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All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky [Kindle Edition]

Joe R. Lansdale
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jack Catcher's parents are dead—his mom died of sickness and his dad of a broken heart—and he has to get out of Oklahoma, where dust storms have killed everything green, hopeful, or alive. When former classmate Jane and her little brother Tony show up in his yard with plans to steal a dead neighbor's car and make a break for Texas, Jack doesn't need much convincing. But a run-in with one of the era's most notorious gangsters puts a crimp in Jane's plan, and soon the three kids are hitching the rails among hoboes, gangsters, and con men, racing to warn a carnival wrestler turned bank robber of the danger he faces and, in the process, find a new home for themselves. This road trip adventure from the legendary Joe R. Lansdale is a thrilling and colorful ride through Depression-era America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JOE R. LANSDALE is the author of more than a dozen novels for adults, including eight Hap and Leonard novels, as well as Sunset and Sawdust and Lost Echoes. He has received a British Fantasy Award, an American Mystery Award, an Edgar Award, a Grinzane Cavour Prize, and seven Bram Stoker Awards. All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky is his first novel for young adults. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The wind could blow down a full-grown man, but it was the dust that was the worst. If the dust was red, I could figure it was out of Oklahoma, where we were. But if it was white, it was part of Texas come to fall on us, and if it was darker, it was probably peppering down from Kansas or Nebraska.

Mama always claimed you could see the face of the devil in them sandstorms, you looked hard enough. I don't know about that, it being the devil and all. But I can tell you for sure there were times when the sand seemed to have shape, and I thought maybe I could see a face in it, and it was a mean face, and it was a face that had come to puff up and blow us away.

It might as well have been the devil, though. In a way, it had blowed Mama and Daddy away, 'cause one night, all the dust in her lungs--the dirty pneumonia, the doctor had called it--finally clogged up good and she couldn't breathe and there wasn't a thing we could do about it. Before morning she was dead. I finally fell asleep in a chair by her bed holding her cold hand, listening to the wind outside.

When I went to look for Daddy, I found him out in the barn. He'd hung himself from a rafter with a plowline from the old mule harness. He had a note pinned to his shirt that said: I CAN NOT TAKE IT WITH YOUR MAMA DEAD I LOVE YOU AND I AM SORRY. It was not a long note, but it was clear, and even without the note, I'd have got the message.

It hadn't been long since he done it, because there was still a slight swing to his body and his shadow waved back and forth across the floor and his body was still warm.

I got up on the old milking stool and cut him down with my pocketknife, my hand trembling all the while I done it. I went inside and got Mama, managed to carry her down the porch and lay her on an old tarp and tug her out to the barn. Then the sandstorm came again, like it was just waiting on me to get inside. It was slamming the boards on the outside of the barn all the time I dug. The sky turned dark as the inside of a cow even though it was midday. I lit a lantern and dug by that light. The floor of the barn was dirt and it was packed down hard and tight from when we still had animals walking around on it.

I had to work pretty hard at digging until the ground got cracked and I was down a few inches. Then it was soft earth, and I was able to dig quicker. Digging was all I let myself think about, because if I stopped to think about how the only family I had was going down into a hole, I don't know I could have done it.

I wrapped Mama and Daddy in the tarp and dragged them into the hole, side by side, gentle as I could. I started covering them up, but all of a sudden, I was as weak as a newborn kitten. I sat down on the side of the grave and looked at their shapes under the tarp. I can't tell you how empty I felt. I even thought about taking that plowline and doing to myself what Daddy had done.

But I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to be like the heroes in books I had read about, who could stand up against anything and keep on coming. I hated to say it about my Daddy, but he had taken the coward's way out, and I hadn't never been no coward and wasn't about to start. Still, I broke down and started crying, and I couldn't stop, though there didn't seem to be much wet in me. The world was dry, and so was I, and all the time I cried I heaved, like someone sick with nothing left inside to throw up.

