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

By Michael Patrick F. Smith


‘Thrillingly and wrenchingly funny … like Educated and Hillbilly Elegy

‘After reading The Good Hand you may reassess whether you have ever truly done a hard day’s work in your life … This lyrical and engrossing memoir is an extraordinary tale … Undeniably powerful’

The must-read memoir of 2021.

Michael Patrick Smith grew up in a ramshackle farmhouse where his father beat the walls and threw dinner plates. As a restless young man left unmoored by the crashing economy, Smith cut a path to North Dakota to rent a mattress on a flophouse floor. Sleeping boot to beard with the other rough-edged men looking to earn a cent drilling for oil, Smith wanted the work to burn him clean – of his violent upbringing, his demons, his disjointed, doomed relationships. He did not expect, among these quick-fisted, foul-mouthed hands, to find a community.

The Good Hand is a memoir of danger and exhaustion, of suffering, loneliness and grit, of masculinity and of learning how to reconcile yourself to yourself.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 16 Feb 2021
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-839945-0
Michael Patrick F. Smith is a folksinger and playwright currently based in central Kentucky. His plays, including Woody Guthrie Dreams and Ain’t No Sin, have been staged in Baltimore and New York. As a musician, Smith has shared the stage with folk luminaries such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He has also worked as a stage actor, junk hauler, furniture mover, legal assistant, book store clerk, contractor, driver, office temp, stagehand, set fabricator, bartender, and now writer. The Good Hand is his first book.

‘After reading The Good Hand you may reassess whether you have ever truly done a hard day’s work in your life … This lyrical and engrossing memoir is an extraordinary tale … Smith writes movingly of his chaotic childhood … the tragedies slowly drip out … There have been predictable comparisons to other recent hardship autobiographies — JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Tara Westover’s Educated — but Smith’s story, blessedly, comes with more (crude) humour … Undeniably powerful’Sunday Times -

‘Thrillingly and wrenchingly funny … like Educated and Hillbilly Elegy, The Good Hand is one of those brilliant close-ups that suddenly flips to become a wide shot of the American moment.  An engrossing combination of participation, reportage, self-discovery, and witness’David Lipsky, author of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself -

‘Smith guides us through a long muddy year in North Dakota’s oil boom … It’s a surprisingly tender account of a man who is searching for salvation - from the sins of his family, from the drunken and drugged-up sins of a world broken by corporations - while trying desperately to find himself through work’Robert Sullivan, author of The Thoreau You Don’t Know -

”'A sincere and colourful account of down-and-out men trying to make it and maybe grow up in the eternal dreary tailgate party and crushing dangerous toil of the fracking boom.  As one of Smith’s mentors tells him, 'now you know why gas is so expensive.” - ’William T. Vollmann, author of The Lucky Star

‘A thrill-read - There Will Be Blood made modern, and with added wit - The Good Hand is that rare literary treasure: all things, all at once. By mixing memoir with reportage and analysis, and telling his tale with rigor and joy, Smith gives us a hoot that also feels necessary’Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life -