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Where No Gods Came

Sheila O'Connor

Publication Year: 2010

Winner 2003 Michigan Literary Fiction Award for original novel "Written with precision and perception, this is a highly recommended work from a writer to watch." ---Library Journal "O'Connor . . . remains a consummate artist, true to her vision of a work that is bleak, truthful, and lacking any overt sentimental overtures. Her eye, a poet's eye, misses nothing." ---three candles ". . . a touching odyssey of a girl poised between the emotional abyss and the reader's heart." ---Minneapolis Star-Tribune "A sensitive, often disquieting book that rings true throughout. . . . It's the skill of an accomplished writer that we see Faina's extraordinary spirit, while simultaneously experiencing her pain and despair. The end result is an uplifting, even inspiring book without any of the sugarcoating often found in stories like this." ---California Literary Review Where No Gods Came is author Sheila O'Connor's compelling story of 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.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Sweetwater Fiction: Originals


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pp. vii-viii

Heartfelt thanks to the following: Wendy Weil and Emily Forland for their labor and leap of faith; my readers: Reid Jensen, Callie Cardamon, Anne Hickok, and Kim Palmer; Stuart “Morley” Shaver for that invaluable Legion lunch; the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Bush Foundation for fellowships that made this book possible; ...

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Faina McCoy Where Is the World?

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pp. 1-8

I go back to San Diego for my beginning, because I can’t shake from my mind the old life: hot sand and salt water outside my window, my father’s coffee left on the stove, the early morning silence of our house, my father always gone before I’m awake. And, in the last days, the stench of Wiley, fully clothed, asleep on our living room floor. ...

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Lenore A Smart Girl

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pp. 9-10

The night Bobby sent Faina back to me, I stood at the window, watching her little cricket body climb out of the yellow cab, wondering how I’d let him talk me into this reunion. Cash, company, light housekeeping. Temporary. Until he was back on his feet. ...

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Faina Minneapolis

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pp. 11-21

During the first few days, I pass the hours sitting on the floor, my back against the apartment door, my closed eyes pressed into my knees. This isn’t my mother, I tell myself. I’m not really here. I just want to be ready, my suitcase next to me, so I can walk out the door when my dad comes to take me back home. ...

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Lenore Ancient History

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pp. 22-24

Cammy and I were happy during those first few years. Bobby was gone all the time down at the garage, weekends hunting or fishing with his buddies near Moose Lake, poker games. From the start, Cammy was good company. I told her the worst of it. The phone numbers I found scribbled on little slips of paper, ...

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Hi Honey

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pp. 25

I know it’s later than I promised, but if you saw the scene here, you’d know there isn’t much time to scratch off a letter. And I’m not exactly a writer. Don’t pretend to be either. ...

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Cammy Missing

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pp. 26-27

That summer, Tony was driving it up from a farm in Wisconsin. We could make a hundred bucks easy, just selling it to punks on the street. We were living high. Happy. I didn’t think of going back. ...

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Faina The New Girl

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pp. 28-37

By August, we’ve settled into a sleepy routine. Mornings, Lenore wakes slowly, giving her eyes time to adjust to the light. In the freezer, I keep a dish of frozen washrags, and I carry one to her bed and smooth it out on her forehead. Then I deliver her a strong cup of coffee, bitter with a bite, the way she likes it, ...

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Lenore Departure

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pp. 38-39

By August, Faina had grown on me. Days, she stayed next to me, content to linger in my bed and study old family photos, her apple breath brushing against my ear. Asleep or awake, I felt her near me, the warmth of her little body soothing my ragged nerves. ...

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Hi Baby

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pp. 40

Got your letters. You do much besides write me? They were giving me crap at the co. office. Don’t know how you find so much to say. Should of read them in order, I had to go back and check the postmarks to follow the whole story. If I got it right, things have finally settled down with Lenore. She can be mad as a rabid dog. ...

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Faina Sheep

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pp. 41-48

At recess, the girls follow me to the small strip of blacktop along the backside of the school. All together, there are twelve girls in seventh grade, and they gather on the stone wall that separates Cathedral from the back alley to hear the next chapter of my story. I let them finger the silver bracelet given to me by my sailor, ...

