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Long Gone Daddy Hardcover – May 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9–Harlan Q, 14, lives and works with the local funeral director and his wife because his evangelical preacher father, Harlan P, has evicted him for religious doubts. There he meets his grandfather, Harlan O, for the first time. The fact that the man is dead doesn't stop him from wanting to know more about his relative. The teen convinces his father to drive the body to Las Vegas to collect an inheritance, and thus the two have the opportunity to develop a relationship and learn something about the man who has been lost to them for 20 years. The premise is interesting, but not much happens as the two travel, have car troubles, take on an aspiring actor who is more interesting than either Harlan, and find themselves in a city that fascinates the younger Harlan as much as it horrifies the elder. The characters are not fully developed except for the former and some barely seem to have a face or voice, like his mother. As Harlan Q learns about his grandfather through the people who knew and loved him, he discovers a compassionate and intelligent man, but Harlan P never does accept him. Harlan Q knows a bit more about his father at story's end, but it's not clear what lessons are learned by either of them as they begin their ride home together.–Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 8-11. To escape his father, a fire-and-brimstone preacher, 14-year-old Harlan takes a live-in apprenticeship at a local funeral parlor. Then his grandfather, whom Harlan has never met, dies, and the body, prepared by Harlan's boss, must be shipped back to Las Vegas. Harlan miraculously convinces his father to drive from their small southern town to the "sinful city" to collect their inheritance and deliver the body. An aspiring young actor hitches a ride, and his Buddhist-influenced observations help move Harlan and his father toward mutual understanding. In her strong debut, set during the late 1960s (or early 1970s), Hemphill strikes a confident balance between deep heartache and sharply irreverent humor. Harlan's folksy voice narrates ("I wanted to go like an old dog with a small bladder," he says about the trip), and tension produced by his thoughts of running away and his run-ins with shady characters move the story swiftly along. Many teens will see their own questions about faith, worship, and independence in Harlan's heart-twisting feelings: "How could God love a screw-up [sic] like me?" Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Front Street, Incorporated; First Edition edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932425381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932425383
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,471,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hailed as "a strong new voice in children's literature" by Kirkus Reviews, Helen Hemphill's debut novel Long Gone Daddy won the Teddy Award for young adult fiction from the Writers' League of Texas and was named to the New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age. Booklist named her novel Runaround a Top Ten Youth Romance for 2007, and Book Links offered it as one of 2007's Best New Books for the Classroom. Her most recent book for middle school readers, The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones, was the recipient of the Virginia M. Law Award for the "most distinguished book of 2008 for young adults" by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library; and was named to VOYA's 2009 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, Best Books 2009, Nebraska Library Association; Best Children's Books, Bank State College; South Dakota Young Adult Reading Program List, Kansas State Reading Circle 2009 Recommended Reading List; and to the Winter 2008-09 Kid's Indie Next list.

Helen is a graduate of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. Visit her on the web at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Leda D. Schubert on May 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Hemphill's debut novel, told in a fresh voice with a southern twang, is a delight. She intertwines a difficult father/son relationship, religious arguments, a road trip with a coffin in the car,and an unlikely friendship; the result is a moving story well worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
In Long Gone Daddy, the author beautifully captures the conflicts, impulses, and humor of adolescence. Trapped in a difficult family, Harlan Q wishes only for escape and finds a window of opportunity in a cross-country trek to return his grandfather's remains to Las Vegas. What I liked most about the novel is the voices of the characters and the empathy we feel for them--even the difficult ones--thanks to Ms. Hemphill's writing. I highly recommend this book--as well as her historical "road trip" book, The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones, for any pre-adolescent or adolescent readers. Adults, too!
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By Kellye Crocker on September 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Helen Hemphill strikes a delicate balance in giving us a father-son feud that feels real, not cliched. Filled with memorable characters, a compelling voice and serious questions about faith and family, this story has lingered with me years after I finished the book.

Full disclosure:The author is a friend, but as a journalist and former member of the National Book Critics Circle, I would never review a book favorably if I didn't really like it. YA books are my passion, and there are plenty of great ones to promote. This is one.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Savage on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The product description on Amazon made this book sound as if it was a biogrpahy of Hank Williams. It's not. It's fiction. Very disappointed.
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