“Exquisite and gripping. . . . The Gulf is a page turner to be savored; Cochran is a master of both prose and plot.”—Ilana Masad, author of All My Mother’s Lovers
In this electrifying debut literary thriller, set on the gulf coast of Texas in the 1970s at the height of the women’s liberation movement, a closeted young woman attempts to solve her surrogate mother’s murder in a tight-knit, religious small town.
In Parson, Texas, a small town ravaged by a devastating hurricane and the Vietnam War, twenty-nine-year-old Lou is diligently renovating a decaying old mansion for Miss Kate, the elderly neighbor who has always been like a mother to her. Mourning her brother’s death in Vietnam, Lou dreams of enjoying a more peaceful future in Parson. But those hopes are crushed when Miss Kate is murdered, and no one but Lou seems to care about finding the killer.
The situation becomes complicated when Joanna, Miss Kate’s long-estranged daughter and Lou’s first love, arrives in Parson—not to learn more about her mother’s death but for the house. Her arrival unearths sinister secrets involving the history of the town and its residents . . . revelations that may be the key to helping Lou discover the truth about Miss Kate’s death and her killer.
A gorgeously written, gripping story of forbidden love and devastating secrets that is a surprising twist on the traditional small-town story, The Gulf is a riveting and unsettling mystery that holds up a mirror to the values—and failures—of America.
Rachel Cochran was raised in Texas and received her PhD in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently teaches literature and creative writing at UNL and is also an assistant editor of Machete, an imprint of Ohio State University Press. Her short stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Masters Review, and have won the New Ohio Review's nonfiction contest.
“The Gulf by Rachel Cochran is an exquisite and gripping novel that plumbs the depths of both thrilling and devastating secrets that keep people rooted in place as well as the rot that can infect the heart of a community. Cochran approaches trauma as a living, breathing aura rather than a static wound, and grapples with the stormy nature of childhood memories. The novel is also a moving testament to families of choice so commonly necessary for those deemed outsiders. The Gulf is a page turner to be savored; Cochran is a master of both prose and plot.” — Ilana Masad, author of All My Mother’s Lovers
“Haunting, transfixing, beware to anyone who interrupts you while you’re reading it. The Gulf is a rare jewel of a novel that works as an intricate murder mystery and a harrowing plunge into the racial and sexual politics of a struggling Gulf Coast town. Rachel Cochran creates such vivid atmosphere, you swear you’re breathing the secrets trapped in the Parson, Texas air. A thriller with a beating heart.” — Christopher Bollen, author of The Lost Americans
“[T]riumphant debut. . . Cochran perfectly paces her reveals, keeping readers guessing about who’s hiding secrets and why. Bolstered by true-to-life characterizations and superior prose, this character-driven Southern gothic will enthrall fans of Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The Gulf is haunting and beautiful, with language that carves a deep love story filled with secrets and betrayal. Cochran’s elegant prose transports the reader to 1970s Texas, filling her novel with love and regret, mysteries and dreams—a story not to be missed.” — Rachel Barenbaum, author of Atomic Anna
"Such a moody and atmospheric novel, full of plot twists, confrontations, untold truths. All the ghosts in The Gulf, real and imagined, become a sign of life in this dying town. Lou, irascible but honest, is an utterly unique character, her reality shaped by the mysteries of the past. I loved this gothic place and its duplicitous people—tensions are stirring from the start, and they never let up." — Timothy Schaffert, author of The Perfume Thief
“A thoughtful novel with a hint of mystery. Its still waters run deep.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Cochran’s novel is rich in story and setting . . . an auspicious debut.” — Washington Post
“A refreshing read and a strong debut from a powerful new voice.”
— Crime Reads