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Cover of The Mary Smokes Boys

Patrick Holland

The Mary Smokes Boys

  • fiction
  • ISBN 9780989360401

Grey’s mother dies giving birth to his sister, Irene, and he prays that she will be returned to him so he might protect her from the world as his father did not. This prayer, Grey believes, is answered in his sister. He becomes obsessed with protecting her purity and innocence while befriending the wild boys of the small town of Mary Smokes—horse-handlers and fox hunters and part-time timber workers—members of a small, vanishing tribe who find themselves caught between an old relationship with place and a new one that is exemplified by the highway that threatens their town.

Americans are about to discover Patrick Holland, a young writer with exceptional talent and recognition at the beginning of what is sure to be a lustrous career given his numerous awards and literary recognition for previous works. Holland’s kinship with Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses is palpable. The Mary Smokes Boys is heartrending and unforgettable, a suspenseful story of horse thieves and broken promises, of love and tragedy, of the fragility and grace of small town life and how one fateful moment can forever alter the course of our lives.



Longlisted for the 2011 Miles Franklin Award

Shortlisted for 2011 The Age Book of the Year

A 2011 Australian Book Review Book of the Year

A 2011 Adelaide Advertiser Book of the Year

A 2011 Readings Book of the Year

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Praise for The Mary Smokes Boys

Patrick Holland’s beautiful, beautiful novel is a tale that transports you through its realisation of place and its genuinely affecting story of love (for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers). And yes, for a language as pure and magical as I have read in a long time … A major work. 

Martin Shaw, Readings Newsletter

One of those books, one of those straight-to-the-heart, life-changing books.

Krissy Kneen
Author of Affection

Barely a scene or image is wasted ... He weaves Hemingway’s blunt sentences and carved dialogue with the old fashioned storytelling of a folk tale imbued with the dark romance of a Nick Cave ballad.

Jo Case
Author of The Age

The Mary Smokes Boys is a gem. The writing is absolutely terrific and the characters distinct and deftly revealed. This story is a heart wrecker.

Barry Lopez
Winner of the National Book Award for Arctic Dreams

Holland has created an affecting…norish yarn of life Down Under.

Publishers Weekly

The final portion of the novel… is riveting. A fine piece of work from a writer with real potential.

Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

The Mary Smokes Boys demands patience, but it rewards it, too—even as the promise of an indifferent world slowly takes its toll on Irene and Grey.

Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury

With a spare, stark style that unavoidably recalls Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy…Each carefully chosen word in Holland’s novel evokes a sense of loss, absence, and lack.

Sheila M. Trask, ForeWord Reviews