The storm howled and rattled the boards in the barn. The sand drifted through the cracks and filled the air like a fine powder and the powder was the color of blood. It was Oklahoma soil that was killing us that day, and not no other. In an odd way I found that worse. It seemed more personal than dirt from Texas, Kansas, or the wilds of Nebraska.

The lantern light made the powder gleam. I sat there and stared at the blood-colored mist and finally got up the strength to stand and finish covering Mama and Daddy, mashing the dirt down tight and flat with the back of the shovel when I was done.

I started to say some words over them, but the truth was I wasn't feeling all that religious right then, so I didn't say nothing but "I love you two. But you shouldn't have gone and killed yourself, Daddy. That wasn't any kind of way to do."

I got the lantern and set it by the door, pulled some goggles off a nail and slipped them on. They had belonged to my granddaddy, who had been an aviator in World War I, and though I hadn't knowed him very well before he died, he had left them to me, and it was a good thing, 'cause I knowed a couple fellas that got their eyes scraped off by blowing sand and gone plumb blind.

I put the goggles on, blew out the lantern. Wasn't no use trying to carry it out there in the dark, 'cause the wind would blow it out. I set it down on the floor again, opened up the barn door, got hold of the rope Daddy had tied to a nail outside, and followed it through the dark with the wind blowing that sand and it scraping me like the dry tongue of a cat. I followed it over to where it was tied to the porch of the house, and then when I let go of it, I had to feel my way around until I got hold of the doorknob and pushed myself inside.

I remember thinking right then that things couldn't get no worse.

But I was wrong.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Story September 24, 2011
I'm a big fan of Joe Lansdale's fiction, and I prefer his books where he writes about the past and small town life (The Bottoms, A Fine Dark Line, Sunset and Sawdust). Joe's also a friend and I respect his view of life a lot. You get quite a bit of that in these books.

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky is Joe's first young adult novel, and - as I'd expected - it's a doozy. The novel kept me nailed to the pages and I read it in two sittings only because I couldn't put it down. From the opening chapter where young Jack Catcher's mom dies and his has to cut down his daddy's body from the barn rafter so he can bury them together, Joe puts his readers inside the perspective of his young hero.

A lot of reviewers make a lot of the fact that any hero whose initials are JC must be some kind of Christ figure. The only JC that came to mind when I was reading this book was John Carter, the iconic hero created by Edgar Rice Burroughs that romped across the dead plains of Mars. John Carter's motto "I still live" resonates through the pages and is mentioned by Jack and Jane, the outstanding young heroine that seizes center stage so much of the time.

The book is set in the Great Depression, starting out in Oklahoma and wandering down to Texas, more specifically East Texas where Joe lives. Along the way our young characters cross paths with the dust storms, dead folks, bank robbers, and a swarm of grasshoppers that literally eats the shirt off Jack's back. Oh, and there are hobos and assorted villains as well.

The book is a coming of age tale in a lot of ways, but it's squarely centered in hard times and in the human heart. I love the character of Jack Catcher because he's the soul of every young boy that ever lived.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horror Novel Reviews: Honesty in the Terror August 1, 2013
There are a lot of talented authors out there I enjoy reading. In my opinion, however, there are only two great storytellers writing today. They are Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale. The difference between being a great storyteller and a great author is that a storyteller can whip up a damn good yarn in any genre and hook the reader with just a few sentences. It doesn't matter if the genre is horror, suspense, westerns, thrillers, fantasy, or science fiction. A great storyteller works in whatever genre that draws his attention at the moment and inevitably succeeds with his tale and the reader's complete satisfaction.

Stephen King, you know.

