Reminiscent of Tobias Wolff's This
Boy's Life and Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck
City, Songs Only You Know is a staggering memoir about a family
torn apart by drug addiction and suicide in 1990s Detroit—and a son saved by the
music he plays in his hardcore band.
*A Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers
"Universal, and ridiculously
readable. Hoen has, in this memoir, brought his life pinned and wriggling to
page, and you can't help but be moved by it, and even find yourself
—DARIN STRAUSS, National Book Critics
Circle award-winning author of Half a Life
• 5.5 x 8.25 • April 15, 2014 • $25.00 • 371 pages • ISBN:
Eighteen-year-old Sean Madigan Hoen was struggling to keep his involvement in
the city's hardcore punk scene a secret from his family. Then he learned that
his father, too, had a second life: he had become addicted to crack
Songs Only You Know spans a decade during which the
family fights to hold itself together. Sean’s father cycles from rehab to binge,
his heartsick sister spirals into depression, and his mother works to spare what
can be spared. Meanwhile, Sean seeks salvation in a community of eccentrics and
outsiders, making music Spin magazine once referred to as “an art-core
mindfuck.” But the closer Sean comes to realizing his musical dream, the further
he drifts from his family and himself.
By turns heartbreaking and
mordantly funny, Songs Only You Know is a fierce, compassionate
rendering of the chaos of a young man’s life.
"Sean Madigan Hoen is not merely an immensely gifted writer, but also a seeker—of redemption, of clarity, of hard family history. There are moments of Songs Only You Know that seem almost too painful to bear—but only almost. What carries the reader through is both the naked beauty of the prose and the deep human certainty that it is always better to face the truth than to flinch away from it. No flinching here. I admired every page of it."
—Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author of
Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
"Songs Only You Know is a truly moving book, full of pain, longing, strangeness and even grim comedy, and one of its greatest triumphs is the way Hoen describes a certain creative intensity—youthful, monstrous, fragile—that is both life-giving and dangerous, especially in troubled times. Maybe everybody has a song, but Hoen sings his with fresh phrasing and genuine feeling."
—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts
"Describes that terrible yearning for ecstasy and immolation through music [in a] demotic yet electric voice for the job... reprises in his book, in neon detail, the fever that once placed him in the same drunken boat with Iggy Pop, Rimbaud and Artaud."
—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award-winning author of Lord of Misrule
"Sean Madigan Hoen puts raw need indelibly on the page—the need for family, for belonging, for alcohol and drugs, and for a music that will burn all those things away (and if the music fails, try more alcohol and drugs). Hoen’s younger self thinks, ‘To achieve self-invention, you first evacuate the truest parts of yourself,’ not quite knowing yet that the sort of evacuation he craves is only ever temporary: the check always comes due. This moving, often brutal memoir records Hoen’s long journey back toward the truth."
—Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man
"It's an odd feeling to have, to not want a book to end when it covers so many miserable and sometimes manic moments in a life, but that's how I felt reading this fantastic, honest, unsentimental and finally generous-hearted book."
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
"Songs Only You Know is cigarettes and buck knives, crabgrass and asphalt, rolling brownouts and horseshit vinyl. Sean Madigan Hoen offers the best things a writer can offer a reader: the big heart, the big hurts, the big bad news about the impermanence of life's gig."
—Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk
"Sean Hoen has written a wise and moving memoir about anger, rock music and the endurance of familial love. For Hoen the ultimate redemption is rendering honestly the hard facts of his own transgression, while never losing track of the beauty and kindness that are also, thank goodness, ineradicable aspects of human existence."
—Stephen O’Connor, author of Here Comes Another Lesson
SONGS ONLY YOU KNOW Book
15: with Darin Strauss: PowerHouse Arena, NYC April
24: Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, MI April 27th:
Schuler Books, Lansing, MI April 30th: City Lit Books,
Sean Madigan Hoen
was raised in Dearborn, Michigan and spent his young adulthood touring and
recording in several Detroit-based music groups, including Thoughts of Ionesco,
The Holy Fire and Leaving Rouge. His fiction has appeared in numerous
publications, including BOMB Magazine, where he was awarded the 2011
Fiction Award. He has taught creative writing at Columbia University and
currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Songs Only You Know: A
Memoir is his first book.