Engine Books 2012



One of the 2012 Book Blogger Appreciation Week's 100 Most Underappreciated Books

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Other Books by Myfanwy Collins


Author: Myfanwy Collins

Sometimes the voices that call you home lead you astray...

Cheri and Geneva grew up on “a little patch of nothing made up of dairy farms in the valleys and boarded up iron-ore mines in the mountains, a town of old folks waiting to die and young people dying to leave.” Now, Cheri has fled that life for the city, leaving Geneva behind to care for their aunt as she succumbs to cancer. Her death draws them back together, forcing them to face their past — and each other. When Cheri’s mother turns up with a strange baby and a dangerous secret close behind, the choices that follow will push all of them beyond boundaries they never thought they’d cross.

In this stunning debut novel, Myfanwy Collins lays bare the hearts of three lost women called together by their own homing instincts in a season that will change their lives — and the place they call home — forever.

Echolocation: a novel

Publishers Weekly:

Stark and stirring.


Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina:

Myfanwy Collins tells a deep and resonant story about people she loves, and along the way shows us how to love them as well.


The Kenyon Review Online:

In his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, William Faulkner stated that what writers most needed to remember was "the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and sweat." Echolocation, not only holds up to Faulkner's credo but leaps into the realm of greatness. Collins has amassed a long and noteworthy list of short fiction publications; her work has twice been included in DZANC Books Best of the Web anthologies. The novel is a deceptively slim page-turner, for Echolocation retains the taut explosiveness of the best short fiction without compromising the resonance demanded of the longer form.

Collins accomplishes so much in just over 200 pages--an enthralling plot; fully believable, deeply flawed characters; hefty thematic resonance, while not compromising the lyrical quality of her prose. 


Glorified Love Letters:

Echolocation is a perfect little book about reality hitting hard. It's about necessary roughness and begrudging tenderness, and it swallows one up while reading. I certainly look forward to experiencing more of Myfanwy Collins' work.



Collins’ expertise writing flash fiction and short fiction shine through in her novel. Her prose is lean and precise, creating dramatic tension and emotional intensity without unnecessary embellishment. Her style is also very readable, so much so, that you might miss some of the loveliness of her language if you aren’t paying careful attention.

Echolocation will appeal to readers who are drawn to stories that explore humanity in all of its facets, the good and the bad, and that consider the rocky road to redemption. Fans of literary short fiction and flash fiction will especially appreciate Collins’ tightly crafted writing and suspenseful style.


Necessary Fiction:

Echolocation is a slim novel, elegantly written and carefully scripted. Collins has a knack for placing her characters in settings and situations that reflect their quiet feelings of emotional displacement. All of this makes it easy to call this a “beautiful novel.” And yet, it would be fair to say that Collins does not make it easy for her readers to feel comfortable with the arc of the story. Echolocation is not a straightforward tale of sorrow transformed or redemption found. The book involves serious violence—acts, both suffered and perpetrated, that do not leave a person undamaged. That cannot leave a reader complacent.

So yes, Collins makes beautiful art out of terrifying and grim realities. That she does this with so much obvious love for her characters is what makes Echolocation more of an elegy than an exposé. This is compassionate fiction, thankfully still clear-eyed and penetrating, but more than anything else, it is merciful.


The Quivering Pen:

Since its debut earlier this year, the small-but-scrappy Engine Books has proven to be one of those publishers who seek out quality fiction which might have otherwise not found a market of readers.  Like a vinter who only bottles a few pressings of wine each year, publisher Victoria Barrett is a true believer in quality over quantity.  Not since Dzanc Books came on the scene have I been so excited about a new indie press. 

You probably won't find books like Collins' debut novel in the front-window display of your local bookstore or featured on Amazon's home page — you'll have to do some legwork to track down Echolocation, but I assure you it will be well worth the effort.  I'm lucky enough to have an uncorrected proof of Echolocation sitting in front of me and, reading the opening lines, I find myself immediately drawn in to the story of two sisters and their dying aunt.

After only two paragraphs, Collins has already established a domestic tension which seems like it will carry readers through the rest of this short novel.  My engines are already revving.


Katrina Denza:

 This is a complex story, told with an assured, deft hand. Collins is a master at weaving story lines together in an artful, spare way. Every word is well-chosen. Every nuance is perfectly placed. Echolocation is literary fiction at its finest.



