. . .with a bitter taste on your tongue and a holler in your heart. . .

Winner of the Prairie Heritage Book Award!

THE ADVENTURES OF JOE HARPER picks up where The Adventures of Tom Sawyer leaves off. Twenty years after plundering with Tom, Joe Harper is a failed pirate turned vagabond, wandering in search of the perfect cave in which to die. What he fi nds instead is a philosophizing Chinese railroad worker and an Amish woman fl eeing a forced marriage—a surrogate family that bonds over their hobo adventures. When the three are arrested and forced to work on a chain gang, their narrow escape earns them a powerful enemy, until they are rescued by Tom Sawyer… who just might be the greatest threat they’ve faced yet. Inspired by Twain’s storytelling, Phong Nguyen expertly evokes the beloved world of Tom Sawyer and extends Twain’s savvy commentary to the struggles of Chinese Americans, women, and outcasts in Reconstruction America.

Advance praise

"Phong Nguyen takes on American history and literature in this captivating novel. Writing about a marginal character in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, he illuminates the marginal characters of American culture in the 19th century. The imaginative return of an adult Tom Sawyer is alone worth the price of this book."
– Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize

“funny, smart, and full of surprises”
– Christine Sneed, author of Paris, He Said

“mordant, hilarious and eminently readable”
– Zachary Mason, author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey

Reviews and media

"While The Adventures of Joe Harper follows the picaresque structure of Twain’s novels, Nguyen’s scope is larger and more ambitious. Whereas Tom Sawyer was an observation of a boyhood in Missouri and Huckleberry Finn an adventure in the South, Joe Harper explores the continental United States, or at least what’s west of the Mississippi. It is also a more diverse United States. With Joe Harper, Nguyen reinserts the voices of the marginalized into the story of the America. Continuing the work of a writer from the 19th century, Nguyen proclaims that we have always been here, we have been an integral part of the American story. . ." - Eric Nguyen, diaCritics

"I’m sure every writer feels this way, but I must have left the strangest Google trail while writing this book..." - Phong Nguyen at Necessary Fiction's Research Notes

"Nguyen’s addition to Twain’s classic does not disappoint. Stylistically, Nguyen’s ability to capture the vernacular of 1870s Missourian hobo life is one of the marvels of this piece of fiction. " - Historical Novel Society

"Nguyen, an associate professor of English at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and the editor of Pleiades, does a pretty good job of channeling Twain’s dialects and humor... it’s a witty, engaging read, refreshing in its cynicism, and with a different take on a pair of significant works in American literature." - Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Phong Nguyen is the author of two short fiction collections, Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History and Memory Sickness. His stories have been published in more than 40 national literary magazines, including Agni, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Boulevard, Massachusetts Review, Chattahoochee Review, Florida Review, Mississippi Review, and North American Review. Nguyen’s storieshave been given special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology, and have won the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. He is Editor of Pleiades: Literature in Context and serves as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Central Missouri. He studied writing and publishing at Emerson College (MA) and creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (PhD).

April 10, 2019, Unbound Book Festival
October 12, 2016, Prospero's Books, Kansas City
October 27, 2016, BookMarx Bookstore, Springfield
November 3, 2016, University of Missouri, Springfield
January 19, 2017, Left Bank Books, St. Louis
January 25, 2017, The Writers Place

The Adventures of Joe Harper
Phong Nguyen
280 pages
$16.00 paperback ISBN 9781944853044
$9.99 ebook

October 2016

The day had come to die proper. You mightn’t think life had nothing more to offer a 35-year-old Joe Harper, but then again you mightn’t have abandoned all your kin and returned home ten years on to find a St. Petersburg full of strangers; or you mightn’t have reached a body’s threshold for sinning. . .

"The literary spin-off is a venerable genre. To browse listicles online at Flavorwire and Reader’s Digest, one would think that it all began in the 1960s. . ." (from The Missouri Review)

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