Pierpont assistant professor Natalie Sypolt’s debut is “an important book by an important writer.”

Pierpont assistant professor Natalie Sypolt’s debut is “an important book by an important writer.”

Wiley Cash, author of “The Last Ballad,” calls “The Sound of Holding Your Breath” a collection of “gorgeous stories about a much-maligned region and a people that are too often viewed from the interstate, in photographs, or on the screen,” adding that Natalie Sypolt’s debut is “an important book by an important writer.”
 
Silas House, author of “Southernmost” calls this book “a bold and important debut that announces a major new voice” and “the best story collection I’ve read in a long while.”
 
Ann Pancake, author of “Strange As This Weather Has Been,” notes that “Sypolt writes with sober love and unselfconscious respect from the insides of people and a place too many writers touch only from the outside.”
 
The residents of “The Sound of Holding Your Breath” could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of 21st century Appalachia — lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors — average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.
 
Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.
 
Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans — Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.
 
Natalie Sypolt is an assistant professor at Pierpont Community & Technical College. She coordinates the high school workshop for the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at West Virginia University and has served as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers.
 
Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Appalachian Heritage, Kenyon Review Online and Willow Springs. She is the winner of the Glimmer Train new writers contest, the Betty Gabehart Prize, the West Virginia Fiction Award and the Still fiction contest. This is her first book.
 
Learn more at nataliesypolt.com. “Strange As This Weather Has Been” is available for preorder now. It will become available in stores in early October.
 
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