Tommy Hays’ “What i came to tell you” publishes in paperback

hays' "what I came to tell you"

Asheville author Tommy Hays announced today that his children’s novel (for ages 10 and up) What i came to tell you is now available in paperback.

Hays’ describes the story this way:

Since his mother’s death, [12-year-old] Grover has been having a hard time. The only thing that gives him solace is the hours he spends working on his art in the beloved bamboo grove near his Asheville home. His overworked father belittles his efforts; he feels his son is wasting his time and throwing his life away.

As tensions within and without the family build to a boiling point, help tiptoes its way into their lives. A mountain family has moved into the cheap rental nearby, and slowly they work their way into Grover’s forest—and his heart. A prickly and independent neighbor proves to be a stalwart pillar to Grover and his little sister. Even the peculiar young man who always lurks around them plays a role in lifting Grover and his family from their paralyzing grief. Finally, it’s Grover’s own unwavering dedication to his art that brings results that neither he nor his family see coming.

Publishers Weekly wrote this about the book:

Hays makes good use of the novel’s Asheville setting: Grover’s father runs the strapped-for-cash Thomas Wolfe house, and Asheville comes across as a cosmopolitan place with a small-town feel. Indeed, even as Grover is keeping an eye on his sister and his new neighbors, a lot of people are watching over him. Though the book spans just a few months, it’s packed with incident and complex connections between a range of characters. Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest. Ages 10–up.

What i came to tell you earned a prepublication “starred review” from Publishers Weekly and was named an “Okra Pick” — a “great Southern book fresh off the vine” – by the Southern Independent Booksellers Association.

Asheville readers will recognize a constant stream of familiar haunts and people, some identified by their real names. But the more universal essence of the novel is the changing relationships between Hays’ fictional characters and their feelings quietly expressed.

What i came to tell you is Hays’ fourth novel, but his first for younger readers. For more information about Hays and What i came to tell you, visit To read an excerpt from the novel, click here.

Tommy Hays is executive director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and Lecturer in the Master of Liberal Arts program at UNC Asheville.


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