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The Long Home Paperback – January 20, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Willam Gay's debut novel, The Long Home, the devil comes to Tennessee in the form of one Dallas Hardin, a vile and violent man who brings tragedy in his wake. Set in the backwoods South of the 1940s, Gay's tale is populated with a colorful array of types familiar to readers of William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and other practitioners of that particular brand of larger-than-life literature that seems to thrive south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Though the types might be familiar, Gay does an impressive job of making them his own, each with his or her distinctive, fully human qualities that transcend the roles they play as bootlegger, town drunk, or even hero.

The story opens when Dallas Hardin ("Old Nick," according to one character--"or whatever he's goin' by now") comes to town and wrests away home, wife, and whiskey still from the seriously ill Thomas Hovington. Only in a Southern novel could such an event be preceded by the inexplicable opening of a brimstone-scented pit near the victim's house without the reader even blinking an eye. Enter young Nathan Winer, hired by Hardin to build a honky-tonk. Winer starts out thinking he can earn his wage while steering clear of his employer's evil ways, but it soon becomes apparent that he can't--especially after he falls in love with Tom Hovington's daughter, now Hardin's stepdaughter, Amber Rose. Having given his heart, Nathan has taken the first inexorable step towards a final, deadly confrontation with the devil.

If Gay's themes are big--nothing less than the battle between good and evil--and his metaphors drawn unabashedly from that old-time religion, his novel is nonetheless firmly grounded in the flesh-and-bone world--sometimes nightmarishly so. There is a lot of blood spilt over the course of this novel, in myriad ways and in graphic detail. Indeed, one quality that The Long Home shares with most of Cormac McCarthy's work is that it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But Gay balances the horror with moments of true beauty, and his novel is undeniably compelling. Enjoy it for its many strengths and for its promise of a bright literary future --Sheila Bright --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Gay's debut, an ambitious saga of love and retribution set in backwoods Georgia in the 1950s, is by turns quaint and chargedAand sometimes both. The novel begins with the 1932 murder of Nathan Winer, an honest and virtuous laborer, by Dallas Hardin, a corrupt small-town tycoon, after Winer demands that Hardin move his illegal whiskey still off Winer's land. Hardin gradually gains control of his community through extortion, bribery and psychological manipulation. When the dead man's son, also Nathan, unwittingly becomes a carpenter for his father's murderer many years afterwards, he finds his life bound with Hardin's as he falls in love with seductive beauty Amber Rose, frequently used by Hardin as an escort for his rich acquaintances. Ancient sage and recluse William Tell Oliver, who witnessed the elder Nathan's death and has the victim's skull to prove it, steps in to rectify old wrongs when Hardin threatens to kill the young Winer to maintain control over Amber Rose. A haze of mystery hangs over the narrative: voices whisper and strange lights shine from deep within swampy forests, testifying to the presence of a force more powerful than any petty human tyrant. Strange characters inhabit Gay's world, too, like a boy who thinks baby pigs come from underground or a traveling salesman who brags about his largesse but lives off of Winer's mother. Though his dialogue may sometimes be too twangy, Gay writes well-crafted prose that unfolds toward necessary (if occasionally unexpected) conclusions. Enhanced by his feeling for country rhythms and a pervasive, biblical sense of justice, Gay's take on the Southern morality tale is skillfully achieved, if familiar in its scope.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (January 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571210015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571210015
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on November 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Shot whiskey is the type that so strong and just plain nasty that throwing it down your throat in a (hopefully) single swallow is the only way to imbibe it and survive. Sippin' whiskey, on the other hand, while still packing a punch, is more artfully crafted, with all sorts of artful nuances there to savor - you want to take your time with it, so you can more fully appreciate the care with which it was made. William Gay's prose is sippin' whiskey - there's a strength within that will leave you reeling, but there are so many subtleties to be found as well.
His characters are vivid and believable, and he brings them to life slowly, rather than burying the reader in a swamp of description. We get to know them as we would a person in our day-to-day lives, through their actions, conversations, and what thoughts they might care to share with us - it's an experience that makes reading this novel all the more precious and amazing. The descriptions that occur within these pages are subtle as well - his vocabulary is astonishing, and when he can't find a suitable word already in general usage, he constructs one (always to good advantage). Time after time, reading this incredible novel, I found myself going over a passage again and again, to make sure that I wasn't imagining the creative powers at work here.
Gay's literary gifts are amazing - but he never uses them in such a way as to overpower his characters. The novel is set in rural Tennessee in the 1940s - and that time and place is firmly established within the first few pages. I felt transported as I read it. Gay lives in Hohenwald, Tennessee - and his knowledge of the area and the people, and his obvious empathy toward them, give his fiction a sense of reality that is both gentle and ferocious.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on March 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When an Author can open a work with massive explosions from deep within the Earth that leave behind a gaping black pit that smells of brimstone, and not make the portrayal absurd, it is a reasonable presumption that you have the work of great storyteller in your hands. And this is certainly the case with Mr. William Gay and his work, "The Long Home".
The story contains elements and actions that you have read before, the conflict between good and bad/evil, fear that prevents proper conduct, revenge and redemption, all are not unfamiliar ground. However, Mr. Gay makes his own mix of these elements and creates a story that is his and not just another derivative knockoff. From the explosive pit that becomes both a crypt and a pathway that delivers what will be the truth, to the evil player with the yellow eyes of a goat, the Author definitely sets his story as a battle between opposing forces with Capital Letters.
The story, which is set in Tennessee, is not the typical slow motion trek through the oppressive heat of the South. That may seem like a minor point, but it is indicative of the Author's attention to detail and a portrayal that is not what is generally expected. He embeds the evil character with the appropriate darkness by sharing the story of his birth, which is anything other than routine, and perhaps not for the squeamish.
The book has a great cadence as the Author unfolds his story at a pace that varies and is consistent with the level of tension and movement of events that unfold. The book provides all the suspense and conflict a book of this genre requires but it does not become contrived in an effort to make you race through the pages. Events unfold with credibility, and the results when unwound are credible as well.
This is the first work for this Author, however he has a new work out, and it will be added to my reading list.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By tomf438613@aol.com on September 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this book with an increasing sense of wonder and awe. William Gay has written a moving, heartbreaking novel with people I believe and believe in, with language both poetic and taut, with detail to die for, with humor and wisdom and heart and darkness and a sense of place you might read a thousand books and never find. Buy this book and wrap it in Mylar and stand it on the shelf with your Faulkner and your Cormac McCarthy, and then take it down and start reading it over again. We all keep hearing about the next new voice in American fiction. Well folks, William Gay is a whole varied chorus of voices, all singing in perfect harmony. The song is dark, god yes, but you can't stop listening.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I first read William Gay's work in the Missouri Review a year or so ago, a beautiful, original story that still haunts me. I couldn't wait for his first novel to appear, and I took The Long Home with me on a seven-hour flight. The hours flew by, so absorbed was I in the characters springing up off the page. A wonderful book by an author I hope to see much more of.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Carl Smith on January 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The title of this review may seem pretentious, but, as an author, I rejoice in the literary art of story-telling at it's highest level. Mr. Gay, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Nashville at The Southern Festival of the Book, is a masterful story-teller. His characters are lively and real. The inner-workings of the mind and the tenacity of the southern male are reborn in this tale. Though some critics have said his work is Faulknerian in tone, Mr. Gay's prose is far more readable and, in my opinion, lyrical. His love for the area and the people about which he writes are reminiscent of Pat Conroy and his attachment of South Carolina's Low Country. Congratulations to William Gay for a job well done.
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