Hamish Hamilton has acquired a “chilling’ and “unforgettable” US literary debut about poverty, desperation and lost innocence in rural America.
Set in Pennsylvania, Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith is described as "part disappearance mystery, part coming-of-age story, and part dark morality tale", with a plot that "twists the familiar image of the missing girl into something altogether darker".
It was snapped up by Hermione Thompson, assistant editor at Hamish Hamilton, who bought British and Commonwealth volume, audio and serial rights from Fiona Baird at WME on behalf of Claudia Ballard. North American rights are held by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin Random House US.
Following Riverhead in the US, who will publish the book as a lead debut in July 2019, Hamish Hamilton will publish early 2020.
“One summer, a teenage girl disappears from Deep Valley, Pennsylvania. She is beautiful, intelligent, richer than most in those parts – and mixed race. The cops search for her, but not as hard as they might. Not as hard as if she were a white girl,” reads the synopsis. “Watching the drama unfold is Cindy, a younger girl from one of those white trash families everyone knows will come to no good. She has idolised Jude for years, yearning after her glamour, her popularity. And so, in the absence of anyone to give a damn where she goes or what becomes of her, Cindy starts to slip out of her own life and into the space Jude left behind…”
Thompson called it a “subtle and chilling observation of deeply embedded social ills – and particularly of class inequality ... both a brilliant novel and a sharply necessary interrogation of all that is rotten in the heart of modern America”.
Smith, who lives in Pittsburgh, holds MFAs in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers. Already her work has appeared in Tin House, FENCE, Best New Poets and other publications, and she is the author of one poetry collection, I Live in a Hut. She commented: “I'm thrilled and humbled for Marilou to find a home across the pond. Greene County, where I grew up, doesn't appear in many books, and it amazes me to think that someone half a world away might read about it. I would like to tell my childhood self, ‘The world is both bigger and smaller than you think, and even stories from its remote, isolated corners can travel.’”