Jon and Estelle walk the picturesque Paris streets, but are living through the cruelest of realties—the disappearance of their nine-year-old daughter Jennifer, abducted from the Musée D’Orsay during a class field trip. Their relationship crumbles as the passing time chips away at the hope of Jennifer’s return. If their daughter is ever returned to them, will Jon and Estelle both be there to welcome her home?
In the tradition of The Stranger and The Old Man and the Sea, critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith explores the human spirit and its capacity for faith and forgiveness in an unpredictable, imperfect world.
“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 Strangers, 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
“An absorbing novella.” The Commercial Dispatch
“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
“Smith underlines the fact that it is sometimes the smallest rituals and experiences that can be the most devastating…In the end, as with any tragedy, there are questions that remain unanswered, and the reader is left to wonder along with Jon and Estelle. What we don’t have to wonder about, though, is Smith’s talent.” summersetreview.org
“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.” bookpunchreviews.com
From NewSoutherner.com: “The book is a masterful view into the lives and the relationship of the parents, Estelle and Jon, as they post flyers and pray for the return of 9-year-old Jennifer. Smith’s prose is crisp and ripe with details, and the tension created by the scenario of the missing child keeps you turning the pages.”
“The Hands of Strangers packs an emotional punch.” The Northeast Mississippi Journal
“Michael Farris Smith’s The Hands of Strangers is a remarkable achievement, a tortured novella that combines a delicately drawn Paris in winter with a too-common event these days, the vanished child. Here the loss is striking and potent, filling the reader with fear and making the impossible-to-imagine wrenchingly clear and present. The writing is first rate, the story is chilling, a warning for us all, maybe even a threat reminding us how far off our game we can get without really knowing it, and how hard it might be to get back to where we started. A remarkable novella from a truly gifted young writer.” –Frederick Barthelme, author of Elroy Nights and Waveland
“A luminous work. Michael Farris Smith blends splendid characterizations–including that of the city of Paris itself–into a compelling story of parents involved in the day to day living of their worse nightmare. Both believable and topical, I could not put this book down until I had finished it–and then immediately went back to the beginning so I could read it yet again.” Deborah Johnson, author of The Secret of Magic