Everybody Reads

Black River by S.M. Hulse

Black River

2017 Everybody Reads Selection

With spare prose and stunning detail, S.M. Hulse drops us deep into the heart and darkness of an American town in her striking debut novel Black River.

When Wes Carver returns to Black River, he carries two things in the cab of his truck: his wife Claire’s ashes and a letter from the prison parole board. The convict who held him hostage during a prison riot, twenty years ago, is being considered for release. Wes has been away from Black River ever since the riot. He grew up in this small Montana town, encircled by mountains, and, like his father before him and most of the men there, he made his living as a corrections officer at the prison.

But convict Bobby Williams is not the only demon of the past Wes must face upon returning to Black River. The town is also home to Dennis, Claire’s son and Wes’s angry stepson, who once pulled a gun on him at the dinner table. The two men have always had a tenuous relationship, but once Claire, the one person they both loved, dies after a long-fought battle with cancer, things are more strained than ever.

Inspired by the true events of the 1959 riot at the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont., Hulse unpacks the gritty details of her Black River riot carefully throughout the novel. Black River is an elegantly told, deeply felt story of grief, guilt, and the everlasting search for grace.

“Hulse evokes the Montana landscape in lyrical, vivid prose...[she] is a gifted wordsmith with promising dramatic instincts.”

— The Boston Globe
S. M. Hulse
S. M. Hulse is the author of Black River

S.M. Hulse is the author of Black River, a PEN/Hemingway Finalist and an American Library Association Notable Book. Her short fiction has appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander.She received her MFA from the University of Oregon and was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A horsewoman and fiddler, she has spent time in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. She lives in northern Nevada, where she is an assistant professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Learn more about S.M. Hulse