The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown

Michael Patrick F. Smith. Viking, $29 (464p) ISBN 978-1-98488-151-9
Smith impresses in this fascinating debut memoir about his 2013 move from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Williston, N.Dak., to become an oil field hand. Modeling his life on Teddy Roosevelt, who transformed himself from a “squeaky-voiced four-eyed dork” to an “Indiana Jones president,” Smith set out to mature from a self-indulgent kid into a man “tough as a hickory knot” by “be[ing] beaten and pummeled, knocked down” by hard labor. He began as a truck driver’s assistant and describes, in the profanity-laced language of his new colleagues, how he developed a kinship with them. Many were abused by their fathers and Smith, likewise, recounts his own memories of abuse (“Dad had threatened to kill us, yes, but it wasn’t the first time”). He also describes how he forced himself to compartmentalize his coworkers’ “casual, constant, continuing faucet drip of racism.” Over the course of a year he earned their respect while discovering that “a good hand... is a person who does honest work to the best of their ability every day and who offers that work as a living prayer.” Smith’s prose shines when sharing how his experience on the oil rig shaped his idea of what it means to live a meaningful life. This page-turner delivers. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/30/2020
Release date: 02/16/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-9848-8152-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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