group Reads Selection for National Reading Group Month from The Women’s National Book Association
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.
About the Author
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.
“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.”—Publishers Weekly
“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
“A devastating short fiction collection about the incestuous relationship between local law enforcement and drug dealers as well as the clients they both share—hapless and resourceful addicts, of which Maggie is queen. Henson’s collection is easily the best fictional account of the widespread meth and Oxy wreckage in Appalachia since Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.”—Kate Flaherty, Ploughshares