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Love and Lament Paperback – August 6, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Reading Group Guide for Love and Lament

1. Love and Lament is set in the decades following the Civil War. What impact does this have on the characters? How does Thompson evoke this historical period, and in what ways are the characters a product of their time?

2. The Devil continuously reappears throughout the novel, in dreams and superstitions. What is the Devil’s role in this novel? Is there something in the novel that represents the opposite—perhaps like a messenger of good fortune?

3. What kind of God is in Love and Lament? How does he judge man? What are Cicero’s and Mary Bet’s relationships with this God? How do these relationships change throughout the course of the novel?

4. Cicero beings seriously to question his fate after the death of his daughter Myrt. On page 116, he exclaims that he does not deserve the fate God has given him. This is a crucial development in Cicero’s character. Does Mary Bet ever reach a similar realization after reflecting on her life, and if so, at which point?

5. The Hartsoe family’s history influences each of its generations. Discuss the fate of the Hartsoe family and its origin. How does this history influence Mary Bet’s? What is the significance that, at the age of nine, Mary Bet’s mother gives her the family Bible and defines her role as the keeper of family history? What makes Cicero’s fall into madness such a fitting turn of events?

6. At the moment when Mary Bet aims her gun at her father’s horse, “She was just as scared of failing her father as of shooting the horse” (pg.125). For her entire life, Mary Bet maintains an intense sense of responsibility toward her father. She covers for him whenever he slips from a sane or moral path, and for a long time does not wish to marry or leave home. Why does Mary Bet hold such devotion to him?

7. After Mary Bet puts down her father’s horse, she wishes Siler were there to comfort her: “he was the only one who would understand and there would be no need for words, or signs either. Just his presence, and his deep, knowing eyes, looking for something long gone” (pg. 126). Why didn’t Mary Bet cry after she pulled the trigger? Does this act cause a shift in her character?

8. Siler goes through a significant transformation as he enters adulthood. What initiates this change? How do you interpret Siler’s death and his final message, “I have make a terrible mistake” (pg. 343)? Mary Bet considers the grammatical error to be an intentional attempt to place himself halfway between the past and the present. Do you agree?

9. Upon moving to Williamsboro and getting to know her fellow tenant, Amanda Tomkins, “Mary Bet regarded her friend, hidden behind her deformities and her suffering, and decided there was something noble about her” (pg. 228). What does Mary Bet learn from Amanda? What does Mary Bet learn from her friendship with Flora, and what makes each of these friendships equally important?

10. Towards the end of the novel, Mary Bet visits her father and learns from him not to throw her life away because of the things she remembers from her past. Discuss the significance of Mary Bet’s final dream, which contains the last appearance of the Devil, and her inability to recall its details in the morning.

11. Before Leon returns home, Mary Bet has a premonition that he will die in the war. Yet, he makes it back safely and they marry. In what ways is this a turning point against the Hartsoe curse and against the idea of fearing one’s own memories?

12. How does Love and Lament compare to Thompson’s previous novel, The Reservoir? Discuss similar themes, character traits, and use of style.

From Booklist

Two years after the release of his first novel, The Reservoir, Thompson returns to its southern gothic setting. In 1893, five-year-old Mary Bet Hartsoe watches—from the side of a rural North Carolina road, a doll clutched in her arms—as the Devil approaches her on horseback. Although this turns out to be a case of mistaken identity, Mary Bet marks this moment as the first she believes that her family is cursed. The novel spans the years that follow through WWI, and for Mary Bet, these tumultuous years of southern reformation are punctuated by the death of her mother and her eight siblings, as well as her father’s mental decline. At times, Thompson’s narrative staggers under the weight of his attempt to relay great passages of time. However, the voice of the narrator feels authentic to the era, and Mary Bet springs off the page as a character. She is confident but conflicted, and her realistic journey will keep readers engaged. --Emily Roth

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roso on August 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Mary Bet Hartsoe is the youngest of nine children in this novel that spans the years between the Civil War and Word War I. Seeing her home town in North Carolina cope during Reconstruction, Mary Bet does not have any easy life. She watches as her mother and siblings die and her father lose his mind. During a time when women were regarded as little more than property, Mary Bet sets out to make her place in the new South.

A dark, atmospheric tale that will mesmerize readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ariesgrl on February 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The year 1887, was special for Haw County, it was the year that the town got their first railroad, but for the Hartsoe family, it was the year their daughter, Mary Bet was born. Mary Bet suffered the loss of most her family member by the time she was fifteen and as she grows into a young woman she is faced with even more difficulties and must find a way to survive the worst.

Even though the book starts out with a family tree that warns readers of just how many lives are lost in the Hartsoe family, the emotional journey will be exhausting at times. The first half of the book is full of pain, grief and heartache, while the second half is focused on survival and perseverance. Thompson does a remarkable job of writing a poetic prose that will immediately whisk readers back in time. The rich metaphors bring the setting of Haw County alive, while Mary Bet’s strength will leave readers in awe. The narration was a bit strange at times, almost as though it is an outsider looking in and there is more to the story that is being glossed over. But overall, this is a must read for Southern Gothic Literature fans.

This review was written for the My Sister's Books bookstore.
This review was originally posted on the Ariesgrl Book Reviews website.
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Format: Paperback
This is a well written, but heartbreaking story about two families, the Hartsoes and the Murchesons. Cicero Murcheson marries Susan Elizabeth Hartsoe and she bears 9 children. The tragedies that follow their lifeline are tenderly expressed by this author. The tale is told from the perspective of Mary Bet Hartsoe, the youngest and last surviving child of the family. She has witnessed the deaths of her grandparents, siblings and mother. She has had to deal with her brother’s deafness and had to watch her father’s descent into madness following his own father’s path. At the end of his life, her grandfather Hartsoe, was obsessed with creating a perpetual motion machine. This story is about superstition and, possibly, the perpetual motion of life, the forward marching of this family and others like it, that in spite of their inexorable, difficult journey toward heartache and loss, continue on, never quite giving up. The decisions Mary Bet was forced to make were heartfelt but difficult, yet make them she did. She was a strong and independent woman in a time period when women were docile and compliant. A forerunner to more vocal champions of women’s rights, she achieved a place of honor in a man’s world and, ultimately, discovered her own rightful place in the world.
The novel begins as the 19th century nears its end and continues until the end of World War I when Mary Bet’s life finally takes a different turn. Mary Bet was born in 1887 and she spent the next three decades seeking solutions to her questions and uncertainties and trying to discover her true purpose in life.
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By Patricia Honts on May 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book improved as it went along. The story seemed to unfold.much too slowly. What a sad , gloomy life the.main character, Mary Bet, experienced. The last third of the book ended up finally redeeming this story.
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Format: Paperback
A rich sampling of Southern literature, Love and Lament follows a rural North Carolina family through years of loss and unbelievable hardship. Set in the South at the turn of the last century, this beautifully crafted novel focuses on facing life’s most difficult challenges in a region confronting its own indefinite future.
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