The Hands of Strangers

The Hands of Strangers


Michael Farris Smith

"A fantastic debut… Smith eloquently captures the damaged souls of two people crumbling under the weight of uncertainty and waning hope. In this anxiety-ridden little gem, Smith captures the essence of the helpless, making more of an impact than most novels three times its size." Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

"The influence of Hemingway lingers in the present-day Paris of The Hands of Stranger, but Smith's writing is strong enough to hold its own within that giant shadow. This is a bracing story of the quotidian hell of grief and loss, with hope glimmering, faintly, over the horizon. Which is to say, a book you will not be able to put down." —Matthew Guinn, Edgar-nominated author of The Resurrectionist

"The only sensible response to reading The Hands of Strangers is to become a Michael Farris Smith fan for life. It's a stunning novella. Smith gets straight to the essence of what tears us apart, and he does it with absolute humanity." —Michael Kardos, author of The Three Day Affair

"We can relate to these people: we've all seen bad things happen, we've all been tested and tired and put to the limit... In a place like Paris, where people are always moving about and soaking things up, translation can get tricky. By the end, you've decided what you'd do: who you'd be—and that might surprise you." —

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In the tradition of The Stranger and The Old Man and the Sea, this masterful novella by critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith explores the human spirit and its capacity for faith and forgiveness in an imperfect world and begs the question: how do you survive when hope is lost? Jon and Estelle walk the picturesque Paris streets but are living through the cruelest of realities the disappearance of their nine-year-old daughter, Jennifer, abducted from the Musee d'Orsay during a class field trip. Jon spends his days slugging through bus terminals and metro halls, posting flyers of his daughter, while Estelle has become a recluse, unwilling to leave the apartment in case the telephone rings. Their relationship suffers as the passing time chips away at the hope of Jennifer's return. Then, a free-spirited artist enters their lives as unexpectedly as Jennifer has left it, luring Jon down a reckless path as he searches desperately for courage in the smallest signs. If their daughter is ever returned to them, will Jon and Estelle both be there to welcome her home?


Michael Farris Smith is the author of Desperation RoadThe FighterRivers, and The Hands of Strangers. He is the recipient of the MLA's Mississippi Author Award for Fiction and the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction. Rivers was named to numerous Best of the Year lists and his short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Mississippi with his wife and daughters.