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The novel that launched Tim Gautreaux internationally as one of the best contemporary American novelists - a gripping tale of courage, violence and moral choices set in 1920s Louisiana.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Tim Gautreaux lives there still with his family. His stories have been published in Harper's, the Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Zoetrope, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and Best American Short Stories, and collected in two volumes. Acclaimed as 'one of the best writers to have emerged in the 1990s' by Kirkus Reviews, his first novel, THE NEXT STEP IN THE DANCE, won the 1999 SEBA Book Award, and was followed in 2003 by the highly acclaimed THE CLEARING. In 2005, he was awarded the John Dos Passos Prize. His latest novel, THE MISSING, was published in 2009.
A godforsaken mill town in the cypress swamps of Louisiana is the setting for a bitter power struggle in this darkly lyrical, densely packed second novel by Gautreaux (The Next Step in the Dance). In 1923, Raymond Aldridge sets out for the mill town-called Nimbus-in search of his brother, Byron. The two men are the heirs to a Pennsylvania timber empire, but ever since Byron came back from World War I, he has shunned his family. Before the war, he was a charming young man with a charmed life; now he works as a constable at the Nimbus mill and listens obsessively to sentimental popular tunes on his Victrola. When Raymond arrives, he assumes charge of the mill, which his father has purchased, and tries to understand how and why his much-admired older brother has come to this pass. Their reacquaintance is complicated by Byron's feud with a gang of Sicilians who control the liquor, girls and card games that make up the only viable entertainment in town. In battling them, Byron has turned as ruthless as they, and killings are as common as alligator sightings in Nimbus. The violence turns even deadlier when three women are mixed up in the fray: Raymond's feisty wife, Lillian; Byron's sturdy wife, Ella; and May, Raymond's almost-white housekeeper, who gives birth to a son who looks remarkably like an Aldridge. Gautreaux's prose is gorgeous, though his virtuosic images ("a nearly blind horse... its eyes the color of a sun-clouded beer bottle") sometimes pile up precariously, threatening to teeter into overkill. The novel adroitly evokes the murky miasma and shadowy half-light of the treacherous Louisiana swamps, their gloom and murderous undercurrents echoing the grisly wartime slaughter Byron is unable to forget. Gautreaux is perhaps the most talented writer to come out of the South in recent years, and this all-enveloping novel further confirms his skill and powers. Agent, Peter Matson. (June 24) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Near-perfect ... untouchably good * Alan Warner, Daily Telegraph Summer Books * Gautreaux captures the fetid atmosphere of a frontier society poised to join the modern world with great skill, each sentence polished to perfection * Independent on Sunday * I cannot recommend it highly enough. * Peter Straus, Literary Review * An extraordinary novel, one of the best I've read in years * Annie Proulx, Guardian Summer Books * Astonishingly powerful ... brilliantly written and the characters in their mire are superbly realised * Toby Clements, Daily Telegraph * So firmly located and vividly realised that you can almost smell the Louisiana swampwater ... a gripping, action-packed tale, but also a notably intelligent one * Jem Poster, Guardian *
In this powerful story of pain, loss, and the healing power of love, northern lumberman Randolph Aldridge comes to the Louisiana swamplands in the early 1920s to run a mill his family has recently purchased. He also hopes to save his older, battle-scarred brother Byron, who works there as a constable. Byron's World War I experiences have left him emotionally wounded and estranged from the rest of the family. Randolph soon becomes involved in a bloody and steadily escalating conflict with a group of transplanted Chicago gangsters who control the area's liquor trade after the mill saloon is closed on Sundays. Set in a harsh landscape that engenders raw emotions, this gritty tale is by turns wise, violent, and compassionate. Gautreaux (Welding with Children) has crafted a darkly atmospheric novel that explores the evil done unto men and the evil they in turn do to others. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/03.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.