Smolens' Novel a 'Michigan Notable Book'

John Smolens

Northern Michigan University English Professor Emeritus John Smolens' latest novel, A Cold, Hard Prayer was selected by the Library of Michigan for the 2024 Michigan Notable Books list. This work of historical fiction is his 12th novel. Smolens previously made the list for Wolf's Mouth in 2017 and Day of Days in 2022.

The synopsis of Smolens' book reads: “In 1924, an orphan train passes through the Midwest, and Mercy, a teenage girl of mixed race, and a boy nicknamed Rope, who lost fingers in a factory accident, become virtual prisoners of Harlan and Estelle Nau. After facing abuse, Mercy and Rope flee, making an arduous journey into sparsely populated northern Michigan, where Mercy believes she will find her aunt. Resolute and intrepid, Mercy and Rope develop a bond of mutual trust that helps them navigate a stark American landscape shaped by prejudice, hypocrisy, and fear.”

Smolens previously directed NMU's Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing and was a past recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award.

Autographed copies of A Cold, Hard Prayer are available at Snowbound Books in Marquette. For more information on Smolens, visit his author website at

The Library of Michigan selects up to 20 Notable Books each year that are either written by a Michigan resident, or about Michigan or the Great Lakes. The selected books are honored in the year after their publication or copyright date. Each selected title speaks to Michigan's rich cultural, historical, and literary heritage. Michigan Notable Books is an annual program that began in 1991.

'A Cold, Hard Prayer' cover
'A Cold, Hard Prayer' cover
Prepared By

Bridgette Bowser
Student Writer