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Ironweed Paperback – January 10, 1983

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Paperback, January 10, 1983
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The Viking Press; 1st edition (January 10, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670401765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670401765
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,766,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A powerfully affecting work, abounding in humor and heartbreak."Chicago Tribune Bookworld

"A remarkable and most original novel."Alison Lurie

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

8 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Customer Reviews

The language in the novel brilliant and the style is very unique.
None too often does a book come along that makes you think of life, the wrongs done to yourself and to others.
Michael LaPointe
I am on a quest to read all novels that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
W. L. Derks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
With Ironweed, William Kennedy completes his three novels of Depression-era Albany, wrapping up this study of time, place, and people with an emotionally gripping Pulitzer Prize-winner (1984) that focuses on those who call themselves "bums," all of them living apart from society because their dreams have died. Francis Phelan, long-absent father of Billy Phelan, the main character in the previous novel, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game, returns to Albany for the first time in twenty-two years. In the previous novel, which concludes a week before Ironweed begins, Francis reconnects with his son Billy, who, stunned by Francis's reappearance, gets him out of jail, gives him money, and begs him to visit his mother and the family.

Francis, a former pro ballplayer, lost his career when he lost part of a finger in a fight. He abandoned his wife Annie and his family when he accidentally dropped and killed his 13-day-old son Gerald, an act for which he still atones. Francis, however, now discovers from Billy that Annie has never revealed to anyone how Gerald died, a proof of forgiveness that Francis finds astounding.

For the past nine years Francis has been living on the road with another down-and-outer, Helen Archer, who managed one year at Vassar studying classical piano before her father died and her life fell apart. Smart and perceptive about people, Helen, like Francis, has tried unsuccessfully to find solace in the bottle, and now, suffering from a tumor and the effects of alcoholism, she tries to make peace with herself and her life. Both Francis and Helen understand that they have chosen their lives, and they cast no blame on others or on fate.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Christian Engler on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
In life, we all make mistakes, some more than others. People do not grow into faultless perfection. That is something that is done through hard work and deep thought, and even then, it is not fully achieved - much to our dismay. People sometimes unsuccessfully surrender themselves to their fantasies, their ideologies, and thus, make big mistakes, for to err is human. The protagonist in William Kennedy's Ironweed - Francis Phelan - is certainly no exception. He is a man who has made one too many mistakes. From the murdering of a scab, to his accidentally killing his son, to taking refuge in alcohol, to family abandonment, it becomes a grim picture of a life not worth living. All this stretches out before and beyond the Great Depression of 1929.
In youth, Francis had looks, health, vitality and a burgeoning baseball career that included such notables like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Eddie Collins. But then it all disappeared to mediocrity and then into something even less than that. One would figure, like Job in the Bible, Francis would scream, "God, wht hast thou forsaken me?" He does not do that. In that respect, that is what makes this novel so refreshing. It does not evolve into a pity party, although the theme, plot and environment would lead a reader to think otherwise. Francis and his associates, specifically Helen Archer and Rudy, just propel themselves onward, despite or until mental and physical difficulities impede them. The characters don't whine or pout; they just deal with it. When the joys of life ebb away into that which we do not think we can handle, that's when the true self emerges, the thick skin manifests itself during adversity.
Despite what I have written, it is not all grim and tragic. Far from it.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By AP English student on November 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
I had to read this novel for my AP english class and i wasn't exactly looking forward to reading it. But once i got down to reading it, the book took on a life of its own. William Kennedy's brilliant prose and selection of words defined the character of Francis Phelan. The reader can truly feel sorrow, joy, disgust with each action of Francis, all through the excellent writing of Mr. kennedy. The book is a sad look on a depressing era, but it is also a novel that demonstrates the love and bond of family and the tenacity of human nature to hold on. A great book...highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on October 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Both dark and astoundingly, funny, IRONWEED is one of those books that never leave your memory. It doesn't last long on your bookshelf, though; you are always lending it out or re-reading some, if not all of it. Set in Depression-era Albany, IRONWEED is an unforgettable tale of one man's search to reconcile himself with a past riddled with calamity and many loves gone awry.

The opening chapter, where protagonist Francis Phelan and his friend, Rudy, work as gravediggers for a day is as great a piece of dark comedy as the scene where Hamlet meets the gravediggers. I felt a sort of uneasiness about laughing at all of Francis Phelan's wisecracks, though. We know that they all stem from a life filled with pain, alcoholism, terrible coincidences, and frustrated dreams. Yet, he is a generous man. He will give those even more down-and-out than himself the last bite of his sandwich or the last sip from his bottle of cheap wine. And it is this sort of attitude--slivers of hopefulness out of seemingly permanent bleakness, generosity out of poverty, humanity out of an unfeeling world--that gives the book its life, humor, and appeal.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.
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