Mulhauser's debut novel, Sweetgirl, has been compared to a lot of great works, including Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Let me just say right off that all of the comparisons are fully justified. From page one, Mulhauser creates fully-dimensional characters that populate this wild ride of a book. The dialogue is often quite humorous and brings to mind Elmore Leonard.
Sixteen-year-old Percy James starts off looking for her mother, who is most likely off on a meth binge. Instead, she happens upon an infant by an open window in the meth dealer's farm house. All comparisons aside, Sweetgirl is about the best debut I've read in years. Forget about Gone Girl. She's so yesterday. Instead dive into Sweetgirl. You won't regret it.— From Mark B.
“When her addict mother goes missing, Percy James is determined to find her before a winter storm descends upon their rural Michigan town. When Percy arrives at the drug dealer's house, the smells and clutter don't surprise her, but the discovery of a screaming infant does. Percy grabs the child and sets out to find help for her, no matter what the cost. Determined to save this little girl, Percy takes risks she never thought she could assume, and through the journey she finds she can save herself as well. Fans of Ron Rash will fall in love with Percy in Mulhauser's debut!”
— Teresa Steele (E), Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO
With the heart, daring, and evocative atmosphere of Winter’s Bone and True Grit, and driven by the raw, whip-smart voice of Percy James, a blistering debut about a fearless sixteen-year old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to an unexpected discovery, and a life or 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 that she 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 his 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—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 cannot 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 will be forced to confront the haunting nature of her mother’s affliction and finds her own fate tied more and more inextricably to 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—and told in Percy’s unflinching style, Sweetgirl is 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.