Mary Volmer


Reliance, Illinois


Mary Volmer, born and raised in Grass Valley, California, is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016)Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Farallon ReviewMutha Magazine, Women’s Basketball Magazine and Fiction Writers Review. She earned an MFA at Saint Mary’s College (CA) and a master’s degree from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and was the spring 2015 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Residence for fiction at Saint Mary’s College (CA) where she now teaches.

Praise for Reliance, Illinois

Reliance, Illinois has it all—mystery, politics, war; love, death, and art. In finely wrought sentences, Volmer’s novel follows such a lively cast of characters, first and foremost her marvelous protagonist Madelyn. Every page is a pleasure.
[Reliance, Illinois] has smart touches of humor and is well grounded in its place and time. This novel will appeal to readers curious about the lives of women in the post-Civil War Midwest.
— Publishers Weekly 
Mary Volmer’s Reliance, Illinois grabbed me from the first page. Staggeringly beautiful prose, a poignant story, the whip smart heroine Maddy who I rooted for all the way. Volmer brings a universal theme of the reliance—all of us who search for it—to be found in ourselves. Do yourself a favor, clear your schedule and drink in Volmer’s radiant Reliance, Illinois.
— Cara Black, New York Times bestselling author of MURDER ON THE QUAI
Female protagonists in author Mary Volmer’s historical fiction novels are resilient, educated, street smart, intrepid. [Reliance, Illinois] harbors unexpected twists.
— San Jose Mercury News 
A genuine pleasure. Reliance, Illinois is lively, witty, and evocative, with characters who pop off the page and a protagonist you’ll never forget.
— Lou Berney, author of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE
Complete with love, war, death and mystery, the story’s characters weave their way through social evolution, gossip, crime, women’s rights movements and their own personal struggles.
— The Telegraph
Mary Volmer’s lush prose draws the reader into an intricately detailed world.
A lovely and moving novel—it is about language and writing, but more profoundly it is about creation: art, friendship, birth itself. Beautiful.
— Max Byrd, author of THE PARIS DEADLINE
In Reliance, Illinois, Mary Volmer creates a world at once old and new. She evokes an entire time and place through the perfect application of richly enlivening historical detail. In her depiction of the varied and often risky recourses her characters adopt in order to live well or with dignity—or at all, Volmer tells a compelling, timeless story about exigency and survival, especially for women. A deftly written page-turner that addresses universal questions with open-heartedness and verve, Reliance, Illinois offers a captivating read about an important juncture in American history.
— Naomi J. Williams, author of LANDFALLS