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Well Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802117511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117519
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,341,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In his debut novel Well, Matthew McIntosh has produced an impressive, unsettling portrait of the inhabitants of Federal Way, Washington, a blue-collar suburb of Seattle. This book is less a novel than a collage of voices (mostly first-person, sometimes disembodied) unified by their disparate attempts to overcome (or at least come to terms with) physical and emotional pain, addiction, loss, dysfunctional and withering relationships, and other common, but intensely personal, problems. Most striking is that these citizens are acutely aware of their flaws, describing their most intimate thoughts and stories with a twinge of sadness, as if confessing--but not making excuses--for their actions. Some are hopeful, most are resigned, and there is a sense of entrapment among the characters, a realization that they may not have the strength, patience or even a clue how to change for the better. They tell us their strange dreams, fantasies, describe fleeting feelings of self-control.

Of the few, more traditional short stories, "Fishboy" is strongest, wherein a high-school student realizes finally that his obsession with a classmate is unhealthy. In "Gunman," McIntosh creates a faux news report of a bus driver's random shooting, containing a succinct elucidation of what drives these folks to speak: "Why do these things happen? What is it that allows them to happen? We wonder if there is a higher order to the universe. We wonder if there is a higher order to our world, at least. We report that our world is falling apart. And we report that we are falling apart." With the proof in the writing, not the ambitiousness or media fanfare, Well is a hauntingly memorable book from a refreshing, new voice. --Michael Ferch

From Publishers Weekly

"I think something inside of her broke, whatever that string is that holds people together, it snapped." "That string" is the leitmotif of this unusual, dark debut novel with an ensemble cast. McIntosh assembles different episodes and voices to create an impressionistic tableau of Federal Way, Washington, a blue-collar town facing the loss of blue-collar jobs and culture. McIntosh's characters are introduced in first-person testimonies and third-person sketches that build matter-of-factly and then trail off ambiguously, like entries in a police blotter-if the police blotter were written by Samuel Beckett. They lead lives of quiet despair, punctuated by bursts of violence, benders and bad sex. Physical pain harries many of the characters, madness others, and almost all are cursed with deteriorating personal relationships. Among the most moving episodes is a long chapter, "Fishboy," narrated by Will, a student at a small college in Nebraska who is studying fisheries. The story flashes back to his dangerous obsession with a classmate, Emily Swanson, and his father leaving his mother. Another beautifully executed sequence, "Border," shows how the suicide of an ex-boxer, Jim, is viewed by his sister-in-law, his brother, his buddies, a former opponent and his mother's friends. The sustained glide from voice to voice is virtuosic, and the writing is dogged-it never gets literary; it digs through the clich‚s and the usual inarticulateness of the stories people tell in bars and grocery store lines; and it stumbles on diamonds in the rough everywhere. McIntosh is only 26, but he is already an artful registrar of the heart's lower frequencies.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Well reads like a book of short stories.
CincinnatiPOV
McIntosh weaves together the lives of his suburbanite characters into a picture of modern life unlike any yet presented.
Joel Dahms
McIntosh's writing style is unconventional and compelling at the same time.
Stephen M. John