Myfanwy Collins’s ECHOLOCATION is a new classic literary crime thriller, beautifully written, seamlessly plotted, and heart-wrenching. 

Collins has crafted a real page-turner.  I already have read it twice.  The first time I had to know what was happening and what would happen.  The second time I read it to become better acquainted with each of the characters, and to savor the singular setting, masterful plotting and exquisite prose.  Collins already has been compared to Daniel Woodrell, whose “country noir” novels set in the Ozarks, are superb.  However, I believe Collins clearly has earned her own rightful place in the pantheon, as the creator of “Adirondack Noir.”



Collins tells a complex, deeply engaging story that should serve to surprise readers from the first page to the very last. There’s a sense of natural storytelling on display throughout Echolocation as Collins plots the novel marvelously, always ratcheting the story another notch, increasing the stakes along the way.



A gothic tale of sisterhood set in a New York town during a chilly winter, Echolocation, the debut novel by the Massachusetts-based Collins, is a haunting read. Collins's prose is lovely, relying on image and action to characterize her leading ladies. Her strength lies in her ability to paint believable, three-dimensional portraits of her characters - vibrant, salt-of-the-earth types who are both familiar and surprising. 


Ellen Meister, author of The Other Life:

Fearless, elegant, and accessible, Echolocation is literary fiction at its best. With heartbreakingly beautiful prose, Myfanwy Collins tells a gripping and tender tale of broken souls yearning for wholeness. These are characters who will stay with you long after you turn the last page. It’s a dazzling debut!


Ron Currie, Jr., author of God is Dead:

Myfanwy Collins has the goods. It’s that simple. Echolocation is about love in all its magnificent slipperiness; it’s about how secrets bind us rather than rend us; it’s about the endless series of personal reinventions we call a lifetime. And these are things we had all better be thinking–and reading – about, if we plan to try and get out of this alive.


Pia Z. Ehrhardt, author of Famous Father and Other Stories:

Myfanwy Collins’ debut novel calls to mind the grim and radiant work of Daniel Woodrell. From page one, I was chilled by the landscape, caught up in the trouble, and riveted by these women of northernmost New York who slam back together and figure out how live with what’s missing.


Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits:

A moving and delicate novel, tracing the poignant destinies of women who long for a home they never had.


Steve Himmer:

Those dual tensions, from the plot itself and from my own thwarted assumptions, kept me both engrossed in the story and wondering, in the back of my mind, what Collins was going to do with all this. And what she did was impressive: ultimately, Echolocation goes where so few stories that build toward violence have the vision or courage to go: all the way to the aftermath. This isn’t a stories that winds up as soon as the clash has occurred, in which characters presumably settle back into routine once the action is over. Instead, it makes us keep looking, and makes us keep waiting, forcing us to wonder how an ordinary person — not a criminal, not a lost soul — comes back once they’ve been pushed too far. And it does so with grace, not only in the writing — especially the rich, textured renderings of the natural world — but in a final scene that even if you think you see it coming a few pages off (the event of it, anyway) still manages to sneak up and suddenly open a panorama as vast as the future, rather than a more familiar contraction of conflict.


The Collagist by Dzanc Books:

Lyrical as most of the characters are, though, they pale in comparison to the lyricism of Collins' prose. As readers of her short stories already know, this author has a special knack for the unexpected phrase, the image that is surprising but not startling: "She marveled at her own blood as she ran. The leprechaun color of it, granting wishes." That's blood in the snow, that's hysteria, panic, and shock, packed into that one image. Here's another: "She reached her hand out in the direction of the window as if to grab hold of [the bats] and let them pull her out into the sky and share their night with her." This is the soft, allusive language at which Collins excels—hinting rather than telling, implying rather than showing. The landscape comes alive, as real as the characters and the chasms within them of which they can't really speak. One can almost imagine this prose not having been written at all, but tangled together from saplings and held together with spider-webs. 

Beneath the delicate prose are unshakable bonds linking the characters together—secrets shared and secrets kept, gifts un-given and words that can't be un-said. The futility of trying to rebuild long-lost intimacies when all that's left is resentment and misunderstanding, the mixture of longing for the people each character remembers and contempt for who those people are now gives this family story weight and power. There is no easy way out for anyone in Echolocation as they're bound together by guilt, obligation, greed, and hope. Collins takes what, on its surface, has all the makings of Lifetime movie and creates from it a claustrophobic gothic drama of family secrets and the blind crashing into the blind.