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Right by My Side

Foreword by Jamel Brinkley
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On sale Jan 31, 2023 | 6 Hours and 57 Minutes | 978-0-593-67021-7
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
Marshall Field Finney was named after a department store and dropped like a hot potato when his mother suddenly packed up and left.  Now Marshall lives with his hard-drinking father in a crackerbox house and rides a yellow bus through beautiful St. Louis County to his mostly white suburban school.  Caught at a crossroads, Marshall is desperately searching for something to believe in.  At stake is only the rest of his life.

In this extraordinary novel, David Haynes tells the heartrending story of Marshall's journey through a broken world, where his father's new girlfriend, a poem by Yeats and a white teacher with big plans for her favorite students all seem to have the power to change him.  And as Marshall struggles to make sense of his life, the haunting letters begin to arrive from his runaway mother: "We are linked tighter than fine gold chains.  Who knows when we'll next be together--"

A tale of the ties that bind and the ties that fall away, Right by My Side is a cry from the heart, and a masterful novel of love and awakening by one of America's most gifted young writers.



Winner of the ALA's 1994 Best Book for Young Adults Award as well as the Minnesota Voices Project Award, Right by My Side is the heartrending story of 15-year-old Marshall Field Finney. When his mother suddenly takes off to find herself, Marshall is left with his hard-drinking father. Every day, he makes the long journey to his affluent, mostly white suburban high school. Caught at a crossroads, he is searching desperately for something he can hold on to. At stake is the rest of his life.



Just as Marchall begins to find a few signs that give him hope for his futures, he receives a series of haunting letters from his mother, who reminds him that they are "linked tighter than fine gold chains." A heartwarming tale of the ties that bind--and the ones that fall away--Right by My Side is a masterful novel of love and awakening by one of America's most gifted young writers. -->
Big Sam is waiting for me in his orange chair.
“Your Aunt Lucille called.”
Oops. Before I can b.s. as to how calling her slipped my mind, how I’d decided not to call, how I didn’t get an answer, Sam says:
“I guess the old bitch caught wind on the family grapevine that we were looking for your mama.”
Lucille is Rose’s mother’s sister. She could smell family trouble across the continental divide, and the Central West End is a lot closer than that. There’s been bad blood between her and Sam ever since she floor-showed at the big wedding. I understand that names such as “heathen” and “dried up old heifer” were exchanged, and that Rose herself fainted dead away—organdy, orange blossoms, and all.
“Let’s get our stories straight,” Sam says. “I told her you were upset and confused and that everything is fine.”
“Sure thing,” I say, nodding, sealing the pact.
“You cover the phone. You know when to come get me.”
“Yes, sir.” More nodding.
He calls me a good boy and rubs me on the head before ushering a six pack to his room. I won’t see him again today.
*
About eleven the phone rings. I turn from Johnny Carson, and there Sam is. His eyes are bleary red and he is halfway into a rumpled pair of pajamas. He nods at the phone. I just look at it. It rings some more; Sam nods again.
“Hello,” I say.
“Marshall. Is that you, Marshall?”
Lying with my eyes, I shake my head at Big Sam. I say hello again.
“Please put your daddy on the phone. Please.”
“No, I think you have the wrong number.”
Big Sam crumples his fists in disappointment.
“Marshall.” Rose’s voice sounds distant and vague.
“That’s quite all right,” I say, and I hang up. I put a hand on Big Sam’s shoulder and walk him to bed. The phone rings again.
“Go on to bed. I’m sure it’s that same wrong number. Let it ring. She’ll give up sooner or later.”
"Enjoyable reading--witty insight--Haynes has created a likeable, heroic character."
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A charming debut--a funny and cynical coming-of-age novel."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Marvelous--[Haynes] has created one of the most vivid and idiosyncratic first-person narrators I've run up against in recent years.  You trust Marshall's voice, and you trust Haynes' gifts.  He's a prose writer of the first order."
--Hungry Mind Review
David Haynes grew up in St. Louis, and now lives in St. Paul. He has taught middle school and worked as a teacher-in-residence for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He is the author of Heathens, Somebody Else's Mama, and Live at Five. He was selected by Granta magazine as one the best young American novelists in 1996. View titles by David Haynes

About

Marshall Field Finney was named after a department store and dropped like a hot potato when his mother suddenly packed up and left.  Now Marshall lives with his hard-drinking father in a crackerbox house and rides a yellow bus through beautiful St. Louis County to his mostly white suburban school.  Caught at a crossroads, Marshall is desperately searching for something to believe in.  At stake is only the rest of his life.

