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Local Souls Hardcover – September 23, 2013

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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: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,156 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rick R. Reed VINE VOICE on January 14, 2014
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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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2013
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tony Prince on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Nina S. Broyles on October 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Hugh on October 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a huge Allan Gurganus fan. Plays Well With Others is one of the best books I've read in the last fifteen years. When I find it on the shelves of a used book store, I always buy it. It's one of those books I give to friends whenever someone is looking for "something good to read." I'd say over the years the split has been 75/25 between those who say "Oh my lord, I loved it. I couldn't put it down" to (and this is my favorite, from a colleague I absolutely adore) "This man knows too many words. And uses them all." I even enjoyed The Practical Heart, which, I thought, demonstrated his expertise with the novella.

So, it was with considerable relish that I cracked the spine on Local Souls when it arrived a few days ago. By the end, I felt rather like Doc in the third (and longest) story . . . out in the weeds, searching for something that sadly never turns up.

Why, I kept asking myself, was I so disappointed? Gurganus has certainly shown that the knows how to handle long form narrative. And, as I've said, Practical Heart shows his mastery of novella form. But this....this.... What is THIS? I think it's because it's such a radical departure in style--linguistically--from what I've come to expect from Gurganus. Plays well is full of colored ribbons of prose that unfurl before the reader, and cannot be fully appreciated until the entire length of it is seen. Practical Heart has "good serge" sentences with hand-turned buttonholes that spark admiration of their craftsmanship. I can only liken Local Souls to reading a story that has been run through the shredder, then thrown up in the air to slowly flutter down around the reader.

I am still of the opinion that Gurganus is a masterful writer and look forward to further work from him. But this is not a collection I would recommend to friends.
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