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Winner:
Minnesota Book Award
Michigan Award for Literary Fiction

Where No Gods Came Reading Guide for Book Clubs

Where No Gods Came Interviews:
Star Tribune
Pioneer Press
Q & A with Sheila O'Connor

Purchase Where No Gods Came:

Michigan Press





Meet 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.

Praise for Where No Gods Came:
"A novel to stir even the coldest heart...O'Connor's debut novel moves, evokes, and delights. With character studies reminiscent of James Baldwin's masterwork Go Tell It on the Mountain, O'Connor suffuses her imagined world with such feeling that readers live the pages more than read them. A flawlessly nuanced work of fiction with a steadily increasing intensity, Where No Gods Came is a brilliant work of storytelling -- and what we hope is just the beginning of a long, artful career." — The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers

"...a touching odyssey of a girl poised between the emotional abyss and the reader's heart." — Minneapolis Star and Tribune

"...a fresh and moving coming-of-age novel, a memorable portrait of the artist 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." — Buffalo News, Mick Cochrane, Author of Flesh Wounds and Sport

"O'Connor effectively captures the naiveté of the child and the burgeoning perceptiveness of the teenager. The relationship between the sisters is the soul of the novel, as they journey from loathing to loyalty and love. Written with precision and perception, this is a highly recommended work from a writer to watch." — Caroline M. Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. Library Journal

"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 our world, there are a hundred more—girls of fierce intelligence and determination stuck in unfortunate circumstances. It is a story for our time." — Three Candles, Steve Mueske, Editor

"Where No Gods Came accomplishes that difficult thing: it's a
coherent story about incoherence, a shapely one about the lures of
shapelessness. 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. Her sense of the
landscape here described—both actual and metaphorical—is keen, and her language self-assured. This is a fine, fierce book." — Nicholas Delbanco; Michigan Literary Award judge ;In the Name of Mercy; Old Scores; What Remains

"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, Highwire Moon

"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, All American Dream Dolls, Live at Five and Somebody Else's Mama.

"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, Swimming Sweet Arrow

"Sheila O’Connor’s protagonist, Faina McCoy, is sure to take her place among a long list of unforgettable adolescent heroines – Scout Finch, Jane Eyre, Jo March, Ruth Ann (Bone) Boatwright Frankie Adams, Sula Peace, Kate Vaiden – all of them smart, gutsy girls whose strong hearts capture the reader’s own. Where No Gods Came is an unflinchingly true and real portrait of a family; the deep and myriad ways in which people hurt and are hurt by each other; and the capacity in the human spirit to love and endure." — Mary Francois Rockcastle, Rainy Lake

"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, Autobiography of a Family Photo