Sweetgirl

Travis Mulhauser

As the first flakes of a thick blizzard fall, sixteen-year-old Percy James sets off to find her mother.

For years, Percy has taken care of herself and her Mama, Carletta —a woman who’s been unravelling 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. A two-bit criminal, as incompetent as he is violent, Shelton has been smoking his own cook and grieving the death of his beloved Labrador, Old Bo.

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 from neglect – a split-second decision that is the beginning of 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. Knowing she and the child can’t make it alone, Percy seeks help from Carletta’s ex, Portis Dale, who is the closest thing she’s ever had to a father. As the storm breaks and violence erupts, Percy is forced to confront the devastating nature of her mother’s affliction and finds her own fate tied more and more inextricably to the baby she is determined to save.

Pervaded by the bleak isolation of its setting, Sweetgirl is a moving exploration of the inspiring power of innocence and courage in the midst of desperate poverty – a taut and darkly humorous tour-de-force that is horrifying, tender, and hopeful.

Reviews of Sweetgirl

  • ‘So, so compelling. Read-in-a-day, stay-up-all-night compelling’ Stylist

    ‘Darkly humorous . . . this book must be read’ Literary Review

    ‘Blackly comic . . . featuring echoes of True Grit’s Mattie Ross and Winter’s Bone’s Ree Dolly, Percy is a fearless, funny and stubborn leading lady’ Shortlist

    ‘Compulsively readable . . . finish the first chapter and you will be hooked’ Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire

    ‘If you’re a fan of Charles Portis and Denis Johnson this book is exactly what you’ve been waiting for’ Brock Clarke, author of The Happiest People in the World

    ‘Gritty, compelling . . . Mulhauser depicts his people and their landscape with uncompromising fidelity’ Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall

    ‘This novel comes on like the blizzard at its centre, and leaves you dazzled and dazed not only by how much Travis Mulhauser knows, but how deeply he cares’ Michael Parker, author of All I Have in This 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 couldn’t stop turning the pages’ Lindsay Hunter, author of Ugly Girls and Don’t Kiss Me

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