yannick murphy
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“The Call is the only book I’ve read by Yannick Murphy, but it has made me a fan ... It was a total unexpected pleasure.”
– Librarian Nancy Pearl discussing The Call in her webinar Nancy Pearl Presents: Books that Make Great Gifts

Yannick Murphy is the author of the novels, THE CALL, SIGNED, MATA HARI, HERE THEY COME, and THE SEA OF TREES. Her story collections include STORIES IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE and IN A BEAR’S EYE. Her children’s books include THE COLD WATER WITCH, BABY POLAR, and AHWOOOOOOOO!. She is the recipient of various awards including a Pushcart Prize, a Laurence L. and Thomas Winship/PEN New England Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Chesterfield Screenwriting award. Her story IN A BEAR’S EYE was published in the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.



“. . . an innovative thriller . . . hypnotic”
— The New York Times

“Style and substance and swimming mesh perfectly into a page-turner that sweeps you along with the power of a winning breaststroke.”
— The Boston Globe

Read a Wall Street Journal Review

“A domestic tale and unlikely crime thriller, adds a striking new wrinkle to the author’s consistently surprising body of work. . . . Ms. Murphy excels at such intimate observations of everyday family life. . . . A pulse-raising thriller.”
— Wall Street Journal

“This mesmerizing novel follows Annie, a distracted middle-age mother of two who volunteers for her daughters’ highly competitive swim team. . . . The resulting intimacy you develop with each character takes this book beyond compelling into seriously addictive: You feel as they feel, be it fear, loss, longing or that most gripping of all feelings, love. Do not miss it.”
— Oprah.com, 7 Best Binge-Reads of Summer

“Murphy’s writing is disarming in that it captures the way people actually think. . . . Entering the mind of a murderer is as unsettlingly uncomfortable as entering Annie’s mind is disquietingly familiar. These are two devastating stories spun together. . . . That someone so exceedingly ordinary is thrust into the danger of a killer makes the story more compelling, but not more irresistible. The combination gives rise to an uncommon story. This Is The Water is quietly unlike anything else.”
— A.V. Club, "A"

“Obscenely suspenseful. . . . In Murphy’s hands, the structure becomes almost hypnotic--and when the story hits full speed in the final quarter, the suspense becomes almost excruciating.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Murphy’s latest propulsive, psychologically lush, witty, and unpredictable novel, a tale of young competitive swimmers and their parents. . . . Murphy’s evocation of feverish competition, stressed marriages, and the shocking banality of a serial killer’s inner life coalesce in a novel of acute observation, penetrating imagination, and rare agility that is capped by a resounding denouement.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“Murphy seasons the rising tension with humor. . . . A different sort of murder yarn that boasts twists in both the style and the plot.”
— Kirkus Reviews


“Yannick Murphy’s beautiful new novel is a stirring example of what a real writer can do with form and feeling. The Call is sly, funny, scary, honest, wonderstruck and, most of all, intensely generous.”
– Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

“This is a wonderful novel. Original, suspenseful, funny and profoundly moving. It’s about family, community, the human bond with animals and–oh yeah–spaceships. I am in awe of Yannick Murphy’s achievement and I plan to recommend The Call to everyone I know.”
– Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer prize winning author of, most recently, Caleb’s Crossing

“This book delights with its discrete structuring...the pieces snap together in odd juxtaposition, surprising, making a picture more sturdy and dependable than the seamless whole. It has the power of good old Byzantine mosaic.”
– Padgett Powell, author of The Interrogative Mood

“Displaying an almost magical economy, ... The Call conjures the quirky satisfactions of rural life.”
– People, Four Stars

“The truthful evocation of family is the real triumph of The Call. There is much love in this novel, and just as much truth about the pain and pleasure of family life. ’What is taking place is as layered as something in nature,’ writes Murphy of an encounter between two of her characters. She could well be describing her own clever and beautiful book. ... Remarkable.”
– The Boston Globe