In this extraordinary novel, David Haynes tells the heartrending story of Marshall's journey through a broken world, where his father's new girlfriend, a poem by Yeats and a white teacher with big plans for her favorite students all seem to have the power to change him.  And as Marshall struggles to make sense of his life, the haunting letters begin to arrive from his runaway mother: "We are linked tighter than fine gold chains.  Who knows when we'll next be together--"

A tale of the ties that bind and the ties that fall away, Right by My Side is a cry from the heart, and a masterful novel of love and awakening by one of America's most gifted young writers.



Winner of the ALA's 1994 Best Book for Young Adults Award as well as the Minnesota Voices Project Award, Right by My Side is the heartrending story of 15-year-old Marshall Field Finney. When his mother suddenly takes off to find herself, Marshall is left with his hard-drinking father. Every day, he makes the long journey to his affluent, mostly white suburban high school. Caught at a crossroads, he is searching desperately for something he can hold on to. At stake is the rest of his life.



Just as Marchall begins to find a few signs that give him hope for his futures, he receives a series of haunting letters from his mother, who reminds him that they are "linked tighter than fine gold chains." A heartwarming tale of the ties that bind--and the ones that fall away--Right by My Side is a masterful novel of love and awakening by one of America's most gifted young writers. -->

Excerpt

Big Sam is waiting for me in his orange chair.
“Your Aunt Lucille called.”
Oops. Before I can b.s. as to how calling her slipped my mind, how I’d decided not to call, how I didn’t get an answer, Sam says:
“I guess the old bitch caught wind on the family grapevine that we were looking for your mama.”
Lucille is Rose’s mother’s sister. She could smell family trouble across the continental divide, and the Central West End is a lot closer than that. There’s been bad blood between her and Sam ever since she floor-showed at the big wedding. I understand that names such as “heathen” and “dried up old heifer” were exchanged, and that Rose herself fainted dead away—organdy, orange blossoms, and all.
“Let’s get our stories straight,” Sam says. “I told her you were upset and confused and that everything is fine.”
“Sure thing,” I say, nodding, sealing the pact.
“You cover the phone. You know when to come get me.”
“Yes, sir.” More nodding.
He calls me a good boy and rubs me on the head before ushering a six pack to his room. I won’t see him again today.
*
About eleven the phone rings. I turn from Johnny Carson, and there Sam is. His eyes are bleary red and he is halfway into a rumpled pair of pajamas. He nods at the phone. I just look at it. It rings some more; Sam nods again.
“Hello,” I say.
“Marshall. Is that you, Marshall?”
Lying with my eyes, I shake my head at Big Sam. I say hello again.
“Please put your daddy on the phone. Please.”
“No, I think you have the wrong number.”
Big Sam crumples his fists in disappointment.
“Marshall.” Rose’s voice sounds distant and vague.
“That’s quite all right,” I say, and I hang up. I put a hand on Big Sam’s shoulder and walk him to bed. The phone rings again.
“Go on to bed. I’m sure it’s that same wrong number. Let it ring. She’ll give up sooner or later.”

Reviews

"Enjoyable reading--witty insight--Haynes has created a likeable, heroic character."
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A charming debut--a funny and cynical coming-of-age novel."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Marvelous--[Haynes] has created one of the most vivid and idiosyncratic first-person narrators I've run up against in recent years.  You trust Marshall's voice, and you trust Haynes' gifts.  He's a prose writer of the first order."
--Hungry Mind Review

Author

David Haynes grew up in St. Louis, and now lives in St. Paul. He has taught middle school and worked as a teacher-in-residence for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He is the author of Heathens, Somebody Else's Mama, and Live at Five. He was selected by Granta magazine as one the best young American novelists in 1996. View titles by David Haynes