Book cover for 'Where No Gods Came'
Michigan and the Great Lakes

Where No Gods Came

Sheila O'Connor
Where No Gods Came, the 2003 winner of the Michigan Literary Fiction Award for original novel, is a candid portrait of the unlikely faces of good and evil, and how an innocent must learn to recognize them to endure


Author Sheila O'Connor tells the compelling story of Faina McCoy, a young girl caught in a perilous scheme of elaborate lies created for her own harrowing system of survival. Enmeshed in a tangled family web, Faina is abruptly uprooted against her will from her father and finds herself half a continent away on the doorstep of a mother who abandoned her years before—but who can't live without Faina now. Alone, persecuted, and exploited, Faina must fend for herself as she searches for love and answers, navigating the streets of a strange city and forging bonds of feeling with liars and outlaws.

Where No Gods Came is a powerful look at assimilation and resilience and the sacrifices we all make to adapt. It's a potent reminder, too, of the tenacity and courage required of fragile families who endure on the edge. Faina McCoy triumphs as an unlikely—and unforgettable—heroine, a stubborn child who will survive to tell the tale.

Sheila O'Connor is the author of the novel-in-stories Tokens of Grace, and has received fellowships from the Bush Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Loft–McKnight, as well as the Tamarack Award for fiction. She teaches writing in the M.F.A. program at Hamline University.

Praise / Awards

  • "In Where No Gods Came, Sheila O'Connor fearlessly takes us inside a family long past the breaking point, reminding us of the power of love, the pain of separation, and introducing me to one of the most compelling young women I've met in a long time. Resilient, vulnerable and with a heart as big as they come, Faina McCoy will break your heart. I didn't want her story to end."
    —David Haynes, author of All American Dream Dolls

  • "This is a beautifully written story about the ways in which people find the strength to move on-physically, emotionally and spiritually. Long after the last page is turned, you'll find yourself thinking about the people who have graced them. Faina's strength stays with me."
    —Jacqueline Woodson

  • "Sheila O'Connor's beautifully readable novel about young girls living close to the precipice is truthful, tough, and filled with delicate hope. She shows how we all survive by inches, by grace."
    —Maureen Gibbon

  • "The various voices ring true. Ms. O'Connor writes of family and love and loss and youth at risk and hard-earned pleasure; she does so with a noticing eye and tone-perfect ear."
    —Nicholas Delbanco

  • "For a single mother of three, and a writer who reads countless books a year, to stay up most of the night to finish a novel means it must be a heck of a story: and Sheila O'Connor's novel was, so compelling in the landscape of urban hardscrabble Minneapolis, and the interior horizons of a damaged mother and her two daughters trying to build their own fable of a family. Fervent and despairing and truth-hard, this novel kept me spellbound, hurtling toward a hoped-for redemption."
    —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon

  • ". . . a fresh and moving coming-of-age novel, a memorable portrait of the artist a a scrawny young girl. . . . Faina is a fairy-tale heroine, the dark haired younger sister exiled in an alien land, unwanted, dressed in her sister's discarded granny gowns and cracked-vinyl boots, consigned not to sweeping cinders exactly but to scrubbing her mother's puke in a dingy apartment. If Where No Gods Came is a kind of fairy tale, it's the real thing, as told by Grimm not Disney, full of real menace, sharp edges and rough corners, strangeness and, ultimately, the possibility of grace. It's a story about the power of love and guts and imagination to sustain a skinny kid in a hard world."
    —Mike Cochrane, Canisius College, Buffalo News, via, September 14, 2003

  • ". . . a sensitive, often disquieting book that rings true throughout. . . . It's the skill of an accomplished writer that we see Faina's extraordinary spirit, while simultaneously experiencing her pain and despair. The end result is an uplifting, even inspiring book without any of the sugarcoating often found in stories like this."
    California Literary Review

  • ". . . the genius---the true genius of this story---is how well O'Connor captures adolescence. Her stark prose brings us into Faina's world: 1974 Minneapolis. The pages roll past. We sip our coffee, get lost in this book. Finishing it, we come away with the wish that the journey had been longer, as well as the knowledge that we will return again to lift this novel from the shelf."
    —Thomas Maltman, Corresponder

  • ". . . a touching odyssey of a girl poised between the emotional abyss and the reader's heart."
    —Annie Betz, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), November 9, 2003

  • "Thanks to Michigan University Press, whose new award series' mission is to publish work that may not be commercially viable, this brilliant, compact novel will be brought to a national, literary marketplace. . . . O'Connor . . . remains a consummate artist, true to her vision of a work that is bleak, truthful, and lacking any overt sentimental overtures. Her eye, a poet's eye, misses nothing. . . . Above all Where No Gods Came is a novel about resiliency, and hope; that at the end of all the darkness, personal courage and trust prevail; that grace is a story of transcendence, in whatever limited, human form it may take; and that for every Faina of the world, there are a hundred more--girls of fierce intelligence and determination stuck in unfortunate circumstances. It is a story for our times."
    —Steve Mueske,, 10/6/03

Product Details

  • 208 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02571-8

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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