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The First Thing and the Last Paperback – January 12, 2010

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lyrical prose, sympathetic characters and an unwavering sense of hope and compassion make for a moving, engaging read." --Publishers Weekly Online

A "Great Read" for April 2010.  O Magazine

"Read this book. Savor it. Allow it to work on your spirit and body and mind as only a well-told tale of high morality and beauty can. Share this book with those you love and those you don't.  Suggest it to everyone and share it widely." --Charles Dickey, Leftunder Books

This book is not for the faint of heart, but Johnson's writing is breathtakingly real, showing Katherine's view from the inside out. It is both mesmerizing and heartbreaking.
--Hartford Magazine

"Lyrical prose, sympathetic characters and an unwavering sense of hope and compassion make for a moving, engaging read." --Publishers Weekly Online

A "Great Read" for April 2010.  O Magazine

"Read this book. Savor it. Allow it to work on your spirit and body and mind as only a well-told tale of high morality and beauty can. Share this book with those you love and those you don't.  Suggest it to everyone and share it widely." --Charles Dickey, Leftunder Books

This book is not for the faint of heart, but Johnson's writing is breathtakingly real, showing Katherine's view from the inside out. It is both mesmerizing and heartbreaking.
--Hartford Magazine

"Lyrical prose, sympathetic characters and an unwavering sense of hope and compassion make for a moving, engaging read." --Publishers Weekly Online

A "Great Read" for April 2010.  O Magazine

"Read this book. Savor it. Allow it to work on your spirit and body and mind as only a well-told tale of high morality and beauty can. Share this book with those you love and those you don't.  Suggest it to everyone and share it widely." --Charles Dickey, Leftunder Books

This book is not for the faint of heart, but Johnson's writing is breathtakingly real, showing Katherine's view from the inside out. It is both mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

--Hartford Magazine

From the Back Cover

"This beautiful, brave, and liberating book is a triumph of the spirit. Engrossing and exquisitely written, it shines with rare courage and a tender, life-saving wisdom that comes only through facing the darkness we suffer or inflict on others. It is a marvelous story whose characters I am glad to have in my life."
Joanna Macy
Author, World as Lover, World as Self

"Allan Johnson's illumination of the mind of a woman recovering from horrific abuse and loss is miraculous, carried by a story that is both gripping and inspiring. It is a stunning achievement."
Jean Kilbourne
Creator of the award-winning film series, Killing Us Softly

"Allan Johnson's writing is moving, insightful, and deeply human. He takes us inside painful lives with courageous truth-telling, yet at the same time takes us inside of characters who can heal and thrive. This is a novel that rings true, and that we need urgently to take into our hearts."
Lundy Bancroft
Author, Why Does He Do That?

"The First Thing and the Last portrays an extraordinary woman who is brutalized - but the abuse becomes her sorrow and not her identity in Allan Johnson's complex, masterful and exacting understanding of such a woman's life. His ability and willingness to see so deeply, to portray a woman and her story so profoundly, takes our breath away. Welcome this extraordinary and most original novelist to the ranks of American literature."
Deena Metzger
Poet, novelist, and author of Writing For Your Life (added by author) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Plain View Press (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935514415
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935514411
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allan G. Johnson is a nationally recognized writer, novelist, and public speaker who has worked on issues of privilege, oppression, and social inequality since receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1972. His nonfiction writing has been translated into several languages and excerpted in numerous anthologies. His novels, The First Thing and the Last and Nothing Left to Lose, come from a lifelong devotion to the art of writing coupled with a passionate commitment to understanding what it means to be a human being in a complex world full of unnecessary suffering. He shares his life with Nora L. Jamieson, a writer, healer, and gatherer of women. They live in the hills of northwestern Connecticut.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. May on January 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
The First Thing and The Last is a novel that leaves an indelible impression, and whose characters are likely to remain with the reader long after the back cover is closed.

Johnson's exquisite prose provides a visceral, sensory experience from the first page to the last. His beautifully drawn characters provide gentle, guiding hands for traversing the path from devastating loss and trauma to the freedom and grace that becomes possible through human connection. It is a journey worth taking.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Miller on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The first thing you should know about this book is that it is spectacularly beautiful as Alan Johnson's words convey multiple layers of depth,vision, pain and hope. Like the mysterious gemstone, labadorite, the story begins with a murky darkness, only to reveal the hidden possibilities of luminescence buried within. I could breathe with the main characters, feel their pulses, grow on the land as Lucy, the wise old woman offers the readers a glimpse of true healing in and through relationships. The last thing you should know is that this is a story that is meant to be read by men and women, young and old. The power and the beauty is in these dark truths, laid open so that I felt it a privalege to bear witness by reading this heroine's journey. And because it was so achingly truthful, and written by a man about women, I felt a deep, resonant hope for the possibilities of healing in the world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Reader on February 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an important book. It is raw and real, both in the ways that it deals with the realities of men's violence against women and in the human capacity for healing and community. It shines a light onto an issue that thrives in the silence surrounding it, and it is written with grace and skill. Having worked in anti-violence efforts for many years, I can say that this is the best fictional account of interpersonal violence that I have come across. I've been a fan of Dr. Johnson's non-fiction sociological books (e.g., _Privilege, Power, and Difference_ and _The Gender Knot_) for years. He has a clarity of insight coupled with an approachable writing style that is hard to find. This book, his first novel, did not disappoint. I could not put it down, and I will not forget these characters and their stories.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amber58 on February 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will never forget these characters and their stories. I have considerable personal and professional experience with men's violence against women and trauma and this story is the most realistic and honest portrayal I have ever seen in fiction. The story is heart breaking but this novel is not depressing--it is ultimately hopeful and human and real. It is tragic and beautiful--like most of the real life survivor stories I know. Thank you Dr. Johnson for all your work.
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Format: Hardcover
I have putting off writing a review for The First Thing and The Last because the book is so profound and meaningful that I know I cannot do it justice in a review. Following an NPR radio interview with the author, I decided to open the book and read the first few pages and once I did, I knew that I had to continue. Gad, I should have picked up a Grisham.

Powerfully insightful, beautifully written and deeply impactful, The First Thing and The Last takes us through a moment of horrific abuse and along the long road of recovery. It challenges us, indirectly, to revisit our past brushes with abuse - you know that uncomfortable feeling at a dinner table, the sounds across the hall, the dad in the store, the mother who never leaves the house. It is all around us. Yet most of us are well defended. We ignore it.

The First Thing and The Last is four hundred pages of facing that which we all prefer to ignore. For me, this was not easy to read, I put it down for weeks at a time and it took many months to move through the story. But from the first page to the last, I found myself shedding ignorance and I feel wiser for the hours I have spent thinking upon Katherine's story. Alan, I thank you for bringing this story to us. To everyone else, if you haven't read this book, if this is the First Thing you do today or The Last, get this book. A must read.
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By Mary Verdick on January 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
After years of horrific abuse by her banker husband, Katherine Stuart of Boston is almost murdered one night in one of her husband's almost continuous rages. But this time, desperate to save her little boy, she plunges a knife into her spouse's heart and kills him; but it's too late for her son who's already dead. Numb with shock and despair she returns to her parents' home, but even though they love her they're unable to help. Lost and bewildered she doesn't know where to turn when, out of the blue, she gets a letter from a stranger named Lucy Dudley inviting her to come live with her in Vermont. Lucy, who has gone through traumas of her own and harbors a deadly secret, is the lifeline Katherine desperately needs. As the two women bond Katherine slowly begins to heal after suffering years of violence and abuse, and the result is a beautifully written novel brimming with compassion and courage.
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