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Olympus, Texas
Cover of Olympus, Texas
Olympus, Texas
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
A Good Morning America Book Club Pick! • A bighearted novel with technicolor characters, plenty of Texas swagger, and a powder keg of a plot in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare, and secrets explode, all with a clever wink toward classical mythology.
For fans of Madeline Miller's Circe: "The Iliad meets Friday Night Lights in this muscular, captivating debut" (Oprah Daily).


The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother's wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband's own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March's arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas cleverly weaves elements of classical mythology into a thoroughly modern family saga, rich in drama and psychological complexity. After all, at some point, don't we all wonder: What good is this destructive force we call love?
A Good Morning America Book Club Pick! • A bighearted novel with technicolor characters, plenty of Texas swagger, and a powder keg of a plot in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare, and secrets explode, all with a clever wink toward classical mythology.
For fans of Madeline Miller's Circe: "The Iliad meets Friday Night Lights in this muscular, captivating debut" (Oprah Daily).


The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother's wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband's own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March's arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas cleverly weaves elements of classical mythology into a thoroughly modern family saga, rich in drama and psychological complexity. After all, at some point, don't we all wonder: What good is this destructive force we call love?
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  • From the cover

    one

    Drive down in the dark, in the fog—thick white against the headlights and the windshield. The world without form and without shape. Follow the sound of gravel grinding under tires as it slips and shifts. Smooth and quiet means you’re headed into the ditch. Cross over metal pipes, the thump-thump-thump of the cattle guard. Downhill, into the bottomland, the gritty crunch now covered by the bawling of frogs and cicadas. Stop the car. Wait. The sun will rise and burn the land into relief.

    When morning comes, the view is a tangle of trees and underbrush—bur oak and cedar elm, pecan and supplejack, poison oak and mustang grape vines. Not a hiking forest but scratchy impenetrability, like a ten-acre fence gapped only by this dirt road. Cow pastures lie somewhere near, in this border between oak savannahs and Gulf prairies, but here is just a small clearing with a large white house guarded by a sextet of cottonwoods. Wind lifts the cotton from the trees, and it snows down on the house: two stories with four large columns careening up the front, broken in the middle by a spindle railing and balcony. Windows peep from the gabled roof. Bermuda grass covers the lawn, interrupted by square flowerbeds lined out with railroad ties—the smell of roses and creosote.

    The house is bounded by the woods on one side and the Brazos River, slow moving and brown, on the other. The fluff from a cottonwood lands, rides a mud-saturated current, and then gets sucked under. The rise and fall of the water level has left the clay banks patched with only fast-growing weeds. The river—not Mississippi-wide, but too wide to throw a stone across—generates a steady white noise.

    And inside the house? Peter and June in their bed, old and brass, columned like their home. The brass rises like prison bars from the head and the foot of the frame. The bed sat forgotten in his parents’ barn for decades until Peter found it. He was eleven months into dating June, and he jokingly said to her the bed, with its feeling of enclosure, spoke to him of marriage. He dragged it to his own place, polished and polished until he had a heap of rags stained with the green that had eaten the brass. Knowing he’d never want to undertake that task again, he shellacked the whole damn thing to keep it from tarnishing. It worked for a long time, past the births of all three of their children. But as the years passed, the tarnish crept back, and now it is the tarnish being protected by the coating. June still likes it. Or she likes Peter’s frustration whenever he stares at it too long.

    June and Peter in a bed too small for him. Stretched out, he must either cram an inch of his head between the bars of the headboard, point his toes through the bars at the foot of the bed, or bend his knees. Peter’s a big man, nearly six and a half feet. Wide, too. June has never seen a man so wide and yet not fat. When they were newly married, she straddled him and lay her palm at the edge of one nipple, then her other palm, crossing over and over again. Five hands between, an expanse of a man. Even now that his belly grows soft and extends farther out and down—another two pounds every year—nothing can dwarf that chest.

    Or perhaps this should be a study in contrasts, the before and after. Flat stomach to non-flat. His hair, always curly, turned from fat rings of black to ones of gray. The beard fading to white, only black above the lip. Green eyes, sharp and hard as always. Really, he has not changed so much. A partial softening, a partial lightening. June also hasn’t changed much, at least if viewed while sleeping. Her blond hair still the same shade at fifty-five as it was at...

About the Author-
  • STACEY SWANN holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals, and she is a contributing editor of American Short Fiction. She is a native Texan.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 29, 2021
    Swann’s luminous debut follows a troubled family in small-town Olympus, Tex., as they become increasingly consumed by secrets, scandals, and betrayals. As the book opens, March Briscoe returns two and a half years after his affair with his sister-in-law, Vera, was discovered. March’s reappearance sets in motion a chain of disasters. His brother, Hap, is still mad about the infidelity, and his mother, June, doesn’t know how to handle it. Meanwhile, March and Hap’s chronic philanderer father, Peter, a real estate tycoon, deals with June’s discontent with his past infidelity, and March’s half-siblings fathered by Peter—twins Arlo and Artie—are divided by Arlo’s jealousy over Artie’s new boyfriend. Rife with allusions to mythology (March’s dogs are named Remus and Romulus, portending the explosive and deadly flashpoint in Arlo and Artie’s conflict), this epic makes the most of its vivid Texan setting, becoming as well a love letter to the state’s rugged beauty and homegrown familiarity (“The sun is glinting off the water’s murky surface like spilled glitter as he crosses the bridge and hits the city limits of the only place that’s ever felt like home”). This teems with skillfully evoked drama and tragedy. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc.

  • AudioFile Magazine Listeners who are looking for a story that sets a classic tale in the present day and is told in an engaging way should look no further. Swann updates THE ILIAD to modern times, setting it in Texas. The result, thanks to Karissa Vacker's wonderful narration, is a supremely entertaining story about a family dealing with betrayal and obligation. Texas is an inspired setting for this story, and Vacker does not succumb to the temptation to lay on a thick Texas drawl. Instead, she sets just the right tone throughout. The audiobook is thoroughly engaging. J.P.S. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
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Olympus, Texas
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A Novel
Stacey Swann
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