Winner of the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel
Shrapnel is a coming-of-age story in the nick of time for 77-year-old Bing Butler. Forced by deteriorating health to leave his beloved Texas and move in with his daughter in West Virginia, Bing's right-wing, old-school ways often put him at odds with his left-leaning daughter. Also challenged are his views of Appalachia, a region known only through 1960s War-on-Poverty commercials and lame punchlines. His wild journey reveals a fuller picture of the people of West Virginia, but it also unearths painful wounds and family secrets that he and his daughter never fully addressed. Bing must build a new life for himself in a place, and with a family, he doesn't understand, but he finds allies in unexpected places who help him become a better man.
Marie Manilla’s Shrapnel is a Fathers and Sons for our time. It’s a novel about generational, political, and geographical differences and what it takes to bridge them. It’s a novel about the past and the past’s refusal to remain safely buried. And it’s a novel about journeys—its protagonist’s, certainly, but all of ours—toward discovery, humility, and wonder. Perhaps Shrapnel’s greatest pleasure is the way it’s told—vividly and with evocative portraits of people and places—and with wisdom—and with gentle and welcome humor. Mark Brazaitis, author of The River of Lost Voices and The Incurables.
From the opening pages, where we find Bing Butler selling off the remnants of his life at a yard sale, Shrapnel takes us on a journey through the reshaping of the American family and American community. Texan, veteran, working man, husband – the life that Bing Butler had imagined for himself has exploded, and he will have to assemble a new one from the shards, far across the country in West Virginia, a place known only through jokes and stereotypes. This crotchety Candide will be led astray and will experience terrible, ordinary betrayals on his way to a future he’d not imagined. This is a sensitively wrought first novel with characters you’ll long remember. Val Neiman, Author of Blood Clay
Bing Butler is a man attempting to reconcile living between two worlds, and his is a life that illustrates beautifully the contradictions of living. How do we understand the actions of our lives? How do we come to terms with the tragedies of our historical eras? What are the secrets, the unknowable things about even those we are closest to, love the most? All these questions are skillfully threaded into this novel about a man forced by age and circumstance to leave one life and his attempts to live in harmony in a new world. Manilla gives us rich characters who populate the physical landscapes of Bing Butler: Texas and West Virginia. His worlds, both past and present, are infused with memories, and the author is masterful in her exploration of his inner landscapes of grief, guilt, and love. Gail Galloway Adams, author of The Purchase of Order
Bing’s attitude is one we initially want to scoff at in order to find a way to tolerate his ways--He's just an old racist war hero who likes Fox News, poor thing--but life isn’t that simple, particularly for our war heroes who’ve seen and done things we citizens can’t imagine, all for our greater liberty. We must slow down, listen to each other, particularly when someone’s viewpoint differs from our own—that’s the only time we can truly learn from each other. Marie Manilla does a fantastic job in Shrapnel of reminding us of exactly that incredibly human activity. Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish, and Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician
Shrapnel will hit you in surprising places. It is the story of an unforgettable character's warfare and the hot, wounding fragments of his fantasies, reveries, and regrets. Marie Manilla lays down every sentence thoroughly and lovingly. This is an author you can trust. She's got your back. Jacqueline St. Joan, author of My Sisters Made of Light
Shrapnel is available directly from River City Publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also inquire at your favorite bookstore or online vendors such as Amazon.com, Powells.com, and booksamillion.com.
Photo by Sandee Lloyd
Marie Manilla is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her stories have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, Calyx Journal, Kestrel, The Portland Review, Echo Ink Review, and other journals. Her collection of stories, Still Life with Plums, was a finalist for the Weatherford Award and ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year. She has lived in both Houston, Texas, and Huntington, West Virginia, the settings for Shrapnel.