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A Sound Like Thunder: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To tell a classic, if overwrought bildungsroman—complete with teenage boy, quiet younger brother, alcoholic father, possibly cheating mother and a boat—Brewer returns to Fairhope, Ala., the setting of his 2005 debut, The Poet of Tolstoy Park. As WWII rages in Europe (Pearl Harbor is still a sleepy navy outpost), 16-year-old Rove MacNee's Granny Wooten, who always gave him "the right book at the right time," dies. On the day of her funeral, Rove witnesses his violent, alcoholic father, ship captain Dominus MacNee, threatening his German neighbor, Josef Unruh, with a knife. Soon, Dominus, a locally notorious philanderer, is in jail on attempted murder charges, leaving Rove to figure out whether his mother, Lillian, is having an affair with Josef. As Rove tumbles out of childhood, Josef offers him a fixer-upper boat, and Rove goes to live on it, taking comfort in his family's tradition of fishing, sailing and living on the sea. Though the story can buckle beneath the weight of its sentimentality, Brewer's fans will enjoy his graceful crafting of characters and the budding romance between Rove and Anna Pearl, a schoolmate with a "fire-bearing spirit." (On sale Aug. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Like his first novel, The Poet of Tolstoy Park (2005), bookseller Brewer's second is also set in Fairhope, Alabama, a small town on the Gulf Coast. This time the year is 1941, and 16-year-old Rove MacNee, son of Dominus MacNee, captain of a 50-foot melon schooner, is worried that his father's animosity toward a local German American might turn deadly. Of course, war is in the air, but the intensity of the captain's hatred seems to transcend even rabid patriotism. Before the year is out Rove will discover the roots of his hard-drinking father's ill will, but in the meantime, he's busy refurbishing his own boat and musing about joining the navy. Brewer is at his eloquent best when he's writing with obvious affection about his setting and about sailing. He's at his worst when he slips into windy philosophizing and self-consciously "beautiful" prose. Fortunately there's enough of the former to excuse the worst of the latter. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345476336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345476333
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sonny Brewer is a writer and editor, and founder of Over the Transom Bookstore in Fairhope, Alabama. His novels include The Poet of Tolstoy Park, A Sound Like Thunder, and The Widow and the Tree. Cormac-The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing is mostly a true story of losing his Golden Retriever and finding him a month later, 1200 miles from home, neutered and up for adoption on the internet.

Sonny founded Over the Transom Bookstore in Fairhope and its annual literary conference, Southern Writers Reading. He is also founder of the non-profit Fairhope Center for Writing Arts.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park and A Sound Like Thunder, Sonny's first two books, painted a historical backdrop of the author's bayfront hometown of Fairhope, Alabama. The Poet of Tolstoy Park was set in the 1920s, and A Sound Like Thunder in the 1940s. A present day Fairhope novel, The Widow and the Tree, is a fable-istic tale of a 500-year-old oak tree presiding at the intersection of lives and emotions in Coastal Alabama. The book is based on a true story, and actual news accounts of events surrounding the intentional killing some twenty years ago of Inspiration Oak, a champion Live Oak near Magnolia Springs can still be found on the internet. The cover art for The Widow and the Tree is an original wood engraving by celebrated artist Barry Moser.

Sonny edits the anthology Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe, published now and then by MacAdam/Cage. The fifth volume in the Blue Moon Cafe series is published under the title, A Cast of Characters and Other Stories.

Sonny spent three minutes of his fifteen-minute allotment of fame when he got some press in the New York Times for wearing a seersucker suit while riding his Harley, with a front story about Henry Stuart's hundred-year old odd round house of hand-poured concrete that was the basis for his novel, The Poet of Tolstoy Park.

A children's book called Rembrandt the Rocker, which Sonny self-published, you can sometimes find on the used book market illustrated by the author. If you're in the mood for some dime-store philosophy, look among the out-of-print titles for A Yin for Change.
Sonny also composed a ghost-written biography of Clarence Darrow.

Sonny is the former editor-in-chief of Mobile, Alabama's city magazine, Mobile Bay Monthly; he also published and edited The Eastern Shore Quarterly magazine and edited Red Bluff Review. He was a reporter on his college newspaper, and co-edited The Southern Bard literary magazine at the University of South Alabama.

