Ecco Press, Hardcover, 9780062400826, 256pp.
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
A blistering debut driven by the raw,
whip-smart voice of Percy James, a fearless
sixteen-year-old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to an unexpected discovery and a
life-and-death struggle in the harsh frozen
landscape of the upper Midwest
As a blizzard bears down, Percy James sets off to find her troubled mother, Carletta. For years, Percy has had to take care of herself and Mama a woman who's been unraveling for as long as her daughter can remember. Fearing Carletta is strung out on meth and won t survive the storm, Percy heads for Shelton Potter's cabin, deep in the woods of northern Michigan.
But when Percy arrives, there is no sign of Carletta. Searching the house, she finds Shelton and his girlfriend drugged into oblivion and a crying baby girl left alone in a freezing room upstairs. From the moment the baby wraps a tiny hand around her finger, Percy knows she must save her a split-second decision that commences a dangerous odyssey in which she must battle the elements and evade Shelton and a small band of desperate criminals hell-bent on getting that baby back.
As the storm breaks and violence erupts, Percy will be forced to confront the haunting nature of her mother's affliction, and come to find her own fate tied more and more inextricably to that of the baby she is determined to save.
Filled with the sweeping sense of cultural and geographic isolation of its setting the hills of fictional Cutler County in northern Michigan Sweetgirlis an affecting exploration of courage, sacrifice, and the ties that bind, a taut and darkly humorous tour de force that is horrifying, tender, and hopeful.
Advance Praise for
Sweetgirlis a gritty, compelling novel of a world where even a sixteen-year-old must confront what Edith Wharton called the hard considerations of the poor. Mulhauser depicts his people and their landscape with uncompromising fidelity. Ron Rash
Travis Mulhauser's Sweetgirl is a riveting novel about a bunch of drug addicts and drug dealers and boozers and quasi-orphans and quasi-parents dealing with the prospect of a missing baby girl during a massive snowstorm in northern Michigan. This sounds grim, and it can be grim, but this book is also far, far funnier than it has any right to be. If you re a fan of Charles Portis and Denis Johnson and if you re not, you should be then this is book is exactly what you ve been wanting, what you ve been waiting for. Brock Clarke, author ofThe Happiest People in the World
There's a big old neon heart pulsing on every page of Sweetgirl, like the sign to a bar you can t help but enter. I felt thrilled and shocked, and I couldn t stop turning the pages. Travis Mulhauser is a writer to be reckoned with. Lindsay Hunter, author of Ugly Girls and Don t Kiss Me
In its dark and deadpan hilarity, Sweetgirlreminded me of other great chroniclers of the criminal element found in our upper Midwest Tom Drury, Jim Harrison, the Coen Brothers in Fargo. But Mulhauser's Cutler County, a place of numbered days and last chances, is a part of that country we ve not seen before. Nor have we heard it described in a voice like Percy James's, filled with true wit, cunning, and the unwanted wisdom of a child denied a childhood. This novel comes on like the blizzard at its center, and leaves you dazzled and dazed not only by how much Travis Mulhauser knows, but how deeply he cares. Michael Parker, author ofAll I Have in This World
To try to nail down what Mulhauser is doing in Sweetgirl to say it's a comedy or a tragedy is to do the book a grave disservice. It's far too large of heart and full of ambition to call it any one thing. Like its young narrator, Sweetgirl seeks first and foremost and, finally, only the truth. It is a beautiful, harrowing, startling achievement. And it's one hell of a great story. Drew Perry, author of Kids These Days