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The Rope Swing

Jonathan Corcoran

April 2016
PB 978-1-943665-11-2
epub 978-1-943665-12-9
PDF 978-1-943665-13-6


2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist

A once-booming West Virginia rail town no longer has a working train. The residents left behind in this tiny hamlet look to the mountains that surround them on all sides: The outside world encroaches, and the buildings of the gilded past seem to crumble more every day. 

These are the stories of outsiders—the down and out. What happens to the young boy whose burgeoning sexuality pushes him to the edge of the forest to explore what might be love with another boy? What happens when one lost soul finally makes it to New York City, yet the reminders of his past life are omnipresent? What happens when an old woman struggles to find a purpose and reinvent herself after decades of living in the shadow of her platonic life partner? What happens to those who dare to live their lives outside of the strict confines of the town’s traditional and regimented ways? 

The characters in The Rope Swing—gay and straight alike—yearn for that which seems so close but impossibly far, the world over the jagged peaks of the mountains. 


Appalachian Swan Song

The Rope Swing

Pauly’s Girl

Through the Still Hours



Hank the King


Brooklyn, 4 a.m.

A Touch


Jonathan Corcoran received a BA in Literary Arts from Brown University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Rutgers University-Newark. He was born and raised in a small town in West Virginia and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more at


"Jonathan Corcoran's Appalachian voice, so fierce, so tender, portrays tradition as both weapon and soothing balm. The Rope Swing takes us inside quiet revolutions of the soul in mountain towns far from Stonewall: we can never go home again, but we recognize ourselves in these linked stories of love, loss, the economic tyranny of neglect and exploitation, and the lifelong alliance between those who stay and those who leave. The Rope Swing establishes a new American writer whose unerring instincts are cause for celebration."
Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Quiet Dell, Lark and Termite, and Black Tickets

"In this debut book of interconnected stories, Corcoran writes fiercely about the lifelong effects of growing up in a small town on those who leave and those who stay. Corcoran is a remarkably empathetic writer whose subtle portraits capture undeniably tender moments in the lives of his characters. These stories are particularly poignant for anyone who grew up gay in America’s desolate places, but Corcoran speaks eloquently to all facets of the human condition."
Kirkus Reviews

"A powerful, moving, and beautifully-written book. Corcoran writes both queer and straight characters with insight and empathy. He is an observant writer who understands people’s pain, regrets, heartache, and hope. This much needed, important book explores rural America and queer identity, two subjects rarely portrayed together."
Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour

"The Rope Swing is an astute, stereotype-busting triumph that shines a light on gay Appalachia. Corcoran unflinchingly exposes hard truths about a complicated region and its people who grapple with identity in more ways than one."
Marie Manilla, author of Still Life with Plums and The Patron Saint of Ugly

"This rainbow of West Virginia lives – gay and straight, old and young, rich and poor – is a marvel from every angle. A stirring and absorbing meditation on rural origins and desires."
Katherine Hill, author of The Violet Hour

"These are the queer stories I have been searching for my entire life—aching and honest narratives of what it means to be both tied to a geography and excluded from it. The characters in this collection exist now in my memory as fully and significantly as people I’ve loved for years."
Megan Kruse, author of Call Me Home