Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Divining Rod

A Novel

by Michael Knight

“Knight’s understated prose gives the book its power, moving slowly, but fully, through the gamut of his characters’ emotions. . . . A fresh, formidable talent.” —Mark Luce, BookPage

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 208
  • Publication Date August 03, 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4497-3
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $18.00

About The Book

Back in print, Michael Knight’s debut novel, which won the Fellowship of Southern Writers New Writing Award and the Dictionary of Literary Biography’s Best First Novel Award.

After the deaths of his parents, Simon Bell returns to his hometown of Sherwood, Alabama, hoping for a simple, quiet existence. But when he meets Delia Holladay one hot, unmoving summer day, latent needs and desires are suddenly awakened. Delia is young, beautiful, and married. As their emotions deepen, the affair soon slips beyond their control, building to a final reckoning that will leave no one untouched.

Evoking a medley of distinct voices, Divining Rod tells a richly layered tale of adultery, love, and murder, as it follows the arc of one fateful romance to its inevitable and heartbreaking conclusion.

Tags Literary


“A novel by a writer of the first rank.” —Esquire

“Every word in this deeply resonant novel is pure gold.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Stunning, precociously wise . . . [An] unexpected treasure.” —John Freeman, The Boston Phoenix

“Spellbinding.” —Redbook

“In the lineage of writers such as Flannery o’Connor and Eudora Welty . . . Knight is without a doubt a new writer of considerable talent and promise.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Potent . . . Confident . . . Written in lucid and unself-concious prose.” —Wall Street Journal


Fellowship of Southern Writers New Writing Award
Dictionary of Literary Biography’s Best First Novel Award


Part 1

To walk in ruins, like vain ghosts, we love,
And with fond divining wands
We search among the dead
For treasure buried
While the liberal earth does hold
So many virgin mines of undiscovered gold.

—Abraham Cowley

How It Ended

Sam Holladay was sixty-three years old when he jabbed a snub-nosed .38 revolver into Simon Bell’s chest and pulled the trigger, knocking him flat, like he’d been shoved, and dead, the bullet passing through his heart and exiting at his left shoulder, trailing blood and tissue like the tail of a comet. It was a July Sunday. It was late morning, long pine shadows drawn on the flat ground. Bell had, the day before, driven a riding mower over the lawn so the air smelled of cut grass and the clippings stuck to the men’s shoes and clung to Bell’s hair, where he lay on the ground. Sam Holladay stood over him a moment, then went into Bell’s house and called the police himself.

He had expected to have to face some sort of consequence right off, but the house was quiet and empty. He’d been there before, years ago, and the place still looked the same to him. All the furniture exactly as he remembered it, the same pictures on the mantel. He let himself wander back to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the mattress, his forearms across his knees. He made the call, then went into the kitchen for a glass of water. The sink was a clutter of crusted dishes, a week’s worth at least, piled precariously to the edge. When he leaned his face close to wet his fingers and dab his eyelids with cool water, he could smell the faint, damp thickness of rot. A few empty beer bottles on the counter, like glass skyscrapers of a model city. A pot of coffee burned to carbon. He tried to think of his wife, closed his eyes and imagined her in another kitchen, their kitchen, not twenty yards away, pictured her taking copper pots from their hooks on the wall and arranging them on the stove. She was, he knew, making breakfast. He wondered if she’d heard the shot–she played the radio too loud when she cooked–if, just for an instant, she’d turned away from the stove to look in the direction of the report. He didn’t know what would happen now, what events would follow, but he worried about her. Through the window above the sink, Holladay could make out Simon Bell’s body, just a shape in the grass, no more ominous or frightening than a dress shop mannequin.