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The Second Coming: A Novel
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100 of 105 people found the following review helpful
I'd have missed out on what was probably the most profound reading experience of my life.

I read Percy's "The Moviegoer" a few years before I read "The Second Coming." I appreciated Percy's craft, but wasn't particularly fond of "Moviegoer." I, like most passionate readers, will devour all the works of an author when I find a new one I like. Suffice it to say that "Moviegoer" didn't send me in search of the rest of the Walker Percy canon.

Years later, I met someone (of whom I thought very highly) who recommended two books to me: "Second Coming" and "A Confederacy of Dunces." I read Confederacy first (which was also fantastic) and then, somewhat reluctantly, picked up "Second Coming." I think I fell in love before the end of the first chapter. By the time I was finished, I knew this book was my soulmate. I was also sad because I knew that it might be decades before I would ever read another book that would touch me as deeply as this book did.

This story is a difficult one to do justice to in a brief description. I know every inch of this book, as I read it at least once a year now. If you enjoy an introspective, character-driven story, PLEASE read this book. While it's not a romance, it's the most quiet yet compelling love story I've ever read. Percy truly created the OPPOSITE of "inevitable conflict" (i.e. Blanche and Stanley in "Streetcar"); Will and Allie are inevitably one.

This novel is truly underread and underrated. As a another reviewer wrote, I wish I could give this book far more than 5 stars. If I had to spend 50 years on an island with one book, I'd be found on the beach with a dog-eared copy of "The Second Coming."
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 22, 2004
When I read books, I mark up the text and write in the margins pretty thoroughly, and when I am finished with the book, I go back through and copy down my favorite passages. Usually there is only one or two quotes to write down, but The Second Coming was a different matter. Walker Percy has such extraordinary insights and power with words that passage after passage, with their humor, wisdom, and beauty, pierces straight through me. It took me two hours to copy all of the passages I wanted.
The Second Coming is one of the greatest novels that I have ever read, and that is partly because of the quirky story at its heart. Will Barrett, a rich and successful widower, is trapped in his life, a sort of living death. His big first step begins to happen in the first wonderful episode of the novel when he is playing golf and begins to realize it. "Knowing about what is going to happen is having a chance to escape it. If you don't know about it, it will certainly happen to you." From there, Will begins to try to find how to live his life. The other primary character is Allison, a girl escaped from a mental hospital now trying to find out how to live in a world totally new to her. Together, they embark on a quest to be born again into life.
The Second Coming is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Percy was trained as a physician, and he took those skills to literature. In The Second Coming, he diagnoses American society and tries to find a cure. There is some real wisdom there and most importantly, some real hope. This is a novel that is vastly underrated and one that should not be missed (along with all of Percy's other novels).
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2004
I've long been familiar with the name, Walker Percy, and of his well-known relative who helped settle the Mississippi Delta, and was one of the most powerful and wealthy planters in that region. But it wasn't until I finally picked up "The Moviegoer" to figure out why that book is so well-respected, that I finally understood why Percy was considered such a phenomonal writer by those in the know. His style is PERFECT. His themes -- PERFECT. I have never read a writer I am more enthralled with. And I like "The Second Coming," too. This guy, if anything, is UNDERRATED. He is as profound as Faulkner, but EASY TO UNDERSTAND (my 11th grade English teacher always taught that you can be as profound as you wish, as long as you make your writing understandable to EVERYONE, ranging from an educated king, to the lowliest peasant, which is a policy that I have personally tried to follow as a published author myself). The Second Coming is an excellent story that explores human depths that so many novelists don't even begin to reach. I now intend to read everything I can get my hands on that this outstanding writer ever wrote.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 1998
One of my all-time favorite novels; I've probably read it four or five times. Percy is a writer of intense depth and subtlety. He embraces existentialism on his own terms (Southern, Catholic, ingenious...) and gives the reader clues about finding authenticity in his or her own life. The most amazing part of this book is the ending, which gives us a sad hope in a world that has been made flat with smiling, jocular hopelessness. Read this book, then read it again.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2003
Do not think of Walker Percy's work as Southern literature. I say this not because it isn't Southern literature, but because hardly anybody seems to understand what Southern literature is. Percy, himself, noted this.
Think of Percy's work as good books that deal with the South, but more importantly with people -- with what it means to be human.
