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The linked stories in UNBEND THE RIVER are set along a forested stretch of land between Lake Erie and the upper Allegheny River in Western New York, places dense with rivers, hills, and forest. The characters, all of whom are tied to a modern knife manufacturing plant, illustrate all the ways love and longing shapeshift over the course of a long life. A host of elderly hockey players, Franciscan Friars, loser heroes, budding conmen, and unintentional historians are all wired to search for meaning. Each flash their creative genius when fighting off idleness, anger, and disappointment. They build nightmare hotrods and race school buses; train wild dogs, homing pigeons, and dancing horses; and fight wildfires and grasshopper swarms. They crash headlong into the chaos, confusion, and confluence of their homes, never losing their energy to seek out the essential miracles hidden all around them.
Fiction. Nature. Family & Relationships.
”With soaring prose, Devin Murphy captures the beauty, hardship, and humanity of the many working-class characters in these dynamic stories set in upstate New York. Place shapes these characters’ lives, and even when they leave it, it never leaves them. Murphy’s triumph is to make us feel that belonging and impact in our own bones, as if we’ve lived here forever amongst these superbly drawn characters. A vital and unforgettable collection.” —Steven Schwartz
”Murphy finds a way to generate an uncommon empathy for his characters, as they stand bemused in the face of this world, and the extraordinariness lurking in its carefully observed mundanities; bemused at its ability, in turn, to break and to lift up our hearts. This book made me want to go out into the world, and to look and look and look at all of the magic—melancholy and otherwise—that I hadn’t noticed before.” —Matthew Gavin Frank
”The stories are told with a deft touch and an eye for detail; Murphy’s prose is both elegant and moving. This book will leave readers homesick for a place they have never been and people they have never met.” —Pinckney Benedict
”It’s a testament to Devin Murphy’s skill as a writer that each voice in Unbend the River is distinct and memorable. An array of characters, all with a connection to the town of Olean, float in and out of each other’s stories, pulled by their deep loneliness, yearning to connect.” —SJ Sindu
”Devin Murphy’s Unbend the River is an antidote for a cynical age. These stories catalog many of the modern maladies that plague flyover country—addiction, vanished jobs, dissolving families—then take us so deep into the experience that we too pray for mercy along with this cast of misfits. Murphy has a strong eye for detail and an ear attuned to the music of American tongues, and he shows incredible heart as his characters strive to keep each other close.” —Theodore Wheeler
”Sieved from the Allegheny River, these stories walk right off the page. They loom over your shoulder. They sit in your gut. They haunt you from one room to the next, because these wounded lives, so tenderly wrought, aren’t theirs alone. They’re ours. Only in Murphy’s sure hands would that melancholy sip so neat.” —Carson Vaughan
”In these powerfully observed, richly detailed stories, Devin Murphy beautifully explores how the places and people we love can shape, strangle, and ultimately sustain each other.” —Caitlin Horrocks
Devin Murphy is a national bestselling author of the novels The Boat Runner (2017) and Tiny Americans (2019) published by Harper Perennial. These books have been selected as Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers, Illinois Reads, and book of the year by the Chicago Writer's Association, and Society of Midland Authors. His short story collection, UNBEND THE RIVER (2024), is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. His recent work appears in The Chicago Tribune, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, The Sun, and Outside Magazine as well as many others. He holds an MFA from Colorado State University, a PHD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University, and lives in Chicago with his wife and their three kids.