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Best Books of 2013 by Hudson Books, The Capital Times, Book Riot, Daily Candy, The Columbus Dispatch, and an Indie Next List selection

"Every once in a while an author comes along who’s in love with art and the written language and image and literary experiment and the complexity of his characters and the great mysteries that lie just on the other side of the physical world, writers like William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx. You can add Michael Farris Smith’s name to the list.” 

James Lee Burke, New York Times bestselling author of Creole Belle and The Tin Roof Blowdown


“A triumphant — and troubling — debut novel about Southern states in the near future punished by relentless rain and flooding. Michael Farris Smith’s powerful Rivers is the kind of book that lifts you up with its mesmerizing language then pulls you under like a riptide….A stunning work of speculative fiction.” 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution


“This world is chilling—all the more so for its believability—and it is peopled by compelling, fully realized characters, some of whom only exist in the form of ghosts. In contrast to this bleak world, Smith’s prose is lush, descriptive and even beautiful. A compelling plot, fueled by a mounting sense of tension and hope in the face of increasing hopelessness, will keep readers engrossed to the very end. Tense, moving and expertly executed.” 

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


“Smith’s incantatory prose . . . propel[s] this apocalyptic narrative at a compelling clip until the very last page.” 

The New York Times Book Review


“This book is raw and scary.” 



“This promising Mississippi writer has come back to the source and paid homage, in his Southern Gothic way, to the region’s bull-headed will to keep going.” 

The Clarion-Ledger


“[Rivers] is a novel that will reside in me for months to come.” 

The Sunday Salon


“[Rivers] is a wonderfully cinematic story — but there are no Hollywood clichés in Smith’s prose or plot. He portrays each character as a human being with a back story and personality: They may make choices that appall or frustrate us, but the characters are rounded and real . . . Smith resorts to no formula, and his ability to keep you guessing about what will happen next adds tension to long stretches of honed prose. He also manages to make 300 pages of relentless rain so real that you’re surprised your fingers aren’t pruny when you look up from this engrossing story.” 

The Washington Post


“[A] powerfully written apocalyptic tale. . . . While Rivers is already inviting inevitable comparisons to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Smith’s canvas is broader and the story even more riveting.” 



“This is where monsters be, as well as Cohen, a grieving widower too stubborn to move. While there are obvious similarities to Cormac McCarthy, Smith most puts me in mind of his fellow Mississippian Larry Brown. They share the same smooth-worn grace running toward minimalism and offhand masculine power. You never feel like he’s straining for significance.” 

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


“A fitting symbol of Smith’s cataclysmic future is a hunched-over old man wearing a sign that says THE END IS NEAR–‘but NEAR had been crossed out, and written underneath was HERE and all the words were streaked.’ Storm-battered as Rivers is, its words are never streaked, but instead, clear as a ray of sunshine.”


“Everyone else has learned to do what they must to survive. All of this might be unbearably bleak, if it weren’t for a small clutch of central characters who are so vivid and compelling that we get swept up in the swift current of their struggle for survival. The revelations and surprises come fast and thrilling, and Rivers is tough to put down.”


“Smith is interested in grief, loss, new beginnings, survival and redemption. The play of light and shadows reveals a mystical quality in Smith’s world and the ways that the force of the human spirit in the struggle against debasement. Smith may be following the road set by McCarthy, but Rivers differentiates itself by offering a hopeful and nostalgic tenderness in a story of endurance that is startlingly relevant to our time.”


Rivers is a captivating novel, and its ravaged landscape is particularly believable. Smith is meticulous in detailing the reshaped Gulf Coast region, the abandoned husks of buildings, and what happens to both man and nature when a world becomes untamed. . . . Richly written and engaging.” 



“Smith’s dystopian vision of an America besieged by rain, showers and rapaciously lethal storms is a rich, multi-layered literary affair, as much a meditation on the nature of loneliness, a paean to lost love, as it is an unsettling study of  human greed and its appalling consequences.”

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