If or When I Call

If or When I Call
Will Johnson

Trade paperback
266 pages
ISBN-10 : 0998555460
ISBN-13 : 978-0998555461
$16.00

Between interstates and county lines, life in rural Missouri unfolds in a progression of simple moments that carry the weight of every hard thing gone by. Parker and Melinda are searching for themselves in the hollows of their estranged marriage. Parker, haunted by the demons of addiction, lives every moment at the edge of an undiagnosed disorder — a darkness that steals his awareness and throws him into convulsions. Melinda, on an odyssey of her own, knows Parker’s struggles all too well, and as they try to help their teenage son come to terms with their lives apart, they have only their memories of a brighter life to get by.

Haunting and lyrical, Johnson’s powerful debut is a hymn to the lives we overlook in the quiet places around us. And how close we are to living them ourselves.

Will Johnson is a musician and songwriter who has played in the bands Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, Marie/Lepanto, Overseas, New Multitudes, and Monsters of Folk. He also releases records under his own name, and makes paintings centering on the subject of baseball and its history. His work has appeared in American Short Fiction. He was born in Kennett, Missouri, and currently lives in Austin, Texas. If or When I Call is his first novel.


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“If or When I Call is a novel about desperate people shot through with arrows of grace that only a writer as sensitive and insightful as Will Johnson can wield. Lives in small towns are not small, and neither is this author’s heart.”

—Wiley Cash, New York Times-bestselling author of The Last Ballad and A Land More Kind Than Home

If or When I Call is a beautiful, masterful, soulful novel. It’s truly remarkable that this is Will Johnson’s debut book. He writes with the smoothness and assurance of a seasoned veteran, relating a story about ordinary people who are just trying to make a life for themselves, and hoping for a little solace along the way. It’s a wonderful ballad, as haunting and brilliant and ultimately redemptive as Johnson’s music. This novel is a soaring achievement.”

—Don Lee, author of Lonesome Lies Before Us

“What a surprising and brilliant debut novel. If or When I Call reads with the urgency of a thriller and weaves seamlessly the story of a broken family as they navigate mental illness, dead end jobs, and lost dreams. Like so many families struggling to survive, it’s a tightrope act with no net below. Will Johnson’s the real deal, and I couldn’t recommend it more.”

—Willy Vlautin, author of Don’t Skip Out on Me and Lean on Pete

“Already one of my all-time favorite musicians and songwriters, Will Johnson’s first novel shows a natural progression into longer formed prose. If or When I Callis a haunting and elegiac look into the lives of small-town, 21st-century America. Simultaneously deeply personal yet near-universal with the most being told in the minute details of the kinds of everyday lives that usually defies novelistic storytelling. Intimate, yet cinematic. As strong a debut novel as I’ve seen in a very long time.”

—Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers

“If or When I Call is pitch-perfect, about characters far from pitch-perfect, just trying to get a handle on their rudders. Great, great, great.”

—George Singleton, author of You Want More: Selected Stories

If or When I Call is a lyrical and ambitious debut. Johnson gives us a chorus of overlooked voices, exploring the intricate complexities of rural life and family. Heartfelt and heavy.” 

—Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, author of Sleepovers

“With humility and grace, If or When I Call sheds a necessary light on folks forever struggling in a place they can’t wait to leave and which, when they do leave, remains inescapably inside of them. Will Johnson has written a formally ingenious novel that is both comic and poignant, familiar and mysterious. His confused characters prove resilient in a way that does not seem the least bit contrived. Here is a story that sings, rather than pronounces, its meaningful intentions.” 

—Michael Parker, author of Prairie Fever and The Watery Part of the World

If or When I Call is a tender novel about the brokenness of human nature, and about what it feels like to live with addiction and an undiagnosed illness.”

—Foreword Reviews