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Seek the Living: A Novel Paperback – July 14, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (July 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618711988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618711987
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,351,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Infinitesimal epiphanies are the best thing about Warlick's third novel (after 200o's The Summer After June), narrated by 33-year-old Joan Patee, an archivist who longs for a baby and whose husband, Marshall, is perpetually away on business. Told in the present tense, the novel favors lyricism over solid dialogue and character development—though, halfway in, this almost doesn't matter because Warlick's string of emotional payoffs keeps bursting like tiny firecrackers. The novel opens eight years after Joan's mother and lover died within weeks of each other. Now, Joan's father has sold the family farmhouse, which precipitates a breakdown in Joan's brother Denny; he abandons his successful life in Atlanta, relocates to a cemetery in his hometown and occupies himself with odd jobs and random women. This drama, which is central to the book's first half, is never really believable; similarly, Joan and Marshall's bond feels cutely idealized at first, and, later, unjustifiably shattered. Warlick exploits ambiguity, which can leave the reader feeling simultaneously manipulated and baffled. Yet her sentences are often bewitching. Casual gestures have a way of blooming into miniature portraits, as when Marshall looks at Joan: "He smiles, but it's like he's smiling from years away inside himself and it will take my lifetime for that smile to mean anything to me."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Warlick's third novel is deep and intense, employing an economy of language that is somehow simultaneously stark and lush. Joan Patee, Warlick's heavily introspective narrator, is in the thick of complicated relationships with everyone in her life. Her husband has been more the subject of fantasy and longing than a regular presence in her home, making her baby-lust all the more painful. Her brother and father put her in the middle of an age-old struggle for power and respect, their pride tugging at her from both sides. Joan's friends offer surprising revelations about the past and future that force her to confront powerful and haunting memories, and Joan is constantly pulled between comforting others and caring for herself. Of all these relationships, Warlick's construction of the one between Joan and her brother Denny is most intriguing. Intimate and uniquely revealing of the fierce love of a sister, Warlick's portrayal of these siblings is fascinating. With their mother gone eight years, Joan's position in the family should be clear to her, but she is grasping for it as she does with all her ties to others. What does it mean to be a good wife, sister, friend, and lover? The plot foundation of a search for the origins of bones found under her brother's home near a graveyard, while interesting, ultimately takes a backseat to these other questions, so eloquently posed by this daring writer. This is a novel to savor. Debi Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joan M. Watson on July 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As I read Warlick's "Seek the Living," I was reminded of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" and the ways in which Faulkner's characters reveal complexities that reach beyond the telling of a good tale to ring out the potential recklessness and restlessness within us all. The universality of Warlick's work; how she creates moments of vast poignancy; how she captures the tensions of self/family/place; how she masterfully generates passion and longing for what may be, what was, and what could have been; all of this sets Warlick's novel apart as a work of art - true literature. Poetic and introspective, the voices and experiences of Warlick's characters at once encourage us to question the certainty of and to embrace the ambiguity within our own lives. This novel will carry you away.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Campbell on February 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ashley Warlick writes sentences that are as smooth as silk and as sharp as a glass shard. And these wonderful sentences lead us into another of her Southern families with heartaches, secrets, joys, feints, and resolutions. As always in Warlick's books, she deciphers the body language of her characters with an unerring and subtle wisdom.

One test of a novel is to put the first and last words together to see what note they ring about the novel: SEEK THE LIVING's would be "when . . . land". And yes, this is a novel about the pressures of the past and its shaping and settling in the present.

We all know her characters; we meet folks just like them on the streets and in the strip malls everyday. Now we know them better.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Davis on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This novel is brilliant. I have read Warlick's two previous novels, which moved me to buy her third, but I must say that this one is a step away and above. Warlick is so capable of capturing the delicate nature and intricacy of human relationships that all of us feel, but lack the literary talent to express. I would rate this very high on any must read list.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. Arnold on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ashley Warlick's newest novel Seek the Living is her latest addition to a body of work that continues to showcase an incredible talent from a wise and deft storyteller. Joan Patte joins Warlick's previous creations, Mavis Black (Distance from the Heart of Things) and Lindy Jain (Summer After June) as a woman fully entrenched in her family and her place, for better or worse, as she struggles to simultaneously live with the heartaches of her past and desires for her future. Joan is, appropriately, an archivist who charts the minute details of her state (South Carolina) for a private foundation. She is the cornerstone of her family, a consequence of her mother's death, and finds herself facilitating a tenous relationship between her father and brother. Joan longs for her sweet, patient, and frequently absent husband with whom she is having difficulty conceiving a child. Along with mourning her mother's death, she is still haunted by a former lover whose death may have interrupted a completely different course for Joan's life. Ultimately, Joan's strength lies in her ability to visit the graves of her past without falling in. Warlick's prose is honest and clean, balancing darkness and light as only Southern writers can. Buy this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kristin B. Kiblinger on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I would add to the other positive reviews that this book has some good humor, especially in the middle, as well as suspense and surprise, especially towards the end. Although it reads and entertains as well as an airport store kind of book, it has much more depth and artistry. Warlick has an exceptional ability to evoke a mood or arouse a feeling in creative ways, with the barest of small but precise touches. She's skillful at using ambiguity effectively in dialogue and character development. Her characters are not ordinary or typical people, but nor are they unbelievable; at a party with a cross-section of society, they're the select ones you'd catch yourself watching from a distance now and then during the night. I didn't want to reach the end of the book, and I found myself contemplating the characters long after I had.
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