Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny: A Novel (Hardcover)

Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny: A Novel By Mark Cecil Cover Image
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A large-hearted reimagining of beloved all-American legends, this epic debut novel brings men of myth Paul Bunyan and John Henry alive like never before, teaming up for an adventure quest with deeper interrogations of race, class, and industrialization.

Paul Bunyan—legendary larger-than-life American lumberjack—is a man down on his luck. With a load of family debts on his broad back, he ekes out a miserable miner’s life in Lump Town, a bleak hamlet controlled by famed industrialist El Boffo. When Bunyan's wife Lucette falls ill with a disease caused by the toxic mineral Lump, he embarks on a quest to save her. His only guide: the Chilali—a mysterious creature who speaks only in questions.

Bunyan’s path leads to The Windy City—and to John Henry. Henry is not yet the “steel-drivin’” man known to folklore, but a fugitive on the run from a rigged, racist prison system. As Bunyan and Henry strive to reunite with the families they love, they must work together to solve riddles, forge weapons, brawl with a behemoth, and confront at every turn the relentless, duplicitous El Boffo.

A richly imaginative reinvention of myth, Bunyan and Henry is at once a timeless quest, a fresh origin story, and an urgent modern fable that wrestles with the two sides of the American dream—its wild idealism and cruel underbelly—to inspire the awakening of the folk hero in us all.

About the Author

MARK CECIL is host of The Thoughtful Bro show, for which he conducts interviews with an eclectic roster of award-winning and breakout storytellers. Formerly a journalist for Reuters, he is Head of Strategy for literary social media startup A Mighty Blaze and has taught writing at Grub Street in Boston. This is his first book.

Praise For…

“With the might of a hammer and the slice of an axe, Bunyan and Henry takes aim at a host of societal blights, from capitalism to climate change, and smashes them all to smithereens. Mark Cecil has crafted an unforgettable cast of characters who will make you shout with joy and rage in anger, and a plot so romping and rollicking you’ll feel like you’re there. This isn’t your typical bedtime fable; it’s packed with searing social commentary delivered in the most delectable way. Cecil’s debut is an undeniably bright light to behold in a world sometimes full of so much dark, inspiring all of us to follow our own beautiful destinies. What a marvel.”
—Mateo Askaripour, New York Times bestselling author of Black Buck 

“A hopeful Twainian nod to brotherhood that puts the fun in profundity, even as it remixes American myth to the most sobering beats of our modern times.”
—Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook and We Are the Light

"Cecil has quilted American folklore into a patchwork of courage, tenderness, and generosity of spirit. This is a book unafraid to stare the cruelties of this nation in the eye—and yet remains ever stitched-through with hope."
—GennaRose Nethercott, author of Thistlefoot

"With Bunyan and Henry, Mark Cecil has reinvented and reinvigorated two of America's greatest mythic heroes, setting them loose in a thrilling romp through the pressing concerns of their time and of ours. There's so much heartfelt joy and wonder here, so much true wisdom and pleasure too. A fantastic read."
—Matt Bell, author of Appleseed

"Mark Cecil has just written the next American classic."
—Brendan Slocumb, author of The Violin Conspiracy and Symphony of Secrets

"This fresh, energizing, big-hearted take on the mythic past feels all too relevant to the right now. An American epic that will make you square your jaw, squint your eye, and take a swing at claiming the future."
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Sky Vault

“Mark Cecil takes the Paul Bunyan legend, turns it on its head, and makes it do somersaults.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and With or Without You

“A quintessentially American story that reflects us in all our generosity and grotesqueness, with unflinching honesty and hope.”
—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family

“Cecil’s boisterous debut functions as both origin story and revisionist portrayal of American folk heroes Paul Bunyan and John Henry. . . . He also writes with a playful flair for language. . . . There’s plenty of substance to this fun romp.”
Publishers Weekly
“Cecil’s sprightly debut is an adventure tale set around the late 1800s, but it retools the Paul Bunyan and John Henry myths with an eye on today’s postcapitalist hellscape. . . . The idea of using two idealized American folk characters to show how short the country has fallen is an inspired one.”
Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593471166
ISBN-10: 0593471164
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English