The Second Coming is one of my favorite novels. It deals with the existence of God, the fecklessness of modern life, and any number of other banal, overworked subjects that you might find in any other contemporary novel, but they are enlivened by Percy's malicious wit (he called himself malicious, though his doing so was simply an instance of his peculiar malice, which is not really malice, though its sting is the same). The response to the question of God's existence is a toothache.
Percy writes in a straight-forward, ironic manner, but where normal irony is double-voiced, Percy's is triple-voiced. One must always ask oneself if one is really getting the joke even when one is laughing out loud.
Don't think of Percy as a Southern writer because you can't help but shortchange him when you do so. He presents himself with a Southern drawl, and a casual wit, but behind this is incisive social and psychological commentary, and behind this is yet another layer.
The Second Coming is a fine novel -- a good love story if you can stand the fact that the lovers are a mental patient and a horny widower. Percy tells fine jokes, and tosses you on your rear every other page. This is enough, but it is not all. You can enjoy this novel if you just want to be entertained, but if you are willing to look for it, there is an undertone of malice that isn't malice, and yet deeper, a still, small voice.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 1998
THIS is the book that ALL "modern thinkers" of the day have plagarized from, over and over again !! I feel cheated because I didn't read this sooner, and because I didn't give Percy the credit HE deserved ... Percy had thought of, and THROUGH, everything there is to struggle with in this "thing" we call "modern faith." Sure, the language is this book is a bit harsh at times; but in the [paraphrased] words of Flannery O'Connor, sometimes you need to write in big, bold, RED letters to be heard, and understood, and accepted. Fortunately, there's enough in this book elsewhere that's redeeming enough to "excuse" the occasional F-word. So what, I ask of all perspective readers of this book, is worse: the believers [who are intolerable]; or the unbelievers [who are insane] ??
Happy reading, my friends.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2000
Will and Allie search for...what? Each at some point in his/her journey comes to realize that he finds joy in the "ordinariness" of life---there is a beautiful passage which follows Allie as she goes exultantly about the task of completing her "to do" list. The list is the type familiar to us all: go to the doctor; go to the market; check the car, etc. (albeit her missions at each are perhaps not so familiar to us all). But whereas most of us weary sometime at even the thought of all the things "to do," Allie revels in completing each job. The last speech (a soliloquy of thought) by Father Weatherbee should be reread by most of us everyday and committed to memory till we are happy! Mr. Percy has written a book which lets us know that we can find what we do not even know we are missing.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 1999
Percy is a brilliant writer to say the least. Here is a tale which has been masterfully concieved and beautifully told. There are many things going on in the story, but to me it is a story of never giving up. It is a story that anyone who has called themself a Christian, then an atheist, then neither, can relate to. It is the story of suffering and rebirth. It is indeed the story of a second coming.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2003
The Second Coming sold surprisingly well, probably because it features a quirky love story and has one of the most original openings I've ever encountered. The young heroine has just completed a course of electroshock therapy. Although the procedure leaves her amnesic, she is able to learn what she needs to know by consulting a letter she wrote to herself prior to the last session.
Based on that tantalizing start, you might expect a quick moving plot and a tale of conspiracy. No dice. This is Walker Percy. What you're going to get is an exploration of the human psyche and how we manage to get lost from ourselves. It's not a roller coaster ride, but that's not why we read Walker Percy. His readers sail into uncharted oceans.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I first read this novel when I was quite young. I found the chapters about Allie fascinating, and the chapters about Will perplexing and boring, so I skimmed them. This was of course a mistake. As I re-read the novel recently, I realized how huge my mistake was. I was inspired to re-read the novel following the psychiatric hospitalization of a family member, who seemed to communicate easily with his fellow patients and less well with us. I dimly recalled reading a novel about two people who are experiencing some mental problems and connect with each other much better than with the world at large. After a long and peculiar conversation with a book store clerk, I found this book again. Now that I am in my forties, I am a more patient and careful reader, and my life experience has made me far more interested in the ruminations of Will Barrett. It is important to understand that the author is letting us experience what it feels like to be in Will's head, and it is sometimes a strange place to be, where the narrative does not flow easily, and important insights and plot points pop up unexpectedly. I loved every moment of my second reading of this book, and I expect it will become one of the books that I re-read periodically, like Middlemarch.
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