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Grey's mother dies giving birth to his sister Irene and he prays that she will be returned to him so he might protect her from the world as his father did not. This prayer, Grey believes, is answered in his sister Irene. He becomes obsessed with protecting her purity and innocence while befriending the wild boys of the small town of Mary Smokes horse-handlers and fox hunters and part-time timber workers members of a small, vanishing tribe who find themselves caught between an old relationship with place and a new one that is exemplified by the highway that threatens their town. Holland's kinship with Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is palpable. The Mary Smokes Boys is heart-rending and unforgettable, a suspenseful story of horse thieves and broken promises, of love and tragedy, of the fragility and grace of small town life, and how one fateful moment can forever alter the course of a life.
Patrick Holland is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association and grew up in outback Queensland, Australia, where he worked as a horseman before moving to Brisbane. He has worked and studied in China and Vietnam and is the author of the travel book, Riding the Trains in Japan: Travels in the Sacred and Supermodern East and the Saigon-based novel The Darkest Little Room, a collection of stories, and The Source of the Sound, which won the Scott Prize and was shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.