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All I Have in This World: A Novel Paperback – November 11, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Parker’s latest novel (The Watery Part of the World, 2011) follows two wandering souls who seek to reconcile heartbreak and failure. Marcus is on the road to Mexico, after losing his family’s long-held North Carolina farmhouse in foreclosure. He is also leaving behind his latest botched enterprise, an educational center dedicated to the Venus flytrap. Meanwhile, Maria leaves Oregon for her hometown of Pinto Canyon and settles in with her distant mother. Maria remains tormented over the suicide of her high-school boyfriend 10 years earlier, and her return to the small West Texas town has been far from welcomed. Marcus’ and Maria’s paths unexpectedly cross on a used-car lot, where both are so taken by a 1984 Buick Electra that the two strangers hurriedly enter an agreement to co-own the vehicle. As their friendship grows, Marcus and Maria begin to confront their pasts and how their actions affected those closest to them. Parker deftly captures his characters’ uncertainties and hesitations as they struggle to move away from regret and toward the absolution they so desire. --Leah Strauss --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Springsteenian ode to the promise and heartbreak of the highway . . . Told with . . . emotional complexity and subtlety.” ―The New York Times

“This is a very funny, very moving novel about being lost and then found, about that rarest gift--shared sensibility--and about being saved . . . I love this book.” ―Antonya Nelson, author of Bound

“Parker's skillfully rendered story rolls like a restless, unpredictable west Texas river--calm depths here, turbulent shallows there--as Marcus and Maria communicate (sometimes with words, sometimes with silence, almost always in the car) and lurch toward an imperfect union. This makes Parker's story remarkable. But what makes All I Have in This World memorable is this: While any number of disasters can (and do) take place along the way, and while some are heartbreaking, the watershed moments happen not with sadness or blood or pain, but with cascades of laughter. It's through moments of unabashed humor, when Marcus and Maria let go and laugh, that his characters finally, and completely, connect. Which feels a lot like real life.” The Denver Post

“Don’t pass by Michael Parker’s book about a 'low-slung sky-blue 1984 Buick Electra' without kicking its tires, so to speak--it’s no lemon but a sweet, sinuous, and smart love story.” Washingtonian magazine’s blog

“The writing is direct, the characters vivid . . . In All I Have in This World, Parker, in prose clear as the Texas summer sky, gives us a portrait of two people who have tried their best to find themselves by running, literally from home or mentally from logic and good sense. Long may that Electra run.” Austin American-Statesman

“Parker deftly captures his characters’ uncertainties and hesitations as they struggle to move away from regret and toward the absolution they so desire.” ―Booklist

“Parker is an assured and emotionally sensitive writer.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“'Michael Parker's best novel yet. In front seats and back seats we conjure love and contemplate ruin, as do the wonderful characters in All I Have in This World. Parker again extends his geographical and emotional ranges here in this layered and nuanced story of heartbroken, debt-ridden and atonement-seeking creatures much like many of us. So get in and drive on.” ―Mark Richard, author of House of Prayer No. 2

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (November 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616204486
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616204488
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,341,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MICHAEL PARKER is the author of five novels - Hello Down There, Towns Without Rivers, Virginia Lovers, If You Want Me To Stay, The Watery Part of the World and two collections of stories, The Geographical Cure and Don't Make Me Stop Now. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various journals including Five Points, the Georgia Review, The Idaho Review, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, Shenandoah, The Black Warrior Review, Trail Runner and Runner's World. He has received fellowships in fiction from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His work has been anthologized in the Pushcart, New Stories from the South and O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, he is a Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The literary device that binds the characters in All I Have in this World is a Buick Electra. The reader first encounters it at an assembly plant in 1983. A year later, the first black car salesman hired by a Cleveland dealership sells it to a math teacher. Subsequent owners include a doctor in Kansas whose son drives it to Austin and a rancher's widow. Slices from the life of each car owner (as well as an assembly plant worker and the used car dealer who sells it last) are dispersed throughout the novel. The book's structure -- the use of the Buick to tie together lives of disparate people who share universal traits -- is part of its appeal.

