The New York Times bestselling author of My Sunshine Away returns with another instant Southern classic: a gripping and heartfelt novel about a mysterious machine that upends a small Louisiana town, asking us all to wonder if who we truly are is who we truly could be.

What would you do if you knew your life's potential? That's the question facing the residents of Deerfield, Louisiana, when the DNAMIX machine appears in their local grocery store. It's nothing to look at, really--it resembles a plain photo booth. But its promise is amazing: With just a quick swab of your cheek and two dollars, the device claims to use the science of DNA to tell you your life's potential. With enough credibility to make the townspeople curious, soon the former teachers, nurses, and shopkeepers of Deerfield are abruptly changing course to pursue their destinies as magicians, cowboys, and athletes--including the novel's main characters, Douglas Hubbard and his wife, Cherilyn, who both believed they were perfectly happy until they realized they could dream for more...

Written with linguistic grace and a sense of wonder, The Big Door Prize sparkles with keen observations about what it might mean to stay true to oneself while honoring the bonds of marriage, friendship, and community, and how the glimmer of possibility can pull these bonds apart, bring them back together, and make second chances possible, even under the strangest of circumstances.
One of PopSugar’s 25 New Books Everyone Will Be Talking About in September

One of New York Post's Required Reading Picks 


“Walsh deploys a breezy writing style and a sharp sense of humor to explore some of the darker corners of human nature.” –Atlanta Journal Constitution

“[A] surprising and heartwarming contemporary drama about looking back and looking forward…readers of this singular, nuanced story will, quite possibly and without a machine as prompt, undertake their own personal reflection.” –Shelf Awareness

“Walsh skirts the edge of fantasy in this playful and touching tale....The novel transcends its quirky premise, offering many insights on the mysteries of the human heart.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“It’s hard to believe that Walsh wrote this moving novel long before the COVID-19 pandemic, for there is eerie prescience in its soulful message that gratitude and grace are not to be taken for granted and that life can be upended in an instant.” Booklist (starred review)

"An eccentric, well-written small-town novel jam-packed with appealing characters and their dreams." Kirkus Reviews 

The Big Door Prize calls attention to the ordinary, hard-won joys of real people. M. O. Walsh’s second novel is a feel-good read in a down-home setting, with serious undertones.” BookPage

“Think of The Big Door Prize as a beautiful box full of all the things that compose our lives: love, fate, chance, jealousy, sadness, jokes, desire, and music. M.O. Walsh gives us all this and more, page after page, until we feel as if we know a little bit more about everything there is worth knowing. One of the most big-hearted books you’ll ever read, about so much, but, in the end, really about the secret of life: the specifics of caring.” —Daniel Wallace, author of Extraordinary Adventures and Big Fish

"The lives of a couple facing their mid-life crisis and a young man coming of age intersect in this humorous and hopeful novel. M.O. Walsh has never been afraid to go down into the darkest places of the human heart, but his truthfulness is balanced by a beautiful optimism, just as his sharp humor is leavened by his genuine affection for the layered, vital characters he creates. A wise, wry, twisty, and entertaining tale. I loved it." —Joshilyn Jackson, author of Never Have I Ever

"The characters in The Big Door Prize are familiar yet curious—so much like my own neighbors that I began to weave myself into the story, considering other lives I might live if I were braver, pluckier. Walsh's novel is the ideal summer read, an immersive escape as well as a brilliant examination of free will vs. determinism." —Mary Miller, author of Biloxi and Always Happy Hour

“Part mystery, all charm. The big prize here is for readers: a heartwarming and eccentric page-turner in the grand tradition of Southern literature that will keep you wondering until the very end. Walsh writes his characters with great respect to prove we're never too old to discover new things about ourselves.” —Steven Rowley, author of The Editor and Lily and the Octopus