Sonny's training as a writer began with his first real job at 15, where he flipped burgers as a short-order cook at Woody's Drive-In in Millport, Alabama. His story-telling education continued as service station attendant, pants folder, folk singer, used car salesman, sailor and electronics technician in the U.S. Navy, tugboat deckhand, traveling used tire salesman, carpenter, building contractor, real estate salesman, purveyor of collectible automobiles, magazine editor, newspaper columnist, teacher, lecturer, and coffeehouse manager. Sonny knuckled down in there somewhere and collected a couple of college degrees, which might or might not have helped. He built a cabin on Fish River in Lower Alabama recently and is proud that he ran the wiring and the plumbing without major incident or injury.

Knowing that a writer never lets the truth stand in the way of a good story, Sonny believes he is missing some critical experience in embellishment: He has not yet made a bid for political office nor preached a tent revival--though, regarding the latter, he has always hankered to do so, choosing not to, however, under threat of divorce.

Sonny is married to Diana, and has two sons, John Luke and Dylan, and a daughter Emily.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the first sentence to the last, I loved this novel. The protaganist, Rove MacNee reflects on a pivotal time in his life: his first kiss, his complicated relationship with his mother and father, the loss of his beloved grandmother, and the moment he passes from boyhood to manhood.

Brewer's writing is like a "jubilee" of words, much like the jubilee of "crabs, flounder, shrimp, and eel" that bless the people of Fairhope, Alabama. Sonny Brewer blesses his readers with beautiful writing and casts an unforgettable story.

Buy A Sound like Thunder for yourself, share it with your friends, pass it on to your children, and will it to your grandchildren. It's that good.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is written lyrically, almost like poetry. The plot is thin, but oh, the writing is so good. Mr. Brewer has a unique phraseology that can only be described as beautiful. There were passages I reread just to experience again the enjoyment of the words.

The plot, as noted, is a bit thin. A sixteen year old boy is faced all at once with problems caused by his alcoholic father, the possiblilty of his mother's affair, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and his first love. Everyone will fall in love with Anne Pearl. A sailboat that he has been given and restored seems to be his salvation. The characters are all terrific, even though scantily sketched. The boy meets an artist along the way and he is intrigued at how the artist can portray so much with just a few graceful lines. This is the way Mr. Brewer draws his characters - a few (relatively speaking) graceful lines that convey all the depth necessary to get the portrait of the character across.

As the book wends it way through Rove's life there is almost a mystical quality to the telling, until Mr. Brewer suddenly shifts gears and there is a tense, action-packed scene that is still wonderfully written.

This is truly a novel that allows the reader to savor the written word.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up in Chatom, Alabama, a small town about 60 miles north of Fairhope. I can personally testify that Fairhope, where the story is told, is a dreamlike place, it is wonderful. The book takes me back about 20 to 25 years when I was young and full of spunk like Rove. For any son who grew up with his dad this book also rings true.

I highly recommend this to any lower Alabamian.

p.s. Next time I go home I hope to get my book autographed. I am living in Houston.
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By A Customer on August 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In November 1941 in Fairhope, Alabama, sixteen year old Rove McNee fears the return of his father, a drunken schooner captain who turns mean with the alcohol. He knows his dad will need no excuse to drink, but the teen believes his mom is cheating on his dad. The only recent respite for Rove and his younger brother Julian have been their Granny Wooten, but she just died.

On the day of his beloved grandma's funeral, Rove is shocked when he observes his drunken father Dominus threaten their German neighbor, Josef Unruh, which leads to the captain's imprisonment for attempted murder. Rove wonders if Josef is the man his mom is stepping out with and if his dad knows that so therefore threatened him with a knife. Instead Josef gives to Rove, a boat needing repair, which the lad begins to do even as he moves onto the vessel as he at peace only at sea and with class mate Anna Pearl Anderson.

The characters keep this fine historical from becoming too nostalgic at a time of the beginning of the end of the innocence with Pearl Harbor and social issues like alcohol and abuse just coming to the surface. Though Rove is the center protagonist, it is Dominus' misbehavior at Granny Wooten's wake that sets in motion the events that impact everyone and break up a family. Though the social issues are not explored that deeply especially in comparison to the author's THE POET OF TOLSTOY PARK and in light of society not wanting to know, fans of mid twentieth century tales will enjoy Sonny Brewer casting fishing nets on the era.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
Sonny Brewer makes a perfect cast with his net. The effort he makes in describing the art of casting a fishing net is well worth reading. The thrill of the launching of Rove's boat and the ride across the bay to his parents house. Rove is a character that could be any boy of that time period. The book is well worth the read.
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