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Omensetter's Luck (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – April 1, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This Sound and Fury-esque novel relates the action from several characters' points of view as it follows the ramblings of the title character and his family through Ohio.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"[Omensetter's Luck is] Gass’ first novel, and his least avant-gardeish, and his best. Basically a religious book. Very sad. Contains the immortal line “The body of Our Saviour shat but Our Saviour shat not.” Bleak but gorgeous, like light through ice."
-David Foster Wallace

"Omsensetter's Luck is the work of a totally committed, totally uncompromising and extraordinarily gifted writer."
-Walker Percy

"A rich fever, a parade of secrets, delirious, tormented, terrifying, comic...one of the most exciting, energetic and beautiful novels we can ever hope to read."

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin edition (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141180102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180106
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even with its antiquated setting, "Omensetter's Luck" is so avant-garde and eccentric that it's a challenge to write a review that doesn't seem like a shameful oversimplification. Imagine a story about perceptions of good and evil, envy, and suspicion narrated in an impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness style that rivals Faulkner at his most experimental, combining uniquely poetic prose, Joycean wordplay, an ominous mood, and multiple focuses, voices, and perspectives, and you'll begin to get the idea.
The time is evidently the late nineteenth century, the place a small town called Gilean located on the Ohio River. A "wide and happy" man named Brackett Omensetter recently has moved into town with his pregnant wife, two daughters, dog, and a mountain of furniture and belongings on a horse-drawn cart. He rents a house from a man named Henry Pimber and gets a job as a tanner with Mat Watson, the town blacksmith.
Omensetter quickly becomes an object of curiosity in Gilean for his unbelievable, almost supernatural, luck. In the middle of the rainy season, the rain stops for his moving day; his house manages to avoid an otherwise damage-guaranteeing flood; he seems impervious to injury. He's an expert stone skipper and an effective naturalistic healer. Nobody will bet against him. He is not only aware of his own incredible luck; he depends on it so strongly that it replaces religion, and he feels no need to attend Gilean's only church, ministered by the Reverend Jethro Furber.
Furber is a fascinating character who avoids the flatness of most fictional preachers.
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I am very glad that I decided to read _Omensetter's Luck_ all the way through. Hidden in a plethora of incoherent sentences, incomprehensible metaphors and silly rhymes, is a very worthwhile story of two men: Brackett Omensetter, who migrates to Gilean, Ohio with his wife and small children, and the Reverend Jethro Furber, who is the town's minister. Furber suffers from deeply repressed guilt, fear, and resentment; his behavior occasionally borders on the psychotic. In his section of the book, Furber gives (or does he imagine giving?) a lengthy church sermon. Although the sermon is fascinatingly self-revealing, I continuously found myself getting lost in Furber's incoherent word salad. I decided, however, to stay with the book, despite the repeated temptation to put it down. As I continued to read, and to my very pleasant surprise, I discovered Omensetter to be a man of great decency and selflessness. He stands head and shoulders above a town full of petty people, many of whom were jealous and resentful of Omensetter's legendary "luck." Gilean's denizens even attributed luck to Omensetter's ability to save miraculously the life of a man dying of lockjaw, contracted from a serious accident. Practically none of the townspeople stand by Omensetter when, later, he is unjustly accused of being responsible for the hanging death of this same man.
Everything comes together nicely in the last one hundred pages of the book. I credit William Gass' well-paced, extremely realistic dialogue for helping to accomplish this feat, which I would have otherwise considered impossible had I mistakenly decided not to stick with this flawed, but must-read book.
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Format: Paperback
This is an unusual novel -- difficult to read, yet fascinating at the same time. It's also a work of brilliance with lapidary sentences of poetic stature and a brilliant exposition of character. All in all, I was dumb-founded to stumble across "Omensetter's Luck" and grateful that I did.
The novel takes place in the 1890s in a small town in Ohio just north of the Ohio River. The title character, Brackett Omensetter, is a happy-go-lucky craftsman who wanders into town one day with his wife and daughters. The Omensetters settle into a rented house down by the river and are gradually accepted by the community. Accepted, that is, by all save the town's puritanical Protestant minister, the Rev. Jethro Furber. Furber is a monster forged by religious convention untempered by religious conviction. He resents being banished to Gilean from Cleveland (his fire and brimstone sermons do not go over any better with his congregation there) and spends much of his time brooding bitterly about his downfall, much like Satan in Milton's poetry. He is also sexually frustrated and edging toward a nervous breakdown barely cloaked in the form of religious mania.
Furber's wrath is ultimately focused on Brackett Omensetter, if for no other reason than the man seems to enjoy an incredible grace without exhibiting the first ounce of good Christian behavior. Omensetter's luck changes many lives, some for good and some for bad. But his unintended redemption of Rev. Furber may be Omensetter's greatest piece of luck during his time in Gilean. In the end, Omensetter's catalytic luck brings Furber to the faith he has long espoused, but never really lived in his heart.
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