Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife

A novel by Sam Savage
Illustrated by Michael Mikolowski

“Blending philosophy and abundant literary references with originality, Savage crafts a small comic gem about the costs and rewards of literary illusions.” —Booklist

April 2006
5 x 7.5 | 162 pages
Paperback Original

ISBN: 978-1-56689-181-3.



A darkly comic rat’s tale of exile, unrequited love, and the redemptive power of literature.

“[A] moving and wildly inventive novel.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960s Boston neighborhood, Firmin miraculously learns to read. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat. Through a series of misadventures and against a backdrop of urban destruction and burlesque cinema, Firmin is led deep into his own imaginative soul—a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats can find people who adore them.


National Public Radio Book of the Year

Public Radio International Summer Reading Pick

2007 Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition Finalist

2007 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award for Outstanding Achievement

2006 American Library Association Notable Book

2006 Lit Blog Co-op Read This! Winner

2006 Book Sense Selection (July) and Annual Highlight

2006 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection

2006 PEN L.L. Winship Award Finalist

2006 Library Journal Top Debut Novels


Firmin is one of the most enjoyably surprising books I’ve read for a long time. It’s a work of great originality: whenever I thought it was going to be one sort of book, it gently swerved aside and became another. This suggests an uncertainty of purpose, but that’s not the impression at all. It’s held together by the character of the narrator himself, a rat of deep humanity and intelligence, and the final impression is one of delicate tragedy. This really is a book like nothing else.” —Philip Pullman

“This darkly comic homage to the power of imagination, the lure of books, and the desire to live a life that means something speaks to all of us. And you’ll never think about rats the same way.” —Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio

“An intriguing satire. . . . With this darkly charming book, Savage has let his imagination out of the cage.” —WBUR Boston

“Granted consciousness and a deft way with English, [Firmin] uses his bottom-up point of view to briskly recount the foibles of human and literary life, as both are endangered by the cleansing rampages of urban renewal in 1960s Boston.” —Believer

Firmin, the debut novel by Sam Savage, gives us the funny and strangely touching story of [a] melancholic and intellectual rat and, in showing us the artist in the rat, makes us understand the rat in every artist. . . . When the wrecking ball and the ghost of his beloved Ginger Rogers come to claim Firmin, Savage makes us ponder what hall has been plowed under in the name of eradicating blight, both in our cities and in ourselves.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[An] alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature.” —Publishers Weekly

“Blending philosophy and abundant literary references with originality, Savage crafts a small comic gem about the costs and rewards of literary illusions.” —Booklist

“A direct descendent of Orwell’s Animal Farm, Savage’s Firmin . . . expose[s] our flaws, fractures, and infinite follies.” —Poets & Writers

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