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Advanced Praise

“The magnificence of Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is not only in the prose and the story but also in the book’s great big beating heart. These complex and compelling characters and the wizardry of Johnson’s storytelling will dazzle and move you from first page to last. Novels don’t teach us how to live but Hold It ‘Til It Hurts will make you hush and wonder.”

—anthony swofford, author of Jarhead

Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is a novel whose humane spirit is as large as its scope—and its scope is ambitious indeed, no less than an embrace of the USA of the first decade of the 21st century, complete with the upheavals of war, race, poverty, and natural disaster. It is the kind of impressive debut that marks its author, T. Geronimo Johnson, as a writer with a career that bears watching.”

—stuart dybek

“This rich and sophisticated first novel by T. Geronimo Johnson brings together pleasures rarely found in one book: Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is a novel about war that goes in search of passionate love, a dreamy thriller, a sprawling mystery, a classical quest for a lost brother in which the shadowy quarry is clearly the seeker’s own self, and a meditation on family and racial identity that makes its forerunners in American fiction look innocent by comparison.

Above all, in every one of its many layers, the novel explores the American idiom at its most pungent and varied: the particular dialogues of race, masculinity, soldiering, sex, the family and the street are subtly but powerfully twisted into the lyrical introspections of Achilles Conroy, who, fresh back from war, observant and ruminative by nature, searches the underworld of pre-Katrina New Orleans for the missing brother who served with him in Afghanistan.”

—jaimy gordon, National Book Award winner for Lord of Misrule

“T. Geronimo Johnson explores the burdens and bonds of brotherhood in this exquisitely crafted novel of war and its aftermath. Johnson easily earns the reader’s rapt attention as he chronicles Achilles’s search for his brother in the land of lost promise that is twenty-first-century America, though our reward for picking up this book is not only a good story well-told, but Johnson’s keen eye and gorgeous prose.”

—robin hemley


When Achilles and his brother Troy Conroy return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their white mother presents them with the keys to their pasts: envelopes containing details about their respective birth parents. After Troy disappears, Achilles—always his brother’s keeper—embarks on a harrowing journey in search of his brother, an experience that will change him forever.

Heartbreaking, intimate, and, at times, disturbing, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is a modern day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.