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Finn: A Novel Paperback – March 11, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977141
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this darkly luminous debut, Finn, the namesake of the title, is not Twain's illustrious Huck, but Huck's father, "Pap." As the novel opens, an African-American woman's bloated corpse floats downriver from Lasseter, Ill., toward the slave territory of St. Petersburg, Mo. In the Lasseter woods, Finn—a dangerous, bigoted drunk—tells his blind bootlegger friend, Bliss, that he's finally "quit" his on-again, off-again African-American companion Mary, the mother of Finn's second son (also, confusingly, named Huck). Chronically short on money, Finn is shunned by his father (Adams County Judge James Manchester Finn) and by his brother, Will. Finn does odd jobs, traps catfish and claims tutelary rights to Huckleberry's share of Injun Joe's gold. (In this last, he is thwarted by Widow Douglas and Judge Thatcher, high-handed and stifling as ever.) The opaque in medias res narrative then backs up to detail Finn and Mary's life together: his drinking, his stint in the penitentiary following an assault (sentenced by his own father), Mary's rising debts and Finn's attempts at restitution. As the nature of the woman's murder becomes clear, Clinch lyrically renders the Mississippi River's ceaseless flow, while revealing Finn's brutal contradictions, his violence, arrogance and self-reproach. If Clinch's debut falls short of Twain's achievement, it does further Twain's fiction. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Embarking from a scene in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Clinch has written a debut novel of harrowing intensity. When Jim and Huck find a dead man in a house floating down the Mississippi, the room with the body is filled with mysterious oddities: a wooden leg, two black masks, crude scrawlings over the walls, etc. Huck does not know that the corpse, shot in the back, is his father. Clinch meticulously fills in the backstory of Finn (or "Pap Finn," as Twain usually referred to him). He uses the details of the floating-house scene, and much of Twain's plotting, characters, and themes, to create a story at once intricately entwined with Huckleberry Finn and separate from that novel in tone and focus. The author makes no attempt to duplicate Twain's humor and satire. Instead, he sets his sights on humanity's immense capacity for evil. While Huck's innate good heart won the battle against his society-produced conscience, allowing him to help the runaway slave, Finn has neither the heart nor conscience to aid anyone. Clinch's book contains many surprises: Huck is a mulatto; the extremely racist Finn fancies black women; Finn's father (Judge Finn) is the wealthiest and most respected citizen in town and yet, in significant ways, more evil than his son. Many fans of Twain's masterpiece will want to read Clinch's inspired interpretation of Pap, but some might find it too gruesome, and too void of hope. In any event, Clinch offers a wealth of material for AP English and college-level papers.—Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Jon Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. His first novel, FINN--the secret history of Huckleberry Finn's father--was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year's best books by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. It won the Philadelphia Athenaeum Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Sargent First Novel Prize. His second novel, KINGS OF THE EARTH--a powerful tale of life, death, and family in rural America, based on a true story--was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and led the 2010 Summer Reading List at O, The Oprah Magazine.

Jon has lectured and taught widely, in settings as varied as the National Council of Teachers of English, Williams College, the Mark Twain House and Museum, and Pennsylvania State University. In 2008 he organized a benefit reading for the financially-ailing Twain House--enlisting such authors as Tom Perrotta, Stewart O'Nan, and Robert Hicks--an event that literally saved the house from bankruptcy. A native of upstate New York, Jon lives with his wife in the Green Mountains of Vermont. They have one daughter.

Jon wrote the Amazon sci-fi bestseller WHAT CAME AFTER under the pen name Sam Winston. Most recently, he's the author of UNMEDIATED INK: NOTES FROM THE SELF-PUBLISHING REVOLUTION.

Customer Reviews

This is an engaging story of Huckleberry Finn's Dad, "Pap Finn."
D. Kanigan
I really enjoyed this book, It kept my interest from pg.1 right through to the end.
N. Herlihy
The writing is wonderful and the story is complete and well written.
Angela Carter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on February 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Exodus 1:22

It is hard for me to imagine the audacity it must take for a novelist to choose possibly the greatest novel in American literature as the starting off point for his first novel. It was even harder for me to imagine that such a book could be anything other than a derivative effort that diminished both the original work and the contemporary author. I imagined wrong. Jon Clinch's first novel "Finn" is an immensely entertaining and thoughtful novel that takes Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and creates a back-story that takes us into the world of Huck's father, known to the world as Finn.

