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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726248
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unlike many a novelist, Chris Adrian isn't intimidated by history. Indeed, he treats historical events as raw material, to be reshaped and reconfigured through the processes of the imagination. It's an endeavor that would please Walt Whitman, one of the central characters in this challenging debut, Gob's Grief. Nor is the good gray poet the only "real" character--both Abraham Lincoln and radical feminist Victoria Woodhull put in appearances, giving an extra twist of verisimilitude to Adrian's rendering of America circa 1863, where the Civil War rages and the dead proliferate like weeds.

Gob's Grief opens with the story of Tomo, the fictional son of Woodhull. At age 11, he dreams of escaping Homer, Ohio, to join the fighting. Unable to convince his twin brother, Gob, to accompany him, Tomo finally sets out alone and is promptly killed by a bullet through the skull. His twin never recovers from this loss. In thrall to his grief, Gob grows up to become a doctor, dedicating himself to healing the war's wounded. And by night, he toils away at a more unlikely corrective: a time machine that will eradicate death and bring back all the lost soldiers. His sidekick in this project is none other than Whitman, who shares his desire to resurrect those millions of departed souls: "Their marvelous passion would go out from them in waves, transforming time, history, and destiny, unmurdering Lincoln, unfighting the war, unkilling all the six hundred thousand."

Gob's Grief is an ambitious and occasionally convoluted story, which remains true to the stubborn mysticism of thinkers like Whitman and Woodhull. Cutting back and forth between characters and historical moments, Adrian never pretends to retrospective detachment. Indeed, his novel will appeal to fans of John Dos Passos or E.L. Doctorow--writers who borrow from history but repay their debt in the form of fictional insight. --Ellen Williams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Blending history and fiction in the tradition of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, this skillfully imagined first novel follows Walt Whitman as the poet unwittingly aids the son of early radical feminist Victoria Woodhull in constructing a machine to bring back the Civil War dead; indeed, to abolish death altogether. While he is mourning a young soldier who dies in his care, Walt is directed by a message from the dead man to befriend Victoria's son, Dr. George Washington Woodhull, better known as Gob, on a stagecoach in 1868. In 1863, Gob's twin brother, Tomo, ran away to war and was killed. Wracked by guilt at having let his brother go off alone, Gob strikes a bargain with "a mad hedge wizard" known as the Urfeist, who agrees to teach Gob to "defeat death." Will Fie, who has also lost a brother, is compelled by restless spirits to join Gob's cause; wild boy Pickie Beecher, the first product of Gob's labors, calls the machine his brother; Gob's love, Maci Trufant, receives scribbled pleas from her own dead brother, who has seized control of her left hand. The story is repeated from each new character's vantage--gentle, disbelieving Walt is the most sympathetically crafted narrator--and though this allows for an admirably meticulous plot, it hampers the pacing and distances the reader from the difficult, unusual characters. Much like Gob's creation, the novel is a collection of fabulous parts in need of a heart to power them, yet impressing as a flight of fancy. (Jan. 16)from which this novel stemmed, was anthologized in Best American Short Stories 1998.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Beautiful Magical Realism!
Daniel W. Butler
I'm eagerly awaiting the next work of this promising new author.
"nsharris"
This is a truly unique work of fiction.
Jack M. Walter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chris Adrian is a gifted, highly imaginative writer who takes the theme of grief and builds upon it by blending historical fact and actual people with a cast of intriguing, sometimes fascinating, characters. The Civil War details make for compelling reading and the first half of the book carries the reader along at a steady gallop. The second half, which delves into the backgrounds of many of the characters, is far slower in pacing and requires a committed interest on the part of the reader. The feel for time and place is wonderfully effective; the pervasive grief (of all the central characters) is almost overwhelming. But I found it tough going to get through to the end. This is a heavy book, on a heavy theme: the notion that the loss of beloved brothers could drive people to create a machine that would reverse the process and bring all the dead back to life.