Twenty years after it drives off the Cleveland lot, the Buick ends up in Pinto Canyon, Texas, where it brings together Maria and Marcus, the novel's principle characters, each of whom is embroiled in a family drama. Although the novel bounces around in time, it begins in 1994, when 17-year-old Maria enters adulthood in the wake of a tragic experience (for which she is unfairly blamed) that solidifies her desire to leave Pinto Canyon. She does not come back for her father's funeral but returns to Pinto Canyon in 2004. Her mother, with whom she has rarely had contact, has inherited a motel and claims she is too tired to run it by herself -- a claim that Maria credits, given that her mother took care of her dying husband and her dying lover before finding herself alone.

Marcus, having discovered that there is no profit in founding a nonprofit educational center dedicated to flytraps and having lost the land he owned jointly with his sister, packs everything he owns into a pickup truck and drives until he reaches Pinto Canyon, where his truck is stolen while he's hiking near the Mexican border.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reviewer TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
All I Have in This World by Michael Parker may not be the most amazing of books I have read in a while but it is a fairly attention-grabbing love story, unique in its own way. Author Michael Parker crafted a gentle yet persuasive novel why it is important to come to terms with our situation and learn to move on in life. The biggest stumbling blocks in life is our inability to forgive others, forget the past and learn the lessons life teaches us as we press forward.

In his own compelling way, Michael Parker writes a story which focuses on a car and two individuals, total strangers Maria and Marcus who ended up as co-owners, however improbable that may sound.
Maria is a carefree but troubled girl who at the tender age of seventeen has seen different shades of life. She has gone through an abortion. Her boyfriend has killed himself. Her hometown does not hold any hope for her. All she wants now is to run away, leave everything behind, including her past. Marcus fares no better in life, though he had a promising start. When he fails to realize his dream which forces him into bankruptcy, he has to find a way to survive, forcing him to stoop as low as possible, even to the extent of robbing his sister of her rightful inheritance.

Maria and Marcus are both failures. They are distraught with life, with a troubled past and disappointed with themselves. They are total strangers. But by a quirk turn of fate, they are brought together in a car yard, and strangely plump to buy a sky blue Buick Electra as co-owners. Will the car they jointly owned bring them luck? What will the future hold for them?

All I Have in This World by Michael Parker is a story about mistakes, regrets, forgiveness, hope and redemption. The narrative is simple but engaging, and keeps one moving forward. The plot twists in the story are wonderfully done. It is a story that builds bridges between past failures and the promise of hope for a better tomorrow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"All I Have In This World," by award-winning author Michael Parker, is a subtle, psychologically rich, and emotionally satisfying literary novel about the torturous and strange paths that some individuals follow on the way from self-condemnation to self-acceptance. A sky blue, 1984 Buick Electra is the plot element that ties this remarkable book together.

The main characters are a man and a woman, both separately wrestling with hidden guilt due to the hurt and damage they've caused within their respective family circles. These two injured souls meet on a used car lot in West Texas at the very moment when both decide they want to buy the same low riding, big, blue Buick Electra. It's 2004 and the Buick is already 20 years old, but it only has 60 thousand miles on the odometer. Unexpectedly and almost inexplicably, they agree to buy the Buick together and share it. Somehow they've managed to make an uncanny immediate connection through body language realizing almost instinctually that they are kindred spirits adrift in the same sea of self-recrimination and pain. In order to communicate, they know they need to keep verbal communication to the minimum. This type of intuitive understanding of what the other needs continues throughout their relationship and serves and the foundation of their ultimate strong support and growing love for one another.

This 311-page book is structurally designed as a 267-page novel interspersed with seven linked short stories that add an additional 44 pages. The stories deal with the emotional connections that particular individuals have with this same 1984 Buick Electra over the course of its twenty-year life span from "birth" to "death.
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