The World’s Smallest Bible chronicles the seriocomic boyhood of Ethan and Jeremiah Mueller in mill town Pennsylvania during the height of World War II. As they lose friends and neighbors to the front lines, the boys try to make sense of the mounting darkness with their imaginations—except in their world, no one ever dies. In a private, laconic language, they invent stories that mirror the irrational world around them: a chaplain with bad news becomes the Angel of Death, skeletal Nazis lurk around the corner, and the ghost of a dead playmate taps at their bedroom window in the night. With startling lyricism and narrative grace, Dennis Must has fashioned an indelible vision of the Mueller boys’ blighted youth.
About the Author
Dennis Must is the author of two short story collections: Oh, Don’t Ask Why (Red Hen Press, 2007) and Banjo Grease (Creative Arts Book Company, 2000). His plays have been performed Off-Off-Broadway, and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has worked as a cabinetmaker, short-order cook, lightning rod installer, florist, bartender, bellhop, and as a general laborer in a glass factory, in a steel mill, on highway construction, and on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. For over a decade, he was Executive Vice President of Corporate Space, Inc., a commercial real estate firm in Boston he co-founded. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.
“Told in startling, poetic language, The World’s Smallest Bible is an ode to the power of the imagination, as two boys in a Pennsylvania town during WWII sustain each other with stories and fabulist visions. Their struggle with the real world—the war, teachers, their parents—runs through The World’s Smallest Bible like an obbligato. Dennis Must skillfully combines narrative momentum with lyricism resulting in a novel of extraordinary grace and originality.” —Thaisa Frank, author of Heidegger’s Glasses
“What a wild and wonderful trip The World’s Smallest Bible is. It’s like Sherwood Anderson territory glimpsed through the prism of Kafka’s consciousness. The story’s at once otherworldly, yet also very much of this world, the world of ‘bang and blab’ as Roethke puts it—the feverish fluctuations between the two elements I see as a cardinal strength of the work. And the storyteller’s neighbor’s perpetual motion machine seemed to me a potent symbol/metaphor of all our tangled hopes, aspirations, audacities, fears and obsessions; it is utterly fascinating with all its physical oddities and contrarieties, embodying something important to us all.” —Geoffrey Clark, author of Two, Two, Lily-White Boys, Necessary Deaths, Wedding in October, and Jackdog Summer
“In this darkly comic Bildungsroman, Ethan Daugherty, initially plagued by several manifestations of moral evil—both imagined and real—comes to understand one indisputable existential truth: The restrictive confines of place—in this case, Hebron, Pennsylvania, toxic in practically every respect—can maim the soul, kill the human spirit. Reminiscent of Zola, The World’s Smallest Bible brilliantly demonstrates that for all one’s attempts, whether ignoble or noble, to escape one’s seemingly appointed lot, the only way out may be the grave.” —Jack Smith, author of Hog to Hog
“The World’s Smallest Bible is that too rare and beautiful combination of a literary novel that is also a page-turner. It somehow manages to be narratively ambitious, while the writing comes across as effortless. The World’s Smallest Bible is an excellent book. An enormous pleasure to read, and a novel I’d recommend to anyone.” —Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living, Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life, and More Than They Could Chew