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Hi Baby

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pp. 49-50

So she put you with the Catholics. I had to laugh. I can still hear Lenore’s old man calling me a fish eater. Not that I cared about the name, he called me plenty worse. But I wish he was alive today to see his golden girl, Lenore, kneeling next to you in the pew down at Cathedral. Dropping his cash into the basket. ...

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Faina Ghost in the Graveyard

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pp. 51-59

This Halloween, Emmy Atwood has decided the seventh-grade girls are too old to go trick-or-treating. Instead, she’ll host a costume party with pizza, door prizes, and a seance to bring back John F. Kennedy. ...

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Lenore The Accident

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pp. 60-61

Weak as I was, I took care of her. I tucked her in next to me, dabbed her bloody lip with wet cotton balls, arranged my frozen washrags on her broken face. When I pressed my body next to hers to stop the shivering, her skin felt like a furnace. ...

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pp. 62

What the hell kind of news is that? An accident? I couldn’t make the pieces of the story fit together. Did they catch this guy on the bike? If I’d been there I would have tracked him down, beat the shit out of him. You know me. I’m starting to get worried. Is Lenore looking out for you? Sounds to me like it’s the other way around. ...

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Cammy First Snow

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pp. 63-65

By late November, we were killing time waiting until the first snow fell. Life on the streets had gone to hell, it was so cold, even the dogs came in out of the alleys. Every few days a few flakes fell, but nothing steady. Still, we all knew how hard times would be ahead. ...

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Faina Jimmy Cordova

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pp. 66-79

Winter nights when Lenore dreams beneath her down quilt, and the streets below our window are finally quiet, I take my diary outside to the fire escape, to write and wait for Jimmy. ...

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Merry Christmas

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pp. 80

Don’t know for sure when this will get there, after Christmas probably. I could of timed it better but there’s no holidays in my world. Wasn’t much here in the way of souvenirs, same stuff in every gift shop. The boomerang’s an Australia thing, don’t know if you’ve seen one, but thought you might have some fun with it. Show it to the kids at school. ...

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Lenore Winter Dream

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pp. 81-82

He was wearing his Christmas bowtie with the blinking lights. We were back at our old house on Lake of the Isles, a fire burning in the white stone fireplace, the colored light wheel splashing blue and green and pink over Mother’s silver tinsel tree. Mother was playing the organ, “Oh, Holy Night,” ...

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Faina Sisters

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pp. 83-96

I have a sister. At night we sleep together in our narrow twin bed, Cammy’s body clammy with sweat, her bare leg looped over my hip. “Don’t go,” she says, when I offer to sleep in the living room. “We’re finally family.” She nuzzles her nose into the back of my neck, closes her arm around my chest, ...

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Cammy Family

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pp. 97-103

Weekdays, my mother kept me in because of the cops. She was sure they were searching for me, sure Hank or Frances would blow the whistle. She had it in her head that the whole block knew our business. I humored her, because it was thirty below zero, so cold your spit froze in your mouth. ...

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Hi Honey

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pp. 104

So she’s back. The missing Cammy. I had a feeling she’d show up before too long. It isn’t easy making it away from home, I know that well enough. Left my folks’ farm at 15, went hungry plenty. I’m glad you girls are hitting it off, no cat fights yet I hope. A house full of women. Glad I’m not there to see it. ...

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Faina Gifts

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pp. 105-113

In April, when the archbishop comes to Cathedral to confirm Mrs. Lajoy’s third-graders I will be with them, the only seventh-grader who hasn’t made the sacrament yet. Sister Cyril sends me down to the primary wing for training. I sit in the back corner of Mrs. Lajoy’s classroom, my knees banging against the top of the miniature desk. ...

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Cammy Closing the Circle

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pp. 114-117

I knew the truth about Jimmy, though I made up my mind to let Faina have her little secret. I’d watched them on the fire escape sharing those sweet night smokes. Right away I took him for a New Directions kid. They all had the same shaggy look; I’d hung with enough of them through the years to know it. ...

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Lenore Survivors

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pp. 118-119

It was Cammy who forged the field-trip permission slip. But when the Cathedral secretary called to say my signature looked suspicious, I lied and said it was mine. I didn’t want to sound the alarm. ...