Joe R. Lansdale, I hope you know. If you don't, shame on you because Joe wrote The Bottoms, which is probably the best novel I've ever read. It made me laugh, cry, shout out in righteous anger, and in certain scenes it even scared the bejesus out of me. Joe also wrote A Fine Dark Line, Sunset and Sawdust, Dead in the West, Cold in July, Freezer Burn which is one of the most bizarre; yet, entertaining novels I've read in the last decade), Lost Echoes, the short novel, Bubba Ho-Tep, and probably my most favorite series of all, Hap and Leonard. I like Hap Collins and Leonard Pine so much that I sent their latest novel, Devil Red, to Bruce Willis' production company, hoping Bruce still has some good sense left in that bald noggin of his to turn the book into a major motion picture with him and Samuel L. Jackson playing the lead roles.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with his newest book, All the Earth, Thrown To the Sky, which was written primarily for the Young Adult market? Well, Joe may have written this novel with teenagers in mind, but the book is such that adults will love it, too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Young Adult" but great for grown-ups, too! October 15, 2012
By Rhouse
Many YA novels depend on slapstick humor, childish adventures and woefully ignorant adults to keep their audience engaged...not so with "All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky."

If I may be so bold, I'd say what Lansdale has done is create a "Grapes of Wrath" for and about young readers. "All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky" deals with the depression, dust storms and the American experience of the 1930s realistically and accurately. Sometimes bleak, often hopeful, the novel is rich in both atmosphere and depth of characters.

"All the Earth..." tells the story of three youngsters: Jack, Jane and Jane's little brother Tony. Recently orphaned, the trio sets out for East Texas in search of Jane & Tony's distant relatives. Along their journey the three youngsters meet a variety of people and have some amazing experiences (from run-ins with gangsters to hopping freights with hobos)...but it is the journey of self discovery and coming of age that makes this book stand out.

Joe Lansdale has written a book that may be listed as 'juvenile fiction' but is so beautifully written that adults will surely appreciate it as much-if not more-than his intended audience.
There are plenty of good 'young adult novels' out there, but few have the depth and heart of "All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Len
Up front, I am not a young adult. I did not
realize this book was written for that specific
audience when I bought the book, but, I found
out when I read the author's notes in the back.
All of that said, this was a very engaging book,
set in a time-frame in our country's past (1930's),
Oklahoma Dust Bowl, that I have always found
interesting. The story is about three young-ish
kids and the adventures that they pursue. I, heartily,
recommend this book. Lansdale is a fine author.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Story of coming of age during the dust bowl. Excellent!
Published 24 days ago by Scrapper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
His coming of age stories are such great reading. He's got a gift for dialogue.
Published 2 months ago by MEK
5.0 out of 5 stars It Gets You Where You Feel
The quiet, engrossing narrative returned me a time that I had forgotten--when I couldn't put a book down and forced myself to close it because I didn't want it to end.
Published 7 months ago by NMWW
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Lansdale.
Another fantastic story by Lansdale. The atmosphere and theme of the story reminds me a little of The Thicket. Never been disappointed by Mr. Lansdale's books. Would recommend!
Published 8 months ago by Delinda
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book!!
I liked his style of writing. His descriptive ability was great. I could picture myself back in the dust bowl. I would recommend it to my friends.
Published 9 months ago by pat pickles
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Young Adult Novel
a young adult novel set in Oklahoma/Texas during the dust bowl era of the depression years. Three orphans banded together for an adventure. Read more
Published 12 months ago by George R. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Joe R Lansdale is one of the best story tellers around. This book is just further proof. 3 more words
Published 12 months ago by Jkmkay
5.0 out of 5 stars everything you'd expect
Lansdale delivers his usual no holds barred prose in this scary-sweet coming of age tale of three orphans set adrift against the Oklahoma dust bowl. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Hyacinth
4.0 out of 5 stars It was good, I enjoyed it.
Good easy read. Great for Saturday afternoons when you want to get lost in a story. I liked it a lot.
Published 15 months ago by sara kimble
4.0 out of 5 stars It was toned down.
I love reading Joe's books but he toned this one down for a younger crowd and he pulled it off. As I was reading, a swear word or graphic details should of popped up but did not. Read more
Published 19 months ago by David Steinberg
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More About the Author

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies.

Lansdale has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others.

A major motion picture based on Lansdale's crime thriller Cold in July was released in May 2014, starring Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice). His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His story "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was adapted to film for Showtime's "Masters of Horror." He is currently co-producing a TV series, "Hap and Leonard" for the Sundance Channel and films including The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero.

Lansdale is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.

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