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Then Came the Evening: A Novel Hardcover – December 22, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hart's accomplished debut follows Vietnam vet Bandy Dorner, who wakes up from a drunken bender to discover the cabin he shared with his pregnant wife, Iona, has burned to the ground and she is believed to have died in the fire. After Bandy gets in a scuffle with two policemen that ends with one cop dead and Bandy shot through the shoulder, he learns that Iona has, in fact, left with her lover. Fast forward to 1990, when Bandy's 18-year-old son, Tracy, visits his incarcerated father for the first time and soon moves into Bandy's dead parents' home, intent on fixing it up. After Iona joins Tracy, and Bandy gets released from prison, a brilliant depiction of family follows, though there's a great deal of turbulence before things even hint at coming together. The rugged Idaho backdrop adds sometimes stark, sometimes beautiful counterpoints to the stripped-to-the-bone narrative. Most impressive is Hart's ability to conjure rich and conflicted characters in an uncommon situation; his handling of the material is sublime. (Jan.)
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“Hart’s style is stripped-down and powerful…Every detail Hart paints, from the culture and rough-hewn land right down to the animals that live in it, underscores the “between a rock and a hard place” dilemma of this fragile family. The beautifully intimate descriptions of the Idaho setting are a driving force.” ―High Country News

“Hart's clipped prose mirrors the stark Western landscape…A solid, original work that defies convention.” ―San Francisco Book Review

“Idaho may have been discovered, but thanks to Hart, it's no longer unstoried.” ―Chronicles

“Tragic and gorgeous… gritty and poignant…In Hart, there is an echo of Cormac McCarthy's resolute yet restrained capacity for tragedy and violence. Yet there's something here that is all Hart, something we should all look forward to seeing again.” ―Missoula Independent

“The story resonates with power and potential. Idaho can be a stark state, battered by the elements that mark northern climes. In "Then Came The Evening," Brian Hart turns this circumstance of geography into a fresh tale of family breakdown and self-examination.” ―Petoskey News

“All the elements are in place for an inspirational, heartland-America redemption story, but Hart taps into his characters' fears with gritty lyricism and noirish repartee that subvert any feel-good temptations.” ―New York Times Book Review

Then Came the Evening is one of those novels whose story quietly takes hold of the reader on Page One and never lets go. Using both the stark and dangerous life of prison and Idaho's demanding yet beautiful landscape as backdrop, the author builds a first-rate if complex story around regrets, love and hope.” ―Denver Post

“The landscape… is the book's best-drawn character: vibrant, described credibly and without melodrama. Hart deftly handles two perilously popular archetypes: ashes-to-ashes and like-father-like-son. These themes build gently to an ending that is well-structured and landscape-centered, bringing full-circle the leitmotif of fire and snow.” ―Brooklyn Rail

“Compelling, beginning to end. The thoughtful, spare prose punctuated with quiet yet effective sensory detail -- "The cold and the silence were woven together and stretched so tightly that there were creaking sounds in the air, nautical sounds of binding rope" -- creates a moving poignancy. Hart, who's been compared to Cormac McCarthy, has a keen sense of that small, dark margin between the rock and the hard place, and that's where he puts his characters to sort out their lives.” ―Oregonian

“Like the characters in this quietly exceptional début novel, the author is an Idaho native, and an astute observer of the transitional Western landscape.” ―New Yorker

“It's the (broken) family dynamics that eat up the last half of the book (and, presumably, Bandy and Iona's life) that Hart does the most justice, somehow both sensitively and unrepentantly laying them bare.” ―Time Out Chicago

“Hart constructs a taut drama around the attempt of these three wounded characters to build something out of the wreckage of their lives. Hart could hardly have chosen a more unsympathetic trio, characters perpetually down on their luck in part because of misfortunes that they can't control, but mostly because of ill-considered choices that they make. And yet Hart earns the reader's attention to them, if not always sympathy for them, in large part through the beauty and simplicity of his rhythmic prose, his natural dialogue, and his elegant evocations of the landscape and portrayals of how the characters' shifting identities fit into the evolving town. It takes a rare writer to be able to convince a reader to follow a group of bad-news characters to such bleak places, but Brian Hart's prose makes the story enjoyable, even when the events it describes are not. In Then Came The Evening, Hart has achieved a consistency of tone, a concision of description, and an intensity of focus that make for a satisfying drama.” ―New West

