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Milkweed Editions
ISBN 978-1571316790
$6.95 paperback


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The Year of the Sawdust Man

Nissa's life has never been perfect. Living in the small town of Harper, Louisiana with a mama as free-spirited as hers has led to lots of gossipy small talk and mean rumors. But now Mama is gone, and all the townsfolk can talk about is who she might have run off with. Nissa's memories of the Sundays her mama would come home smelling of sawdust lead her to suspect some of the rumors could be true. Did her Mama go away with The Sawdust Man? And if so, does it mean she's never coming back?


Nissa, 11, lives in the tiny Louisiana town of Harper in 1933, when her mother decamps, leaving a confused and grieving daughter behind. During the year that follows, Nissa tries to come to terms with her loss, with her father's growing attachment to another woman, and with her feelings of guilt and yearnings. The historical, small-town setting lends a slower, more innocent tone to the story than a modern setting might give, yet the feelings expressed are universal and deep. School Library Journal

Set in a small 1930s Louisiana town, this first novel about an 11-year-old girl abandoned by her mother "is filled with poignant insights into a hurt child's fragile psyche," said PW in a starred review. Publishers Weekly

LaFaye depicts complex, profoundly disturbed characters with a sure hand, and this turbulent story joins Ruth White's Belle Prater's Boy (1996) as a cut above the rest. Kirkus Reviews


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