“A triumph of quiet humor and understated beauty, Murphy’s latest ... evoke[s] the dulcet cadences of life in a rural New England town, a place of stoicism and goodwill without the embroidery of folksy clichés. Murphy’s subtle, wry wit and an appealing sense for the surreal leaven moments of anger and bleakness, and elevate moments of kindness, whimsy, and, ultimately, grace.”
– Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“Murphy is a subtle, psychologically perceptive writer, and the book has a wry humor that’s laconic and surreal and shot through with the tender mysteries of family life. A marvelous book: sweet and poignant without ever succumbing to easy sentiment, formally inventive and dexterous without ever seeming showy. A triumph.”
– Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“Whiting Award winner Murphy is both incisive and imaginative, pirouetting from the richly interpretive Signed, Mata Hari (2007) to this hypnotically patterned, wryly funny, and warmly compassionate tale of a New England veterinarian under duress. ... Murphy lives in Vermont with her veterinarian husband, three children, and two Newfoundland dogs, hence the visceral detail and deep knowledge that stoke this gorgeously realized novel of a good man’s struggle with anger, fear, and duty. With phenomenal economy and delicious deadpan humor, Murphy dramatizes small-town contrariness, the fearful beauty and power of nature, the preciousness of ordinary family routines, and the many forms of giving and healing.”
– Booklist Starred Review

“The first thing everyone will notice about Yannick Murphy’s The Call is that it is written in the style of a survey. The question-and-answer format initially seems like a distraction, but in Ms. Murphy’s hands it becomes wondrously dynamic. She exploits it for pitch-perfect set-ups and punchlines.... The Call is ultimately a warm-hearted paean to family devotion.”
– The Wall Street Journal

“Murphy’s eye for small-town detail and human/animal relations makes for a complex, delicate story line, and the novel as a whole carries a very real human velocity and gravity. The domestic focus and unexpected intrusions recall fiction by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. Engaging and acutely modern, this work will appeal to many readers.”
– Library Journal

“There is beauty in these snapshots alone, yet the most striking moments appear as they play fugue to one another. ... Told through the prose of the father’s daily log, The Call is a subtle, lush, and ultimately, masterful novel.”
– Nylon

“Fresh and beguiling. The portrait of family life that emerges in The Call – at once ironic and warm – is ‘as layered as something in nature.’ Wonderful.”
– Barnes & Noble Reviews

“You don’t want to miss the undeniably fascinating scenes that pulse throughout this novel. ... Yannick Murphy’s The Call is a one-of-a-kind story ... filled with forthright, understated prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s.”
– The Daily Beast

“Yannick Murphy might as well have smeared glue all over The Call... impossible to put down. This is a novel’s novel, the kind of book that can’t spare a word, that’s perfectly insular but still manages to enlighten readers about their own lives.”
– The Portland Mercury

“The Call is a nifty trick of a novel. The quick summer read that transcends its category. [It] thoroughly engrosses, entertains, and, finally, enlightens. ... By way of recommending Yannick Murphy and The Call, I point out that it is the rare novel that is good enough to send the reader off to seek and find the author’s earlier books ... in order to enjoy them as well. And, in the end, what higher praise is there than that?”
– New York Journal of Books

“The Call builds into an exquisite, pointed poem to domesticity, written by the paterfamilias, who is eccentric in the way we are all eccentric when we let our thoughts surface. Murphy, who lives in Vermont and wrote the astutely sensuous novel Signed, Mata Hari in 2007, creates a different book on every outing, each a reverie and a joy. She is that rarity: a sharp writer unafraid to be tender.”
– Cleveland Plain Dealer

“It’s remarkable how easily the reader is lulled into the rhythm of the format [of The Call]. In the quotidian details of farm life, Murphy demonstrates how crucial it is to focus on the small, real tasks in the face of something too big and too dark to understand.”
– Time Out New York

“The restraint around the narrative [in The Call] only highlights the beauty of Murphy’s prose. [Her] eye for poignant details sells this refreshingly upbeat portrait of a man’s quiet strength.”
– Orlando Sentinel

“Yannick Murphy’s The Call, about a family dealing with the consequences of a tragic accident, explores marriage, parenthood, small-town life, medicine, and hope with a sensitivity, skill, and fearlessness that will rattle your bones.”
– Ben Greenman, author of Celebrity Chekhov and What He’s Poised To Do

L.A. Times Review

Open Books Radio Interview


“[An] alluring novel, ... hypnotic [and as] softly poetic as it is insistent, [Signed, Mata Hari] entices the reader from the first lines to give Mata Hari what she always craved: not the secrets that are the currency of a spy, but the rapt attention that is oxygen to a performer.”
– Starred Review, Publisher’s Weekly

