Black River is a beautifully wrought debut novel with strong echoes of two of my favorite authors, Kent Haruf and Larry McMurtry. Set in Montana it is the story of of Wes Carver, a former corrections officer who has returned to his home town of Black River with his wife's ashes and the news that the man who horribly maimed him is up for parole. the novel moves easily back and forth in time and explores the themes of forgiveness and redemption in restrained, controlled prose. This is a must-read.
“This debut set in the American West follows Wes Carver, a former corrections officer whose passion in life was playing the fiddle until his hands were ruined during a prison riot. Years later, following the loss of his wife to cancer, Wes returns to the small prison town in Montana to scatter his wife's ashes and speak at the parole hearing of the inmate who ruined his life. He struggles to accept the possibility that the inmate has found God, especially as his own faith is hanging on by a thread. Hulse's writing is like the river at the center of her novel, a quiet surface covering raging emotions underneath, and her descriptions of music are breathtakingly beautiful. Discover a wonderful new talent!”
— Nancy Solberg, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
An Indie Next Title - An Indies Introduce Title - Long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
"Impressive . . . A] tough, honest novel by a surprisingly wise young writer." -- Washington Post
"A complex and powerful story--put Black River on the must-read list." -- Seattle Times
Wes Carver returns to his hometown--Black River, Montana--with two things: his wife's ashes and a letter from the parole board. The convict who once held him hostage during a prison riot is up for release. For years, Wes earned his living as a corrections officer and found his joy playing the fiddle. But the riot shook Wes's faith and robbed him of his music; now he must decide if his attacker should walk free. With "lovely rhythms, spare language, tenderness, and flashes of rage" (Los Angeles Review of Books), S. M. Hulse shows us the heart and darkness of an American town, and one man's struggle to find forgiveness in the wake of evil.
"Artful . . . Hulse evokes the Montana landscape in lyrical, vivid prose." -- Boston Globe
"Hulse believes that grace happens in a look between two people, or a moment of holding back. A powerful elegy." -- Guardian