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Local Souls Hardcover – September 23, 2013

3.3 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gurganus returns to Falls, N.C., the setting of his Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, with this trio of linked novellas. "Fear Not" subjects a smalltown golden girl to horrific loss, an unplanned pregnancy, and a lifetime of wondering about the fate of her baby. The protagonist of "Saints Have Mothers" reluctantly sees her luminous, gifted daughter off on a global adventure, and has her worst fears realized. As she handles her own grief and the unfolding spectacle of Falls's collective mourning, Gurganus ratchets up the inner keening and deftly balances it with a certain sense of escalating absurdity. In "Decoy," a family history gets spun out as a backdrop to the retirement of the town's senior physician, a friend and confidant to the narrator, Bill Mabry, who still sees himself as a bit of an interloper in the country club set. "He knew so much. And about us! Our septic innards, our secret chin-lifts, our actual alcohol intake in liters-per-day." But as Dr. Roper leaves his medical role, Mabry's sense of loss gets sharper as the two men grow more remote from each other. In these layered, often funny narratives, close reading is rewarded as Gurganus exposes humanity as a strange species. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Sept.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gurganus revisits the North Carolina town of Falls, where he situated his roundly applauded first novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989). His return to Falls is manifested in three novellas. Gurganus has never been a modest stylist. He favors, in concert with many of his fellow southerners, vivid language, provocative sentence structure, and metaphors that elevate the reader’s consciousness. He also shares with his southern cohorts a delight in discovering the quotidian within lives led under extraordinary, even bizarre circumstances. In the disturbing “Fear Not,” the male narrator attends the high-school theatrical performance of his teenage godson, accompanied by his godson’s mother. An interesting couple sits near them, and later, armed with the couple’s names, the narrator embarks on learning their story, which involves the many-years-later seeking of a child given up at birth. “Saints Have Mothers” is the slyest of the trio, a sardonic look at celebrity as a girl from Falls becomes famous for having disappeared. “Decoy,” the longest of the three, chronicles the friendship of two men from different sides of town in a meandering tale that eventually sharpens into a moving treatment of social aspiration. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Gurganus will be enjoying an extensive author tour and print and broadcast interviews, and the publisher will engage in a library marketing campaign. --Brad Hooper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; First Edition edition (September 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087140379X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871403797
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Gurganus's, books include White People and Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Gurganus is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys. A resident of his native North Carolina, he lives in a village of six thousand souls.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book and I think I would have if I could have just gotten to the stories buried beneath the painfully overwrought prose. It seems that Gurganus forgot about writing about real human beings and lifting a reader off the page with simple imagery and real emotion. Instead it seems he wants to impress us with his ability to cleverly turn a phrase. I don't read to be impressed; I read to be entertained and enlightened. This book, sadly, did neither.
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As a huge fan of Allan Gurganus, I have been checking on Amazon every few weeks for the past several years, hoping he would publish another book, so I was very excited to pre-order this one. Today, I finally finished it. There were several times along the way I thought about stopping, but I wanted to see if it got better. It didn't. It's repetitive, really repetitive, really, really repetitive. I kept thinking, "Yeah, you said that in the last chapter, and a few chapters ago." I thought about just not writing a review of this since I love his other books so much, but I decided to write one anyway; if for nothing else, just to tell readers to purchase his other books and to avoid this one. All of his other books are terrific.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The "Local Souls" in Allan Gurganus's eponymous book title are the residents of a North Carolina town, population about 6,000. The town of "Falls, North Carolina" - featured in the one short story and two longer ones - is a relatively upscale village, particularly in the River Front section, where most of the stories take place. The residents - the "local souls" - weave in and out of the stories, but each story tends to feature it's own main characters and plot. Gurganus has a drawn map of the River Front area of Falls in both the front and back of the book, which features the main places he refers to in his stories.

And what stories they are. From the first story about a sleek family of four who have moved to the town and set the locals to talking to the middle one about a hurting family who has lost a daughter in Africa to the final one about the town's doctor and his influence on his friends and patients both during his 40 year practice and subsequent retirement, Gurganus just blows away the reader with his powerful writing. A bit like "Our Town", the residents of Falls, NC give up their secrets and their dreams in a wealth of terse writing that brings both the characters and the place to life. I guess if I have to have a "favorite" story, I'd reluctantly point to the final story - the longest - about the doctor and the town he served faithfully.

The story has two main characters - the narrator, Bill Mabry - and his doctor, "Doc" Roper. Roper, the blessed son of a socially prominent-but-poor town family, has returned to Falls in the 1950's after graduating from Yale Medical School He sets up a practice - becoming legendary in his treatment of townsfolk, both rich and poor. He diagnoses young Billy Mabry's heart condition, inherited from his father and grandfather.
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Format: Kindle Edition
'Local Souls' consists of three separate stories concerning citizens of 'Falls, North Carolina', or in my mind, Fallen. Drowning incidents are set into motion, but not always directly from water even when water was peripherally instrumental in the character's unexpected detour down a previously invisible tributary. Respectable small town middle-class aspirations comfort everyone here in Falls, but when these characters slip beyond the white picket fences into dangerous rivers and lakes, they find either forbidden passions or discover what they've given up for safe comfortability. The narrators are practically Nameless - emphasizing their initial literary ordinary 'Everyman'. At least to me, it seemed Susan, Jean, and Bill were as diminished as people as their plain honorifics.

Fear Not

"Fearnot" Susan, who was not afraid about being herself when a small child, but after witnessing the horrible decapitation of her father in a boating incident she becomes fearful of abnormality and death. Her former unselfconscious personality is cemented into stillness when a scandal follows her father's death. The 14-year-old Susan becomes pregnant with 40-year-old Doc Dennis's child, who is also the man who was driving the boat which killed her father. The baby is quickly released for adoption while Fearnot returns to her ordinary life, having moved to another school. Her life settles into the usual conforming patterns: she marries a doctor; has two more children; she gets an MA in Russian literature (which is famous for its most volcanic family dramas). She becomes respectable, without passion, settling for a normal, dry-eyed and dull existence.

She feels her husband is "all-too-decent".
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Gurganus is a master story teller and I could not stop reading a chapter without finishing it. But... in the end, I wonder what the point of reading the stories is. Other than a platform for Gurganus' brilliant writing, the stories seemed to have no meaning or point. It is like reading a bystander's thoughts as he takes in the "local souls" and there is no particular reason to want to hear the stories.

Nina Broyles Fleshman
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