“In the fictionalized confessional Signed, Mata Hari, Yannick Murphy reincarnates the legendary seductress who was accused of being a double agent in World War I, giving her a lyrical voice and an irrepressible vivacity... Most of the twists and gyrations take place on the page, not the stage, [and by] the time her last morning arrives and she walks out to face a French firing squad – sans blindfold – we feel as besotted with this passionate, provocative woman as were the rest of her hapless admirers.”
– Corrie Pikul, ELLE

“Does the literary world need another fictional tribute to Mata Hari? If it is penned by the inimitable Murphy, the answer is yes. [A] seductive narrative, ... Murphy has fashioned a mesmerizing novel that creatively reimagines the life of one of the most notorious, and perhaps overvilified, women of all time.”
– Booklist

“In Signed, Mata Hari, Yannick Murphy once again treats us to her luscious signature lyric style, its whispers and perfumes, in this time- and space-bending tale of the famous dancer and accused spy.”
– Janet Fitch, author of Paint it Black and White Oleander

“Yannick Murphy, while being one of our most daring and original writers, is first and foremost an exquisitely attuned observer of human behavior. Her characters are so richly imagined and believable that when you?re finished with ... her book, you expect to find her characters? names in the phone book. Murphy’s work provides pretty much unexceeded reading pleasure.”
– Dave Eggers, author of What Is the What and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

“This impressionistic, erotic novel ... probes beneather the well-known facts of Mata Hari’s life ... to evoke the pleasure and sustenance in her experiences and the poetry in the mystery of whether she really was a spy.”
– Thelma Adams, More

“More stunning, even, than this lush, luscious, prose is how Yannick Murphy turns preconceived notions inside out. Rendered with great insight and compassion, Murphy’s Mata Hari is revealed, not as a spy, but as a sympathetic and intensely complicated woman. A wife, a mother, a lover, an artist, she is worthy of our admiration and of our hearts. Signed, Mata Hari is a thrilling and a devastating novel.”
– Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment

“Brilliant in its structure, beautiful in its language, rich in its characterization, Yannick Murphy’s new novel, Signed, Mata Hari, also happens to have at its center one of the most fascinating figures of the early twentieth century, a woman who ached deeply and searched intensely for an identity. In Murphy’s masterful hands, this quest is tenderly and movingly rendered.”
– Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“The award-winning Murphy [has created in] Mata Hari a fictional persona marked by sensitivity, desperation, and longing. Murphy effectively builds tension concerning Mata Hari’s fate. ...The novel is as fascinating as Mata Hari herself and occasionally brilliant in the way it re-creates her life....”
– Library Journal

“Intense, atmospheric and erotic, this is more prose poem than historical novel.”
– Kirkus

“The life of the legendary French dancer and femme fatale is brilliantly captured in this impressionistic novel. [A] compelling portrait ...[and] mesmerizing read.”
– John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“In this enticing tale, we encounter [Mata Hari] in a guise her accusers never saw: desperate mother.”
– Good Housekeeping

“[Mata Hari] proves that she can be just as seductive in print as she apparently was in person. ... By the close of Murphy’s extraordinary yarn, Mata Hari can’t escape the business end of a rifle, but neither can the reader escape doubts about her infamy.”
– J. Kingston Pierce, Washington CEO

UK Reviews

“Vivid and compelling”
– The Independent

“This beautifully written, cleverly imagined and sympathetic retelling of the story ... draws the reader into a tragic story, [entering] the psychology of a woman whose whole life has become a lie. Erotically explicit, poignant and sad, this contribution to the Mata Hari myth may well be nearer the truth than most.”
– Peter Millar, The Times

“Yannick Murphy’s novel is a vivid reimagining of [the Mata Hari] myth, creating a portrait of a clever, sensual woman.... In evocative, erotic prose, Murphy describes the transformation of Marguerite Zelle from an irrepressible Dutch girl to beautiful Mata Hari – ‘the eye of dawn, the sunrise’. ...Filled with poignant detail [and] lush, precise descriptions. ... Compelling.”
– Eithne Farry, Daily Mail