“Say one thing for first-time novelist Brian Hart: He sets himself a challenge right out of the box. The challenge is Vietnam veteran Bandy Dorner, one tormented character in a novel filled with damaged souls trying to live with loss, guilt and bone-deep sorrow. We know that Bandy is doomed from the moment he sets foot on the page, and we know that whatever he suffered in the war, nothing justifies the murderous rage that slaps him in prison as the novel opens. But Hart, fulfilling the promise he showed in 2005 when he won the Keene Prize, the largest student-writing prize in the world, still manages to make us care about Bandy and the others. We hope against hope that they can redeem something from their shattered lives…Hart deftly probes the dynamics of family, asking whether blood ties can overcome disastrous choices, but the novelist resists any easy spiritual rebirth for his characters.” ―Dallas Morning News

“This novel's finely detailed episodes of physical and emotional violence bring to mind the works of Larry Brown, while its lyrical descriptions speak of landscape and rural community life like the books of Robert Morgan. Hart explores, with brutal honesty and a delicate respect for the strength of the individual spirit, the human needs for love, for continuity after death, and for redemption. His depiction of the effects of poverty, violence, and drugs on the human spirit is acute and poignant.” ―Booklist

“Hart's evocative debut traces the long descent of a tragic Western figure straight out of a Sam Shepard play. Desiccated descriptions of a long-fallow landscape and the author's ability to conjure up the ghosts of a low man's past further enrich this heartbreaking, convincing drama.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Most impressive is Hart's ability to conjure rich and conflicted characters in an uncommon situation; his handling of the material is sublime.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred)

“The unforgiving rural landscape of Idaho is the perfect backdrop for first-time novelist Hart's poignant story of three misfits. Hart refuses to tie up everything neatly, and that's what makes this novel so appealing. Highly recommended to readers of good literary fiction.” ―Library Journal

“Brian Hart's Then Came the Evening shows us the hidden America, a world of remote holdings, long memories, fierce yearnings and violent strivings. He dramatizes this world with an immense care and tenderness. There is a deep feeling in the book for the gnarled landscape itself, its stark beauty, but even greater emotion surrounds the characters that inhabit it. Their efforts to live together and love each other are depicted with a grace and understanding which is rare and memorable.” ―Colm Tóibín

“Brian Hart has written a remarkable first novel--violent and tender, harsh yet beautiful. Sentence for sentence, no other young writer I know can match him. If Cormac McCarthy had been a carpenter in rural Idaho for nine years, this is the book he would have written. Then Came the Evening will break your heart.” ―James Magnuson, Director of the Michener Center for Writers and author of Windfall and The Hounds of Winter

Then Came the Evening is an important book, a novel of raging velocity and blazing empathy, a mature achievement. Brian Hart knows everything about his rural western setting, everything about his short-on-luck characters, and everything about making a reader turn the pages. This is a first novel written with a master's skill.” ―Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo and Challenger Park

“Brian Hart's considerable genius is that he sees what the rest of us are unwilling to see and says what we are unable to say. Then Came the Evening is both harrowing and haunting, hypnotic and exhilarating. Hart can flat-out tell a story. He's savvy, insightful, and fearless … What talent, what nerve, what an achingly beautiful and astonishing first novel.” ―John Dufresne, author of Requiem, Mass: A Novel

“Brian Hart's Then Came the Evening is composed of equal parts science--a scrupulous exactitude for place and the emotions it evokes--and art--the astonishing deftness of its telling. Palpable always, and ultimately poignant, is its reverence for the physical world and its acknowledgment of the violence we do to it, to each other and to ourselves, and its wise and unflinching rendering of that mysterious gulf between who we are and who we wish to be. Here is a novel that will stick with you like a song, and needle you awake in the middle of the night.” ―Michael Parker, author of If You Want Me to Stay

Then Came the Evening is an edgy and affecting debut from a writer already bursting with promise and achievement. Brian Hart's narrative voice is as tender as it is unflinching--and his novel of love squandered and oh-so-nearly retrieved is a triumph.” ―Jim Crace, author of Quarantine, Being Dead, and many more novels

