cover image The Hands of Strangers

The Hands of Strangers

Michael F. Smith. Mint Hill (, $9.95 trade paper (123p) ISBN 978-1-59948-287-3

In Smith's fantastic debut novella, an American-born French citizen named Jon, and his French wife, Estelle, find their world ripped apart when their nine-year-old daughter Jennifer goes missing. Jon turns Paris upside down in an attempt to locate her; days turn to weeks, weeks to months. He covers the city with missing person fliers and largely avoids interacting with his wife Estelle, who is as emotionally distraught as he is and spends her days waiting by the phone. They each imagine the worst and do their best to avoid the elephant in the room while eating dinner or trying to get to sleep at night. Jon meets a free-spirited artist named Iris, and she enters his life as quickly and quietly as his daughter has left it. She paints an affecting portrait of Jennifer, a simple act that has great impact on both Jon and Estelle. 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. (Mar.)