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The good hand : a memoir of work, brotherhood, and transformation in an American boomtown / Michael Patrick F. Smith.

Available copies

  • 2 of 2 copies available at LARL/NWRL Consortium.
  • 2 of 2 copies available at Lake Agassiz Regional Library. (Show preferred library)

Current holds

1 current hold with 2 total copies.

Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Detroit Lakes Public Library 921 SMI (Text) 33500013343314 New Available -
Moorhead Public Library 921 SMI (Text) 33500013343322 New Available -

Record details

  • ISBN: 9781984881519
  • ISBN: 1984881515
  • Physical Description: 458 pages ; 24 cm
  • Publisher: [New York] : Viking, [2021]

Content descriptions

Summary, etc.:
"A vivid window into the world of working class men and the value of hard labor, set during the Bakken fracking boom in North Dakota Shiftless and unsatisfied in his life, Michael Patrick Smith decided in his mid-thirties to seek out the hardest work he could find, to see if he could do it. He wanted to be a person, unlike his father, who knew how to work and get things done. He found himself in the oil fields of North Dakota during the Bakken fracking boom of 2013, where he spent a year as a swamper, assisting the truck drivers who hauled oil rigs from one site to another. The Good Hand is a saga of fear, danger, exhaustion, suffering, loneliness, and grit that explores the struggles and rewards of one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. In doing so, the story delves into the internal struggles of people who seem naturally drawn to hard work and hard luck--the rough-hewn, castoff, disposable men who populate boomtowns. As an oil field greenhorn, Smith finds the job is a continual battle; men are mocked and clobbered by equipment. But he comes to love the intensity and camaraderie, forming close bonds with a number of fellow workers, including Huck, an aw-shucks friendly young giant of a man who is constantly getting into trouble with the law, and "The Wildebeest," a truck driver in his fifties who initially torments Smith but later becomes instrumental in helping him to become "a good hand." Smith also examines his troubled relationship with his father--a trait that most of his coworkers seem to share--and draws fascinating parallels between his labor as an oil field hand and his previous careers in theatre and folk music. The Good Hand is ultimately a book about transformation--a classic American story about submitting to something elemental and larger than oneself. Smith discovers that the communities forged by hard work can awaken both the heart and the hands"-- Provided by publisher.

  • Booklist Reviews : Booklist Reviews 2020 December #1
    The "boomtown" here is Williston, ND, where industrial-scale fracking has drawn thousands of unemployed men to work the massive Bakken Formation, and the "good hand" is the accomplished oil worker that Smith, a musician and playwright, ever so slowly becomes in the months from spring 2013 to winter 2014. The American Dream might beckon, but Smith is blunt in his response: "What [those three words] really mean is: Money. And I don't know a damn thing about money. I just know I haven't had enough of it." Smith arrives in Williston with all of $3,000 in cash, and leaves with less than $2,000. But the copious notes he took there bore this book, celebrating the lives of both Williston's townspeople and the men who worked the derricks, laying out the relentlessly perilous nature of the trade they plied, centering its importance in serving the world's energy demands, and tracking Smith's transformation from city slicker to "trained-up" professional. Those notes also deliver a deceptively affecting snapshot of blue-collar America in a singular place and time. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Author Notes

Michael Patrick F. Smith is a folksinger and playwright currently based in central Kentucky. His plays, including Woody Guthrie Dreams and Ain't No Sin, have been staged in Baltimore and New York. As a musician, he has shared the stage with folk luminaries such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott, as well as several prominent indie rock bands. Smith has also worked as a stage actor, a bartender, junk hauler, furniture mover, book store clerk, contractor, receptionist, event producer, driver, office temp, stage hand, waiter, security guard, set fabricator, legal assistant, grocer, oil field hand, and now writer. The Good Hand is his first book. Visit his website at

Subject: Smith, Michael Patrick F.
Oil industry workers > North Dakota.
Hydraulic fracturing > North Dakota.
Working class men > North Dakota.
Fathers and sons.
Hydraulic fracturing.
Oil industry workers.
Working class men.
North Dakota.
Genre: Autobiographies.

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