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The Summer He Didn't Die Hardcover – July 10, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three very different and challenging approaches to the novella form Harrison's latest. The title story laconically narrates the struggles of a multiracial, Indian-identified Northern Michigan wood pulp cutter named Brown Dog, a single father with an imprisoned, alcoholic wife. When the state dictates mandatory schooling for his disabled 7-year-old daughter, who suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, "B.D." must decide whether to flee with her to Canada. "Republican Wives" presents after-the-affair disquisitions from three women who were the lovers of local university-based poet Daryl, whom one of the women, Martha, has tried to kill with an overdose of Elavil. The final novella, a meandering, partially autobiographical character study called "Tracking," thoroughly inspects the career's worth of baggage that has resulted from life as a white male writer operating in nonmetropolitan middle America. Harrison's command of the novella form is as impressive as the range of his voices, with his prose moving from the interiorized Faulknerian third-person of the title story to the run-on, staccato first-person of the first, and best, of the "Republican Wives." Following on the novel True North, this set of short fictions shifts pitch-perfect perspectives effortlessly, with a lightness that belies its depth. (Aug.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Harrison is arguably America’s master of the novella, and critics praise him for conquering such a challenging literary form. "The Summer He Didn’t Die" evokes Harrison’s previous Brown Dog stories—here narrating Brown Dog’s latest adventures—to please longtime fans, though even sympathetic critics concede that this latest collection is perhaps not his best. Some critics were surprised at the inclusion of the autobiographical "Tracking" so closely on the heels of Harrison’s 2002 memoir, Off to the Side.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (July 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871138921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138927
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,564,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
67%
4 star
33%
3 star
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See all 9 customer reviews
This quote really resonated with me.
Geezerglide
And I look up at the heavens and truly wonder how does Harrison know people so well.
Yasmin H. McEwen
That one sentence had me laughing for an entire DAY.
Marianne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Albatross on August 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The novella is not the most commonplace of literary forms anymore, though it used to be much more popular. Credit Jim Harrison with preservation of this endangered species. Of the three samples here, two are among Harrison's wittiest, and one among his most eloquent. A story featuring yet another episode involving Brown Dog is always welcome, and in the title tale here, it seems "BD" is actually trying to grow up and do the right thing -- not that he ever really lacked an ethical sense; he just had trouble obeying the law. In this yarn, rightness and legality prove to be two different things, presenting Brown Dog with a choice that would involve personal sacrifice. "Republican Wives" is fun, too, and "Tracking" is the kind of piece that proves, again, that for all Harrison's literary carousing, he is a writer with serious things on his mind. By the way, to the author of the one-star review posted here: You are showing your political panties to the world. That's your choice, but my choice is to read fiction based on its ability to render life vividly, and not based on whether it lines up with my politics. And even if one does insist on considering Harrison's politics, it would certainly serve the interest of fairness to point out that the man has expressed plenty of contempt over the years for overly zealous environmentalists.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Geezerglide on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I saw that Brown Dog was back for another chapter (the title story) I groaned. The previous BD (with him flying to L.A. - from "Bear...", I think) was pretty frivolous and I felt that the character was pretty well spent. THIS Brown Dog tale is not nearly as humorous as the first two "installments", but brings a depth of character to BD that resonates with the best of Harrison. I am once again on the edge of my seat hoping to spend more time with BD.

"Republican Wives" was interesting and includes a mysterious quote (on page 140 of the 1st ed. HC); "...liked to quote a German poet who said

"What is fate but the density of childhood?"

" I have searched high and low to find out who the "German poet" is, but have not yet traced it. This quote really resonated with me. If anyone knows it's source PLEASE post it.

"Tracking" is just beautiful. The Jim Harrison emotional autobiography. A breathless outpouring of memory so true and pure that it stings.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Scott Shipman on September 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Found this little book in the SF airport last week. Extraordinary. All of the novellas are good, but Tracking is a masterpiece---depicting the struggle of a writer to face life on his own terms---even when those terms aren't easy. This is my first Harrison book, but I bought three more when I returned home. His talent with the language and his insight into how we "tick" will amaze---which leads me back to my original "extraordinary". A great little book, and highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin H. McEwen on July 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just bought this book and I try to savor Jim Harrison as much as possible. So, I'm saving Tracking and Brown dog does not disappoint. Have just stepped into Harrisons standard fall backs, and its a bit like entering an enchanted forest. Moreso, Harrisons blend of enchantment that is right up my alley. And a Jim Harrison fall back narrative belongs only to him. No one does his nature and spiritual writing better. Reading Harrison at times is like going to church. The kind God might wish to go to as well.

Not much has been said of Republican Wives and I can say that of the filthy rich Republican women I know this was spot on. My gut ached. The story of the girls and their linkage with Darryl was like a Monty Python episode brought to Chicago. I know people like him! These women, all I can say is that I ballyhooed and slapped my knee through the whole thing. And I look up at the heavens and truly wonder how does Harrison know people so well. This one is not to be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marianne on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I had never read Jim Harrison before. I picked this one from the library because I was interested in the novella form. And, after the first few pages, I thought, maybe I made a mistake. It was a world completely alien to me: Upper Michigan, eating bear, etc etc. But, I grew to love the voice and the point of view, even the vaguely disordered syntax. By the end of the first novella, "The Summer He Didn't Die," I actually had tears in my eyes. Then, I began the second novella, and -- how can you not love a story that begins: "I think I may have killed someone, my lover, in fact, but let me explain myself." That one sentence had me laughing for an entire DAY.

But, save the responses until you've read the last novella of the three: "Tracking." It's an autobiographical tale, the most moving evocation of a writer's life -- all the more moving because it is so compressed, it's like the "anti-Proust" of elegiac tales -- that I've yet come across.
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