The Sound of Holding Your Breath
156 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Release Date:01 Oct 2018
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The Sound of Holding Your Breath


West Virginia University Press

The residents of The Sound of Holding Your Breath could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of twenty-first-century Appalachia—lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.

Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.

Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans—Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.

Natalie Sypolt has written gorgeous stories about a much-maligned region and a people that are too often viewed from the interstate, in photographs, or on the screen. If these viewers were to slow down and open the pages of a book like this one, they would discover lives not so different from their own, and they would find a people hewn by place, tied to one another, defined by hope and rage and heart. This is an important book by an important writer.'
Wiley Cash, author of The Last Ballad
This is writing of the highest order, with a sense of place so vivid we can smell the lake water and feel the breeze as it comes up to greet us on the front porch where we're peeling potatoes alongside characters so real they threaten to walk off the page and into our lives. Every sentence sings and every story haunts the reader in all of the best ways. A bold and important debut that announces a major new voice. It's also the best story collection I've read in a long while.’
Silas House, author of Clay’s Quilt and Southernmost

Sypolt writes with sober love and unselfconscious respect from the insides of people and a place too many writers touch only from the outside. An impressive debut.’
Ann Pancake, author of Strange As This Weather Has Been
Examines the best and worst of humanity in modern-day Appalachia.'
Publishers Weekly
Full of inevitability and resignation and haunted by themes of class, family, and place, The Sound of Holding Your Breath penetrates a deep-rooted consistency that’s both a comfort and a curse.'
Foreword Reviews

Full of powerful images.'
Kirkus Reviews
Sypolt catches her unassuming characters—friends, neighbors, and families—in the most trying times of their lives, and her vivid descriptions and masterful storytelling make every sentence, setting, and situation come alive.'

Natalie Sypolt is an assistant professor at Pierpont Community & Technical College. She coordinates the high school workshop for the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at West Virginia University and has served as a literary editor for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Appalachian Heritage, Kenyon Review Online, and Willow Springs. She is the winner of the Glimmer Train new writers contest, the Betty Gabehart Prize, the West Virginia Fiction Award, and the Still fiction contest. This is her first book. Learn more at

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