Place Published: Braddock, PA
Publisher: Braddock Avenue Books
Date Published: November 2023
A young, talented Viktor Myrnikov is on the brink of realizing his lifelong dream of playing for the National Hockey League when a catastrophic plane crash kills all of his former Russian teammates, including his secret boyfriend, Nikolai, shattering his plans—and his heart. In this skillfully plotted debut, readers follow Viktor as he navigates cultural and sexual divides, the gamesmanship of damaged relationships, and the dark corners of professional sports. In prose that is as tender as it is tough, we witness a young man discovering inner resources he didn't know he possessed as he struggles to find solace and respect in a world that has denied him of these things. An important discussion of today’s most pressing issues, and a tremendous achievement, Heading North is a most certainly a book for our times.
Praise for Heading North
A “tender hockey story” might sound like a contradiction, but more precisely, it’s a rarity—and a gift. In Holly M. Wendt’s Heading North we follow one athlete whose life has been upended across a tragic, transformative season, but we also experience many moments of resiliency, generosity, and possibility within his web of teammates and supporters. Wendt’s narrative is ambitious in its scope, moving between Russian and US hockey cultures—not just comparing their approaches to play, but their capacity for inclusivity and care. In reading Heading North I was reminded of some of the ugly truths and history of a still too closed-minded sports culture, but was also shown the possibilities of a more capacious and kind future on and off the ice.
—Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League
In Heading North, Holly M. Wendt draws the reader into the world of professional hockey and into Viktor's journey through the weight of silenced grief, through a sport's rigid expectations of gender and sexuality, and through, despite everything, the glimmering hope of social and league-wide change. Wendt is a monumental talent of a writer, and I couldn't wait to read this book. Sharply written and beautifully moving, this debut novel is an absolute must-read.
—Anne Valente, author of The Desert Sky Before Us
Holly M. Wendt is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lebanon Valley College. Wendt is a recipient of the Robert and Charlotte Baron Fellowship for Creative and Performing Artists from the American Antiquarian Society and fellowships from the Jentel Foundation and Hambidge Center. They have served as a Peter Taylor Fellow in fiction at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Their work has appeared in Passages North, Shenandoah, Four Way Review,Barrelhouse, Memorious, and elsewhere. A member of the Sport Literature Association, Holly is a former Baseball Prospectus contributor and contributing editor for The Classical. Their sports-based nonfiction has also appeared in Bodies Built for Game: The Prairie Schooner Anthology of Contemporary Sports Writing, The Rumpus, and Sport Literate.