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"Helen Benedict’s The Good Deed is an ambitious, gorgeously written novel about the lives of refugees and the failure of systems to care for these vulnerable survivors of wars and brutal regimes. It also delves deep into universal themes like anguish, redemption, and motherhood...At its core, The Good Deed is about the prolonged effects of suffering and trauma, the bonds of family (both blood and found), how we help and hurt those we care for, and the power of hope and resilience." The Washington Independent Review of Books

“In The Good Deed, Helen Benedict offers a poignant, layered novel on displacement and belonging, love and betrayal, and the jagged space between altruism and egoism.”—Dalia Sofer, author of The Septembers of Shiraz and Man of My Time

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Set in 2018 against the backdrop of an overcrowded, fetid refugee camp on the beautiful Greek island of Samos, The Good Deed follows the stories of four women living in the camp and an American tourist who comes to Samos to escape her own dark secret.


When the tourist does a “good deed,” she triggers a crisis that brings her and the refugee women into a conflict that escalates dramatically as each character struggles for what she needs.

Not again. Please.

A splash dives into my snorkel tube, so I raise my head to empty it out and take in where I am. Far—a great deal farther than I thought. The little rowboat has shrunk to the size of a bath toy. I’m not tired but I am sensible. Time to turn back.

Just as I do, my eye catches a spot of color, an orange object bobbing a short distance away . . . a buoy perhaps, or else a polluting plastic bag I ought to remove. I swim closer.

It is not a buoy. Or a bag. It’s a life jacket. With somebody in it. A pitifully small somebody.

A fist closes around me, pulling me to a halt. I tread water, my breath suddenly short and airless.

Not again. Please.

The little figure is ominously still—no sign of swimming or flailing. No movement at all.

The fist grips tighter.

Not this time, Hilma. You can’t.

With a shudder, I wrench free of my paralysis and push myself closer. Then again, the fist.


Helen Benedict
Helen Benedict

Helen Benedict, a British-American professor at Columbia University, is the author of seven previous novels, six books of nonfiction, and a play. Her newest novel, The Good Deed, came out in April 2024 from Red Hen Press.

The Good Deed, set in a refugee camp in Greece, comes out of the research Helen conducted for her 2022 nonfiction book, Map of Hope and Sorrow, co-authored with Syrian writer and refugee, Eyad Awwadawnan and endorsed by Jessica Bruder (Nomadland), Dina Nayari (The Ungrateful Refugee) and Christy Lefteri (The Beekeeper of Aleppo), among others. That book earned PEN's Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History in 2021 and praise from The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, and elsewhere.

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"This gut-wrenching collection forcefully documents a humanitarian crisis through the stories of five refugees in asylum purgatory in Greece."—The New York Times

"Map of Hope and Sorrow celebrates human resilience and the capacity for hope, serving as a powerful call for tolerance."—Lucy Popescu, The Guardian


"Gut-wrenching and necessary, this book sharply depicts an escalating humanitarian crisis that shows few signs of slowing down...An important, deeply felt look at lives in constant peril."—Kirkus Reviews

Benedict's previous novel, Wolf Season, was called "required reading" by Elissa Schappell and received a starred review in Library Journal, which wrote, “In a book that deserves the widest attention, Benedict ‘follows the war home,’ engaging readers with an insightful story right up until the gut-wrenching conclusion.”

Benedict's 2011 novel, Sand Queen, which features some of the same characters as Wolf Season, was named a “Best Contemporary War Novel” by Publishers Weekly.


As well as receiving PEN’s Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History, Benedict has won the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, among other awards. She is also the author of the nonfiction books, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq; Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes; and a play, The Lonely Soldier Monologues. 

As a nonfiction writer, Benedict's coverage of sexual assault in the U.S. military inspired the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War and instigated a landmark lawsuit against the Pentagon on behalf of victims of military sexual assault. Benedict's books on violence against women have won awards from Ms. magazine and elsewhere, and Benedict has published widely and spoken at Harvard University, TED Talks, West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the United Nations, among other campuses and organizations.


To reach Helen Benedict email

To make speaking or media inquiries, please contact Literary Agent/Speaking Agent​: Jennifer Lyons

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