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What We Lost: Based on a True Story Hardcover – November 3, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1ST edition (November 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618251286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618251285
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Accomplished novelist Peck's account of his father's horrific 1950s Long Island childhood is reminiscent of Angela's Ashes both in scope and tone. This stateside reincarnation of a world dominated by an abusive alcoholic father may not leave readers laughing, but it certainly provides a similar lens on a boy's resilience and optimism. The story unfolds as Dale Peck Sr., at age 14, is rooted out of bed by his good-for-nothing father and unceremoniously dumped at an upstate New York dairy farm owned by his kind but unfamiliar Uncle Wallace. Peck Jr. (Now It's Time to Say Goodbye; The Law of Enclosures), writes a description of the journey from one world to another that is so evocative, it's easy to forget he wasn't actually the boy in the passenger's seat. About the frozen banks of a river they drive along, he writes, "The glacial shelves look like teeth to the boy, cartoon teeth breaking apart after biting on a rock hidden in blueberry pie, and the boy laughs quietly to himself when he imagines the river being fitted for dentures like the old man. A trip to the country, he reminds himself, attempting to relax again. A weekend adventure." This weekend adventure unfolds into months, then years, until finally Peck Sr.'s mother disrupts her son's haven by demanding his return to the misery of their overcrowded, impoverished household. The boy is torn, but ends up abandoning the warm web Wallace and his stoic wife, Bessie, have spun around him. He is quickly subsumed by the depressing life he narrowly escaped, and Peck subtly demonstrates how this determined boy will not just endure life, but embrace it.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Peck's account of his father Dale's horrific upbringing stuns the reader with its juxtaposition of hope, sadness, and loss. In 1956, Dale lives with seven siblings in a small house on Long Island. Their father, Lloyd (the author's grandfather), comes home drunk most nights; their mother regularly beats Dale, her least favorite, with a garden hose. In an attempt to extricate Dale from this dead-end existence, Lloyd "kidnaps" his son and drives him to the Catskills, where Loyd's brother runs a dairy farm. For almost a year, Dale learns how to milk the cows and mend fences; more important, he is enveloped in his aunt and uncle's stable routine and learns for the first time about familial love and respect. He misses his siblings, of course, and when his mother arrives with the others in tow, demanding his return, Dale is faced with a cruel decision. The author, whose novels have been highly praised for their unforgettable prose, again enriches the reader with luminous language, shining like pearls in the midst of his father's wrenching tale. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Jamison on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Dale Peck's work, especially LAW OF ENCLOSURES (which has one of the best endings I've ever read). This new book is a memoir--or at least a re-imagining of his father's life on Long Island and in upstate New York--and it's beautifully written. I never expected to say Willa Cather and Dale Peck in the same sentence--except, perhaps, in a sentence like "Willa Cather could beat up Dale Peck,"--but the comparison here seems appropriate. It would be a crime to break this beautiful book down into "literary elements," but Peck is the best maker of similes around. There are so many stunning sentences here; I copied whole paragraphs and passed them out to my high school students as examples for writing. The slim last act of the book expands the focus to include Dale Peck the writer and becomes a meditation on fate and fatherhood and reconcilliation. And maybe forgiveness. I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz about this book. I'm hoping for a review in the NYT or somewhere that will make people notice it. If not, you have this first review to urge you to read it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Krichman on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"A meditation on the permanence of glancing moments..." A perfect description for this remarkable piece of writing. This book reads like a novel but is actually a true story about the author's father and his experience on his uncle's dairy farm as a child. You'll learn more from this book than just how to milk a cow. This book, in so subtle a way that you might not even notice, teaches a powerful lesson about the irreversible consequences of every decision, both big and small, that we make in life. Every moment of our lives will be with us forever, both in our memory and in the affect that it has on our future. Each step we take not only leads us somewhere but also takes us away from somewhere else.
Dale Peck is a writer of incredible grace. This book is divided into two parts, so extremely different from one another that you have to wonder for the first few pages of the second part whether you are even in the same story. But just as your confusion starts to turn to frustration, Peck ties his stories together in a beautiful and seamless way, building your anticipation and then slowly bringing you back down only to build it back up again even higher. This book is nothing short of masterful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dale Peck has written as moving a tribute to his father as I can remember reading. Here he writes of his father's (Dale, Sr.) leaving an abusive mother and alcoholic father at the age of 13 to live on a dairy farm in upstate New York with his father's loving brother, his Uncle Wallace, and his soon-to-be wife Bessie. There he learns for the first time in his life what it's like to be surrounded by adult love. Peck's prose is descriptive and full of similes and metaphors, my one concern with this book. There is never any indication that Peck, Sr. was particularly gifted in language. While many of the beautiful passages obviously come from the narrator, occasionally there are words coming from Peck, Sr. that belong to Peck, Junior. For example: "As he walks, the ladies (cows) behind him low in anticipation of his arrival. Their calls make him think that he is a finger running a glissando the length of a giant keyboard. . ." I do not believe these words would have come from someone who grew up to learn the business of trenchless sewer line replacement. This is certainly a minor blemish though of a really fine book.

Dale Peck, Junior introduces himself to the reader in the last few pages of the narrative when he and his father return to upstate New York in 2001-- Peck, Senior now lives in Kansas and Junior is a writer in New York City-- to attend a family reunion in what is a very warm finale to this story.
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