"Finn" begins and ends with a body floating slowly down the Mississippi. In between, Clinch tells us the story of Finn's life on and near the river. Finn is not a likeable man. For Finn, his life along the Mississippi River is one akin to that portrayed by Hobbes in his treatise "Leviathan". Finn lives in a state of nature and in that state there is "continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Finn, a ne'er do well almost since birth has been cast out "into the river" of life by his father (Huck's grandfather), Judge Finn who, although less physically violent than Finn, is as loathsome a character (to me) as you may ever meet in a piece of fiction. Finn has been cast out because he has fallen into a relationship with a runaway slave girl, Mary. Mary provides Finn with the only real sense of belonging and longing he is ever likely to know. She also provides him with a son, Huck. (Clinch acknowledges Shelley Fisher Fishkin's monograph "Was Huck Black?" in his Author's Note.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on February 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When I first heard about Jon Clinch's book in which he creates a mulatto Huck Finn, almost immediately I wondered if his book had been in any way inspired by Shelly Fishkin's fascinating monologue "Was Huck Black?" Fishkin suggested that Twain based his character on two young African-Americans he knew personally and liked very much, one of them a ten year old boy named Jimmy and the other a youth named Jerry. A lot of their characteristics, not to mention their speech patterns, come out in Huck: Jimmy's sociability, loquatiousness, and total lack of pretension and inhibition, and Jerry's mother-wit and plain common sense. But Clinch has gone far beyond Fishkin's premise; in "Finn", his brilliant first novel, Clinch gives us a Huck Finn who actually is black, or at least half-black, by a slave woman.

Clinch's story is not about Huck but about Twain's immortal creation Pap, Huck's father, a loathsome, illiterate, unwashed drunk who could probably be smelled five miles downwind. In Clinch's book, Finn is the older son and the black sheep of an upper-middle-class Southern family; his father, a judge, hates blacks so deeply that he hires a poor white couple as servants rather than have blacks anywhere near him. Finn has already earned his sire's contempt and disgust as a ne'er-do-well alcoholic, but what cuts him off from the family forever is his relationship with Mary, a runaway slave with whom he not only lives but commits the ultimate abomination of siring a half-breed child, thus, in the eyes of the judge, forever sullying the Finn name.

As despicable as the elder Finn is, at least he is no hypocrite.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By AKM on July 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This novel was a wonderful read. I did find the vocabulary and sentence structure,at times,difficult to comprehend--at the same time I found this to be a postive challenge. The story itself is a great read, with Pap Finn being an extrememly unlikeable man. I respect Clinch's attempt at bringing Pap Finn to life and respect even more his abilty intertwine Twain's Huckleberry Finn with his story of Pap Finn. This will be one that I reread! And of course it makes you want to go and pick up a copy of Huckleberry Finn again too!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on September 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Finn is not an easy book to read because, in its own way, it is even more horrifying than the fantastical books by writers such as Thomas Harris who splash gore around to such a degree that their books lose all sense of realism. The horrible crimes that are committed in Finn, on the other hand, always make the reader cringe simply because they seem to be happening to real people in a real world. As is so often the case in a man like Finn, he is the product of cold and abusive parents who warped him from the beginning. He is in constant rebellion against his father, a town judge who rules his courtroom and his home with an iron fist and who has no more sympathy for his sons than he does for the criminals he sees in court.

Clinch, of course, begins with the world created by Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn but he fleshes out that world in a way that Twain himself was unable to do in the period in which he wrote. Using incidents and characters from Twain's book, Clinch provides the back story to Huck's tale that explains much of what Twain had to leave unsaid in the original.

The elder Finn depends on the Mississippi River for his very life. The river provides him with the catfish that he sells or exchanges in town for the supplies that keep him alive. More importantly to Finn, it is the sale of those same fish that make it possible for him to consume the amount of alcohol that makes life worth living for him. Equally important, the Mississippi is always there to cover a man's sins and, as the book begins, one of those sins, a dead woman who has been skinned, is floating down the middle of the river toward town. But since Finn is a psychopath this is hardly the last of his crimes that the reader will witness.
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