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Faina Stew

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pp. 120-128

While she gets ready, I lounge on the floor, watch as she scrunches the pantyhose together at the toe, inches them slowly up over each leg, bends at the knees to yank them up over her hips. The elastic top cuts into her flat white stomach. Then she sits half-naked in front of the make-up mirror, the round white bulbs turning her bare skin blue. ...

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Cammy Sweethearts

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pp. 129-134

We worked Faina’s assembly line. My mother clipped out the brown construction-paper dogs with her manicure scissors; I attached the tails with little gold fasteners she’d dug out of Papa Roy’s desk. Faina printed the message on the dog’s stomach: Be my Dog-Gone Valentine. ...

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Hi there

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pp. 135

Twelve years without religion and now this? Confirmation? If you’re looking for a name, try mine. Saint Roberta? How’s that sound? I’m sorry I can’t be there for the show. Have Lenore take some pictures of you all dressed up, send them to me. I’d give anything to see your face. ...

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Faina The Message

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pp. 136-145

Per makes us happy. All of us, even Lenore, who lets Per nap beside her on a satin pillow. Cammy teases Per with a string, a rolled-up ball of newspaper. “Come see this,” we call out to each other; then we gather at the bathroom door to watch Per catch drops of water from the faucet, or lick her pink tongue over her tiny saucer of milk. ...

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Cammy Luck

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pp. 146-151

I had to sober her up and bring her in. She had a hundred excuses. All of them connected with money. No health insurance, bankruptcy. “They’ll take every cent Papa Roy left me. Then what? Lose the apartment? Live on the streets?” I was too young to believe her. I took it all for booze talk. Paranoia. ...

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Lenore The Whirlpool

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pp. 152-153

It was Cammy’s fault for leaving me scared. Scared of the papers, the doctors touching my naked body, scared of the cotton robe, the questions, the way they trapped me the last time. I didn’t care about the knife; I didn’t want to lose her again. ...

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Hi Honey

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pp. 154

Who could believe a little cat. You hassled me for a pet so many years, I thought you’d given up. Persephone? What kind of name is that? She sounds like a beauty, but don’t let her take all your love away from Croc. Remember, he came from far away. He needs a home. ...

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Faina Protect Us

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pp. 155-166

My book is nearly finished. I’ve replaced the missing photographs with stories of my baptism and first communion. All of my writing is done in ink, skipping a line in-between like Mrs. Lajoy ordered. I loop thick green yarn through the three holes punched out along the side. ...

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Cammy Running

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pp. 167-171

The cough was killing her. She blamed me for it; she claimed she’d caught it the day she waited outside Hennepin County while I made my sweet peace with Tony. “I told you not to take me in the first place. I knew the doctors wouldn’t help.” ...

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Faina Empty

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pp. 172-180

First, I check Dakota Avenue for cop cars like Cammy told me. There’s no sign of anything, not police, not an ambulance, not the crowds I imagined. Not even Frances or Hank. Maybe Cammy made up the whole story to get me to go to San Diego, maybe Lenore is still up there, struggling to breathe, just waiting for us to come home. ...

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Cammy What Was Ahead

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pp. 181

Faina? Of course I went back for her, but when I saw her trapped in the squad car, I knew our days together were done. There was no San Diego without her, no ocean, no beach, no chance to escape this sad city. I waited until she saw me, until she knew for sure I’d never desert her. Faina. My baby sister. The dark girl I’d grown to love. ...

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Lenore Intensive Care

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pp. 182-183

There were tubes everywhere, nurses waking me to check my temperature, my blood pressure, measure the ›uids in the clear plastic bags. The constant beep of machines, a needle through my back to drain out the lung. Pneumonia, they said. Maybe liver. Cirrhosis. Like Mother. But I was too young to die. ...

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Faina Shelter

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pp. 184-195

My social worker, Therese, has good news for me. The doctors at Hennepin County have given me permission to see my mother. My mother. That’s what I call her now. ...

Faina McCoy

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pp. 196

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025718
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472030514

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Sweetwater Fiction: Originals