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Goods & Effects
Al Schnupp, author
What happens when a free-thinking widow, raised in a deeply religious environment, is forced to create a new life? A widow reimagines her life, takes on new challenges and develops a network of unconventional, unforgettable friends. Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah, a Mennonite, sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck. She travels several circuits, selling her wares. Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking lives that span many years. Nathan owns the motel where Hannah often parks her truck. Darla is a talented, deaf artist who accompanies Hannah on her rounds. Wanda is the sassy receptionist at a distribution center. Naomi, wife of a pious deacon, entertains fantasies of sexual freedom. Frank, a gentle farmer with a chronically-ill wife, harbors great affection for Hannah. Velma owns a woodworking shop. LeRoy is a black farmer and talented singer, whose family is subjected to racial terrorism. Vivian is an elegant, lonely librarian and lesbian, searching for a life partner. As Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah is a clever problem-solver, shrewd schemer, spinner of tender lies, advocate for justice, unwitting promoter of the arts, and dream weaver.
Playwright Schnupp’s (Zero) character-rich road-trip novel revolves around Hannah Mercer, a free-thinking widow who forges a new life for herself after the death of her husband and two children. A lifelong adherent to the Mennonite church, Hannah upends her life by eschewing her faith and farm life and takes to the road. Traveling across Missouri, she starts selling goods out of the back of her truck, and in the process meets a number of unforgettable characters—from deaf child artist Darla to the passionate Bible scholar Hugo—and forges some truly long-lasting friendships.

The main thrust of the narrative is derived from the sturdy simplicity of life in Hannah’s small Missouri town of Adele. This simplicity is best represented by the people Hannah meets as she travels the countryside: whether it is Naomi, the wife of Deacon Stahl, who rebels against her husband by dyeing all her curtains red, or Wanda, who runs a retail store but actually wants to become a stunt pilot, the characters in this book are warm, vulnerable, and spirited, just like Hannah herself. Schnupp presents them with persuasive detail and feeling, drawing readers into their journeys and the ups and downs of rural life in the Show Me state, while always demonstrating a playwright's mastery of memorable, revealing dialogue.

Schnupp offers a direct, straightforward account of day-to-day life attentive to shared humanity and individual idiosyncrasies; it’s a thoughtful, empathetic novel, though readers who prefer plot-driven fiction may find, if they stick with it, action enough to keep them invested in the characters’ fates. There are points when the story bubbles over with unexpected drama or pierces readers with heart-wrenching tragedy, and Schnupp does a great job of illuminating these scenes without being melodramatic, while successfully preserving the novel’s quotidian simplicity. Lovers of unpretentious country life and piquant characters will enjoy this pure and insightful story.

Takeaway: A newly widowed woman leaves her small town life to start a new journey–and meet fascinating characters–in this insightful story.

Great for fans of: James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, Alan Bennett.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Book Viral

"There’s real soul to this family life story as he beautifully renders the sights and sounds of a bygone era....It’s a masterful telling that exudes insight...A timeless telling with all the hallmarks of a classic, Goods and Effects is nothing short of superb and is recommended without reservation."

Literary Titan

Goods & Effects by Al Schnupp is a heartwarming story about a Mennonite woman in the 60’s named Hannah Mercer who’s trying to find her way in the world after the passing of her family. To help her gain independence and explore the world around her, she opens up a little shop on wheels called Hannah’s Goods & Effects. Along the way, we watch her grow into herself and face backlash from the town deacon because she has decided to march to the beat of her own gigantic drum. This inspiring story left me craving more in the best way possible!

Schnupp is a master at conveying real human emotions. Hannah and the side characters in this story felt realistic and fully-fledged. That comment is typically hard to give for books of this length. We received enough backstory about our protagonist without drowning in useless information. In a matter of 174 pages, our author managed to bring his characters to life and execute it beautifully. Further speaking on the character development, I appreciated Schnupp’s ability to write a female main character without her seeming like a mystical fantasy. That is a rare accomplishment from modern male authors. I also wanted to share my appreciation for diverse representation, especially for the time period the story takes place. We read about characters from different races as well as different abilities. Darla was an absolute treat to read about! This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the stunning writing and language used throughout the novel. It is simple yet carefully crafted. I felt that Schnupp spent a great deal of time choosing how to depict the story through language alone. Despite the simplicity, there was never a dull moment in the story. I was always waiting to see what Hannah would do next! Although parts of the story were sad, it was predominantly heartwarming.

Goods & Effects is a fantastic fall read, and I can’t wait to read it again in the future. If you get the chance, I highly recommend picking this book up, curling up on the couch, and sipping a mug of your favorite warm drink. You will fly through it, and it’s the best way to consume this story.


Midwest Book Review

"...and eloquent erudite, and deftly penned novella..."

Reedsy Discovery

“The charming story of a life well-lived…Its quirky characters radiate kindness and humor…“

The US Review of Books

The story begins as Hannah, a Mennonite, is told by her deacon that her husband can't be given a proper church funeral. She pulls a knife, but only to cut glazed buns. The author deftly depicts the feel of a Mennonite farm from the strictly gendered division of labor to smells "that capture and celebrate life," such as freshly mown hay. Soon readers become involved with the people whose lives Hannah impacts, as she seeks gravediggers for her sons and husband and neighbors to perform other tasks. 

The author skillfully portrays Hannah in grief as she "stared numbly out the window, at an incomprehensible truth." Her home no longer seems familiar; she feels estranged. Her spunk, which is evident throughout the novel, begins to emerge. As one example, she goes out to buy a gun. This clever and nimble exchange with the storeowner reveals a tenacity of character: "You know how to shoot this?" he asks her. "I know how to work a sewing machine," counters Hannah. "It can't be all that hard." Hannah leaps off the page in this and other instances as a strong, powerful, and self-directed woman who acts upon (as opposed to being acted upon) her environment. She even survives falling into a ditch in a snowstorm. Each incident unfolds with intriguing and gripping prose.

Schnupp is to be applauded and appreciated for his uncanny ability to guide Hannah's transformation. In what begins as a stereotypical but nonetheless sympathetic character, she is fully developed, believable, and admirable. The author does so by continuously relating actions as if they were unremarkable when actually they build from an inauspicious start to construct a remarkable person not easily forgotten in the field of literature. In the larger sense, it's a tale about a women ascending from restricting pasts.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review