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Davis-Vautrin on February 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
A rare contemporary novel that speaks to a contemporary reader on a profoundly human level, without formulaic politics, or formulaic psychology, or condescension, or cuteness, or formulaic humanity, but with the voice of an author who, like a good doctor, cares genuinely about some very sick patients, his characters, not even despite but because of their flaws. Compared to Selby and Carver by some, this may be especially so to the extent that each of them shows traces of Dubliners, as McIntosh distinguishes himself with characters that could really be anyone at all, and are, though of a very particular time and place. Others have synopsized the plot and style, so there is no need to repeat. Suffice to say, the author manifests a sophistication and subtlety of human study well beyond his young years, and this reader has not been as deeply touched by contemporary fiction in a long time, when contemporary meant something else entirely.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Adrift in Suburbia on July 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Well" is a hard-earned marvel, and Matt McIntosh is a nothing less than a prodigy. His book focuses on a tapestry of broken lives in Federal Way, Washington, outside of Seattle, drawn together by the common ailments of discontentment, disillusionment, and a yearning for some small redemption. The chapter (or story) "Fishboy," about a young man suffering from the break-up of his family, has a raw, wrenching power like something I've rarely encountered in contemporary fiction, somewhat like the stories in Denis Johnson's "Jesus' Son," but wholly Matt McIntosh's, wholly unique. His work has a kind of poetic integrity that signals a rare talent, a new voice.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. John on October 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a lot of things. It's depressing, it's sad and it's dark. It's funny, it's real and it's honest. And most of all, it's very hard to put down. Matthew McIntosh is a 26 year old son of a preacher who spent time in London and California before landing in a little suburb of Seattle called Federal Way, the setting for the book. The book follows the lives and relationships of many people who are lost, despondent, disturbed, and struggling to just get through one more day. This is a brutally frank snapshot of people that most of us of hope we never meet and pray we never become. We see them on street corners, in alleys, in parks and sometimes right next door, though we pretend to not notice and hope to God they don't notice us. McIntosh's writing style is unconventional and compelling at the same time. It is refreshingly (and shockingly) different.
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By Latoya Brown on October 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I read this book wtih teh BookReviewersClub. "Well" presents a new plot and new characters in each chapter. The times are tough and they all live in Federal Way, Washington where all visit the same bar.

In one story a mother works a LOT and is an immigrant. Most of her day is spent in a restaurnant making chicken. As a result her daughter get involved with the wrong crowd and ends up becoming a prostitute. Very sad and yet moving words to read.

One can say the stories are depressing, but what redemption and fortitude the characters' potential have! You will be excited along with the triumphs.

One word sums it up: Hope.

By reading the book you begin to realize your own potential through the darkness of others' lives.
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Format: Paperback
Length: 6:29 Mins
Dean Goranites of the BookReviewersClub reviewed the book "Well" by Matthew McIntosh. This is the author's first book.
"Well" is similar to a series of short stories because it is written in a way where every new chapter consists of new characters and a new story plot. The story revolves around people going through tough times in their lives. They all live in in the same city of Federal Way, Washington and they all visit the same bar.
As an example, one story is about a mother who works for 18 hours a week, is an immigrant, and who spends a majority of her day in a fast food restaurant making chicken. Her daughter starts getting involved in drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd. The daughter ends up becoming a prostitute who is unsure of what she is doing with her life and she spends a lot of time waiting for her mother to come home. After her mother takes too long one night, the daughter ends up walking to the local bar.
Overall, all the stories were bleak and arguably depressing, but all the characters had a chance at redemption. Dean didn't believe that many of the characters got that redemption, but there were a few brief instances where the characters fought off their circumstances in order to find a happy and successful life.
Dean said this book also helps a reader understand that no matter what we are doing in our life, we may never be completely satisfied if we don't have hope. However, we can still find a general satisfaction in life itself. He said that this book really impressed him and that's why he would recommend this to anybody who is not scared of something that could potentially bring them "into the darkness" while they read it.
All in all, Dean gave the book 5 stars.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By CincinnatiPOV on June 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Often I feel forced to keep up this guise of being happy all the time. I'm generally a happy person, but when I'm not, I don't feel empowered to share that. In books, on television, in the movies - people experience bad luck and bad times but in the end they almost always conquer all. But real life isn't books, TV or the movies. We don't always get the Hollywood ending.
In Well, Matthew McIntosh writes about human experiences that aren't glamorous and they aren't always happy. Instead, McIntosh grabs onto the little sparks in people lives that help them keep going on.
It's fascinating to me when an author can write a book with characters in it that I wholly relate to, regardless of whether they are like me. When I was younger it happened frequently, but when I was younger all I needed was a character that liked to read, collected mundane things or worried about school and friends. Well struck a nerve in me that has been left untouched since childhood. McIntosh writes of the mundane happenings in life, the ugly little things that most people never mention but which we all know happen, and because of that, he has created a wonderful collection of stories.
McIntosh certainly isn't the first author to write about everyday life. While what he does isn't new, it does cover new territory. Well reads like a book of short stories. There are small segments dedicated to different people's lives, woven together with fines threads that are only visible on close inspection. The people's lives are in many respects hopeless, but they persevere. McIntosh never offers a succinct reason for why they continue trying, but he does suggest one image - that of a well.
What McIntosh seems to suggest is that everyone has a hole that they are trying to fill.
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