“Mata Hari has long been associated with the wily eroticism of femmes fatales. But Yannick Murphy is intent on discovering the woman behind the myth in this sensitive, imaginative reworking of her life. ... Murphy gives this tumultuous life a dreamlike quality. The heat of Indonesia mirrors the passion of Mata Hari’s affairs and the way the lush forest becomes entangled with her grief works to brilliant effect.”
– Zena Alkayat, Metro UK

“Captivating... Murphy seduces readers with her prose. This elegantly crafted novel keeps you guessing until Mata Hari’s last moments.”
– Sunday Express

“Nice one, Yannick”
– Jon Wise, Daily Sport

– The Gloss

“Sensuous and fiercely intelligent”
– Waterstone’s Books Quarterly

“This is a sensitive re-imagining of Mata Hari’s life, its legendary associations and its sorry ending.”
– Sunday Business Post


Splitting time between a ramshackle apartment and a lonely hot dog vendor, the observant thirteen-year-old who stands steadily at the center of Here They Come gives lyrical voice to an unforgettable instant – 1970s New York, stifling, violent, and full of life. Balanced between her enigmatic siblings, borderline parents, and a quiet sense of the surreal, she recounts a year of startling moments with dark humor and deadpan resilience. By Yannick Murphy, author of the New York Times Notable Book The Sea of Trees.

“This is a hell of a book. You might not be able to finish Here They Come in one sitting, but it will haunt you till you do. What detail! What characters! I can imagine both Jane Austen and Raymond Carver poring over this masterly novel.”


“Yannick Murphy is a uniquely talented writer who manages to turn everything on its head and make dark, funny, shocking and beautiful prose out of the detritus of growing up poor, fatherless, and cockeyed. She is fearless.”


“Yannick Murphy’s long-awaited Here They Come is a unique combination of rare linguistic lyricism with brutal and brilliant prose. It is an unrelenting portrait of family, terrifying for its honesty, its willingness to be ugly and elegant. Haunting.”


“Told by a precocious unnamed 13-year-old girl who bends spoons with her mind, Murphy’s gorgeous third book of fiction recounts the story of a poor family’s coming-of-age in 1970s New York. In thick, poetic prose that edges toward stream of consciousness and is peppered with slightly surreal details, Murphy creates a world as magical and harrowing as the struggle to come to grips with maturity.”

– Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“Yannick Murphy creates a narrator with a unique, sometimes shocking perspective. Murphy’s startling language and imagery accumulate great power as they hurtle toward the reader.”

– People Magazine

“Murphy flawlessly captures a child’s-eye view of a battered society and a battered family. The spare elegance of her prose contrasts so jarringly with the sordid physical landscape that it inspires an unsettling sense of disconnect, which is almost certainly the point. Most impressive of all is Murphy’s remarkable use of language, the expressive way she puts together ordinary words and images to create surprisingly lovely and moving metaphors.”

– Wendy Smith, LA Times

“Here They Come [is] a novel which decenters the familiar – pushes it through the looking glass to the point of acceptance, humor, and maybe even awe. Murphy’s prose is poetic, quirky, and a little breathless, but it is also tremendously strong, and both grounded and moving. Murphy wields dialogue like a pro, as well; her tone is fairly light, given some of the subject matter, but with DeLillo-esque artistry, she hides daggers just beneath the surface. Here They Come is a funny, genuine, and smart novel from a writer to keep an eye on.”

– Jill Owens, Powell’s

“A girl on the verge searches for her father in Yannick Murphy’s shockingly funny Here They Come.”

– Vanity Fair

“[A] mixture of naturalism and surrealism [that] is intriguing-and well written.”

– Booklist

“Narrated by a 13-year-old girl living in 1970s New York, Here They Come by Yannick Murphy brings pluck and humor as well as a virtuoso writing-style to a novel about a family. It’s a dangerous world, but our narrator doesn’t spend time wishing things were any different. Instead she navigates, she negotiates, she says fuck like she’s seen it all, and then she says or does something to remind you that she is only thirteen and has just enough experience to get herself in trouble. Here They Come is a wonderfully realized book, beautifully packaged by McSweeney’s.”

– Emily Nesbitt, Grace Book Club: Recommended Reading for March 2006