Fourteen-year-old Cindy and her two older brothers live in rural Pennsylvania, in a house with occasional electricity, two fierce dogs, one book, and a mother who comes and goes for months at a time. Deprived of adult supervision, the siblings rely on one another for nourishment of all kinds. As Cindy's brothers take on new responsibilities for her care, the shadow of danger looms larger and the status quo no longer seems tolerable.
So when a glamorous teen from a more affluent, cultured home goes missing, Cindy escapes her own family's poverty and slips into the missing teen's life. As Jude Vanderjohn, Cindy is suddenly surrounded by books and art, by new foods and traditions, and most important, by a startling sense of possibility. In her borrowed life she also finds herself accepting the confused love of a mother who is constitutionally incapable of grasping what has happened to her real daughter. As Cindy experiences overwhelming maternal love for the first time, she must reckon with her own deceits and, in the process, learn what it means to be a daughter, a sister, and a neighbor.
Marilou Is Everywhere is a powerful, propulsive portrait of an overlooked girl who finds for the first time that her choices matter.
“[A] compelling premise for a suspenseful novel, and short chapters keep the story moving . . . But Smith isn’t solely interested in plot; she’s a poet as well as a fiction writer (she holds two MFAs, one fiction and another in poetry), and her interest in language shows. . . . Marilou Is Everywhere’s language mixes the inventive with the plain, which adds another dimension to the first-person narration, making Cindy’s lonely world more vivid. . . . Smith handles the darkness in the novel (rural poverty, sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug use, neglect) with a light touch, offering plenty of humor in Cindy’s narration. The story comes to a lovely conclusion, allowing Cindy and the novel’s other characters some redemption. . . . Smith is a writer to watch.”—BookPage
“[A] mesmerizing blend of dream and reality, wrapped in a palpable love of language and plenty of suspense.”—BookPage
“Sarah Elaine Smith weaves together an unsettling coming-of-age story about a girl who goes to disturbing lengths to escape her deprived reality in this debut… Smith’s writing is feral. It’s alert, skittish, and hungry. Together, her words create a distorted picture of desperation and absence and a poignant story of accountability. The further Cindy strays from herself, the more she has to answer to. Smith shows that age and unlivable circumstances are no excuse. – Bust Magazine
“This is a mysterious and strangely exciting debut. Smith is a poet, and writes in sensory-driven, soul-tapping prose . . . Despite her isolation, professed ignorance, and desire to self-annihilate, bright and brave narrator Cindy understands much of the world, its hardships and moral quandaries, and the startling lack of guarantees that come with being born . . . Literary-minded teens will find a kindred heroine in the wonderfully weird and wry Cindy.”—Booklist
"Smith, who never insults her characters by pitying them, captures this unstable world with matter-of-fact poetry, spare and sensual and surprisingly funny. Bleak and vivid; Smith's characters are as rich as her prose." — Kirkus, starred review
"Smith’s rural world is brought to life with precise and devastating descriptions of poverty and neglect… fans of Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling will appreciate Cindy’s toughened point of view and Smith’s close attention to the details of rural Appalachian life. This is a promising debut."—Publisher’s Weekly
“This eerie exploration of desperation and the complexities of maternal love is sure to be a page-turner.”—LitHub, “Most Anticipated Book of 2019, Part 2”
"Sarah Elaine Smith has one of the most likable and delightful writing voices I have encountered recently—funny, lyrical, sexy, sad, humane, and just a total pleasure to read." —Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot
"Sarah Smith’s debut, Marilou Is Everywhere, is one of the most exquisitely written books I’ve read in a long time. Page after page I was struck by lines so unbearably beautiful and wise that by the final sentence I’d underlined most of the book. That she manages to do this while also telling a firecracker of a story about what happens when 14 year old Cindy slips into the life of the missing girl next door proves Smith a master. A haunting novel about craving escape so badly you're willing to erase yourself, by a writer I would follow anywhere." —Julie Buntin, author of Marlena
"Marilou Is Everywhere is everything. A missing girl story turned on its ear. That ear so close to the rural Pennsylvania ground that you’ll know every goddamn goat and swimming hole, every derelict heart and jar of homemade blackberry wine. The fullness of Sarah Smith’s prose will you leave feeling like you're hiding in plain sight—just like Cindy Stoat standing in for the missing girl. And as Smith plumbs what it means to disappear, you’ll find yourself in such fullness that you’ll ache and disappear too. This is the rare book that wants for nothing." —Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek
“Marilou Is Everywhere examines the consequences of sexism, racism, intergenerational trauma on the lives of women and girl, the way that violence can turn people cruel. It also imagines a world in which women are able to triumph—spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, sexually—despite the catastrophic obstacles they are forced to navigate.” – Life Harvester