A Keeper of Sheep


“The reason I am called Penguin is because it mutated from Penelope, which is my real name, via Penny, which I can’t stand, in a process so far back that I don’t even remember. The reason I set fire to the Beta Sig house is because I am an only daughter and it’s always been easy for me. They gave me a book one day without pictures, just writing, and they said read, so I read a few words and they clapped their hands for me as if I had played a sonata. And so it went.”
— from A Keeper of Sheep


Penelope Solstice, better known as Penguin, is exiled to Cape Cod after setting fire to the site of a gang rape at her college. Here, she defines her relationships with herself and those around her as she cares for a composer who is dying of AIDS and is desperate to complete his final work.



“With relentless, crackling dialogue, Carpenter creates a perceptive narrator who is by turns annoying, funny and wise, and surrounds her with characters whose believable interdependencies suggest an extended family of the 90s … His sensuous, highly textured prose … unfolds with grace and sometimes heartbreaking accuracy.”
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review



“The novel’s real strength is language. William Carpenter is also a poet, and that sensibility is alive everywhere. The characters are linked by Penguin’s dreams in which the writing is simple, stark, the images concrete and powerful: ruined houses, wounded animals, burned bodies. Some of these images grow with the novel.
Los Angeles Times

“Few male writers have so sensitively depicted a female protagonist.” Library Journal

Poet Carpenter hits the ground running in his first novel with rich language and lofty ideals. … Literary images and devices . . . show their effectiveness with their seams, and the trials of our scrappy heroine transform her convincingly from a self-righteous student into a thoughtful adult. Kirkus Reviews

“This is a wonderful book, delivered in a brave voice full of  laughter and feeling. Carpenter understands how urgent moral questions become deeply personal, how they help to define the most intimate acts of our lives. Penguin might not call herself a heroine, but I would. She’s a fierce and lively narrator, Holden Caulfield’s little sister come of age in a far harder time.” — Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After

Find A Keeper of Sheep at Alibris, Amazon, or The Strand.