Some of the characters in Gob's Grief are extraordinarily compelling creations, particularly the Urfeist, and Pickie Beecher. I recommend this book with the caveat that it is not for the faint of heart or those unwilling to suspend disbelief. Certainly, I'll be very interested to see what Chris Adrian does next. For a first novel, this is an impressive debut.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
A boy, Tomo, runs off to battle during the Civil War, leaving his hesitant twin brother Gob behind, and is almost instantly killed. A few years later we meet Gob once again, now a doctor driven by guilt and loss to construct a fantastic machine that will bring Tomo (and all the thousands of Civil War dead) back to life. Others are driven to join Gob's quest--the poet Walt Whitman, who hears the voice of a dead soldier in his head; Dr. Will Fie, literally followed by ghosts through the streets, and beautiful Maci Trufant, who flees her father's madness only to find her own left hand becoming the instrument for her dead brother's frantic communications, scribbled from somewhere beyond the grave.
GOB'S GRIEF is a strikingly emotional and original novel, set in a time when Americans were seemingly drowning in anguish, desperately trying to make sense of a country that had turned on itself. Elements of romance, history, horror, spiritualism and magic realism are ambitiously combined, with mixed results--sometimes the book feels repetitious and overstuffed, and some elements simply never quite manage to fit. However, as a whole, this is a memorable debut novel from a talented writer. I'll be looking for his name again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The nod to Best Book of the Year has certainly peaked early with the release of Chris Adrian's "Gob's Grief". Far too few contemporary tomes manage to balance the World of Ideas a la Saul Bellow and gripping drama as beautifully as Adrian does. His prose is consistantly poetic, inspired and enchanting, transporting the reader into Civil War-torn America with complete ease. "Gob's Grief" soars, transforms and, ultimately, helps heal the mortal wounds that are part of being all too human. Stunning.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By cxd on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
this is one of the most imaginative and beautifully written books I have ever read. The opening chapters dealing with the death of Tomo are some of the most heartbreaking and disturbing words ever written about War.
The tale of Gob, Macie, Dr. Fie, Pickie, and Walt Whitman is very engrossing. The obsession with conquering death permeates every chapter. The feelings of grief and despair are palpable.
The ending, while it may leave some disappointed, was handled very well. With a tale of this scope and subject I was very leary of how the ending would be done, but I was not disappointed.
I eagerly await the next effort by Mr. Adrian!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gob's Grief is beautiful, sensitive, insightful, moving, repetitive, convoluted, a little too "artful," and (as one reviewer said) "wonderous strange." If you like this kind of thing, you'll give this book five stars. If you want a story that makes sense, or has realistic (and sane) characters and a reasonable progression from beginning to end, you'll have a hard time getting through it. I am in the latter group.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Esterhammer-Fic VINE VOICE on June 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Civil War was emotionally traumatic on a national scale; much has been said about the battles themselves. But what about the survivors of the war? How do they piece their lives together again after everything they've taken for granted has been destroyed?
Walt Whitman ministered to the wounded in a Washington hospital. In the short story "Every Night for a Thousand Years," Chris Adrian describes Whitman's experiences: it is a heart-breaking and exquisitely crafted story, which appears as a chapter in this novel.
The novel allows Adrian to flesh out the characters, introduce new ones, and blend fictional with historical events. It's fascinating--and disturbing--to read about post-Civil War New York. Adrian brings the era to life, and he has an original perspective. There is a Gothic intensity to the whole book. And, he has the ability to allow the reader to feel sadness and loss. For those reasons, it's worth reading.
On the other hand, the story/chapter "Every Night..." was much better, alone, than as part of the book. Also, there were so many characters, and some had more substance than others. I found the pace of the book a little jarring. Maybe that was Adrian's intent, to give the reader some sense of what it must have been like in the late 19th Century, letting go of the expectations you've built and having to construct new ones.
I hope Adrian continues to write. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good solid read, but I would definitely steer a depressed person in another direction.
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