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (December 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190140
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,527,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bandy, a young, hot headed Vietnam vet wages his personal war with himself, his loved ones and anyone else who happens by, some of them even come out of it alive though few are unscathed. Bandy's girlfriend finds out she's pregnant and knows she has to escape Bandy's almost nightly drinking, fighting and womanizing so she leaves with a quiet man who asks few questions. Bandy's actions on the fateful day she leaves land him in jail for a few decades. It's there he finds he has a son when the 18 year old stops by his prison. All these characters are seeking meaning and peace but none of them seem to accomplish much of either though none let go of their dreams of love and family and in a disjointed way they get as close to those dreams as they can. They keep running into their pasts while searching for a livable present. Hart's writing is lovely, atmospheric, evocative. He never goes for the easy answer while looking to get as close to truth as he can.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this to be a very interesting story because it showed the sides of the different people related to each other and their failures in life and even though they all attempt to fix it, some relationships just stay broken. A slice of life in a small town in Idaho of the downtrodden trying to make things better but some just repeat their mistakes even after a time in prison. There's a lot more weaved in through this story and I don't want to spoil it by telling you any more!
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Format: Hardcover
Sadly, this was not a story for me. The writing style is good, but I am not a huge fan of the language choices and all the sexual references and the story itself failed to draw me in. I would like to state up front that I did not finish this book. So my opinions are only based on the first third of the book, and skim-reading the rest.

'Then Came the Evening' has three main Characters: Bandy the father who is in jail, Iona his wife who left him for another man, and Tracy their teenage son who never knew his father growing up. Tracy gets permission to fix of Badny's family home in the country. He left his mother who seemed to live on sex, drinking, etc. His mother suddenly has a change of heart and follows him home and soon Bandy is released from jail after nearly 20 years. That is the first third of the book, then the rest seems to be re-getting to know one another and coexist.

Please, again, note I only read the first 130 pages then skim-read the rest. For me it was not an interesting read. I never truly saw the characters mature and I could not get into them. Not one... at all. To me, they had little depth. The mother may have had the most but I was against her for all the wrongs she pulled so maybe I am biased but ultimately this fell flat for me. I tried several times to read this book over several months. Never could I get into it. The writing, while clear and concise was very vulgar which I have never cared for and was too technical at times. I under the author, Brian Hart, was a carpenter and welder in real life so while Tracy is fixing the house you really see that come through, yet it seemed to detract from the story-telling.

The book seems very down to earth, and real life for some people.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I usually don't like to read about the downtrodden. It's too depressing, but Mr. Hart kept me interested with some great turns of phrase and the character of Tracy. Tracy represents hope and determination, while his father Bandy goes into a death spiral. Iona, Tracy's mother, portrays redemption. Bandy suffers from PTSD and is a convicted murderer who has served his sentence. Iona is a meth addict and occasional prostitute. She's lost everything after the death of her lover. As soon as Tracy comes of age, he returns to Bandy's homestead where he finds the vacant house stripped to the pillars. All three are brought together in this home after Tracy falls from an icy roof in an attempt to overcome his acrophobia.

My favorite lines:
"Guilt you carry until it crushes you, self pity you spray like piss on everybody you love."
"With grandchildren came a promise of redemption."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I orderd Brian Hart's THEN CAME THE EVENING based on a review I read in the newpaper. I didn't anticipate the fine tuned, masterfully crafted novel that I read. I read Hart's story in one 6-7 hours setting. The book is one frigging tage turner. I couldn't put it down until I finished it;.

Hart's characters live out their violence and love on the pages. The settings are real places that I had visited in real time. For example, three or four years ago, I drove down the long incline is the eastern end of the Lolo trail. And I had driven by the spot where Bandy and Victor buried the murdered man, then flung the shovels into the vast openess above the tree tops.

The charactes were not beauatiful people. They were not people I would like to be around. But as I read page after page, I choked up with their sorrow and death and uncompleted love. Long may Hart write. Long may I expereince Hart's tense, minimal stories.
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Format: Paperback
What do relationships cost? And do you really get what you pay for? "Then Came the Evening" bulges from the weight of one family's discoveries and disenchantment. I didn't know these people, but I have a sweet understanding for them now. Brian Hart gives the reader just enough to fill in the blanks yet, never truly puts all the pieces in place. The thrill is in reading passage to passage as quickly as possible to learn the details. The scenery, the background, the daily struggles of isolation. And yet I'm left wondering, do I sing the praise of progression, or lament the decay of a singular family. Both feelings grip my heart and will keep me thinking a long time to come.
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