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Woe to Live On: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, June 19, 2012

81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews



"[A] fine novel...Daniel Woodrell has captured the devastation of war and, more importantly, the twisting of men's minds." (United Press International)

"The violence is fast and understated, and bawdy humor relieves the story's intensity." (Kansas City Star)

"A renegade Western...that celebrates the genre while bushwhacking its most cherished traditions...Jake Roedel recites his tale of woe in an improbably rustic idiom, with a malignant humor and a hip sensibility that are wise beyond his years and way ahead of his times." (Chicago Tribune)

"Woodrell pins it down just right...speaks to the universal cruelty of civil war." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

About the Author

Five of Daniel Woodrell's eight published novels were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Tomato Red won the PEN West Award for the Novel in 1999. Woodrell lives in the Ozarks near the Arkansas line with his wife, Katie Estill.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316206164
  • ASIN: B00FI9Q9OY
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Finally and at last, the border war of Missouri/Kansas is having its story told. Here were no magnificent lines of battle with brave banners and an awe-struck foe admiring the fatal advance. Here were no bugle calls, no gold braid uniforms or gentleman officers in plumed hats. This was a dirty, vicious, strange-dogs-in-a-meathouse fight that shattered families, emptied neighborhoods, and sometimes created feuds that lasted generations after the war.
Daniel Woodrell writes with a remarkable style perfectly suited to the tale he tells. Taut, sparse, haunting, lyrical yet terrible, easing us lazily along from moments of unpretentious poetry to drop us jangling into stark, slamming violence. From the first page, I read it as drinking a rare liquor, sipping and savoring only a few pages a day, in no hurry to have it end.
Mr. Woodrell does not rub our faces in gore, but nor does he shrink from or glorify the brutality of killing. We have no doubt of what is happening, recoil from its horror, yet the image is drawn with such spare, severe strokes that we are left stunned as the aftermath of a car wreck - what just happened? When one character dies, the scene is engraved with a laser beam; "Oh, sweet Lord Jesus. It was way down there past terrible....My world bled to death."
Yet rather than being a story about a war and its battles, this a story about very young men - and women - whose lives are turned inside-out by that war. We see them involved in the very human struggle for place, for a sense of belonging, for those fleeting moments of gentleness, set against the smouldering, bloody backdrop of war, and jerked back to the bad-chili burning in the guts for payback when "comrades" are lost.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Selene on July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Our mode of war was an irregular one. We were as likely to be guided by an aged farmer's breathless recounting of a definite rumor, or by the moods of our horses, as we were by logic. It was a situation where logic made no sense. So we slouched about in wooded areas, our eyes on main roads and cow paths, watching for our foe to pass in reasonable numbers.
They often did."

The reissue last month of "Woe to Live On", Daniel Woodrell's 1987 coming-of-age novel set during the American Civil War, is cause for celebration. A Missourian born and bred, Woodrell has a dedicated cult following, but, oddly, seems to be better known and appreciated outside the States than within, and has been described as "one of the best-kept secrets in American literature."

As anyone who's discovered Woodrell's long out-of-print "Woe to Live On" and been blown away by it will tell you, Lordy, Lordy, the man can write up a storm!

This is the universal tragedy of civil war, the particular madness of a conflict that pits neighbours, friends and families against each other, as seen through the eyes of Jake Roedel, a teenager fighting with a band of Bushwhackers (mounted Confederate guerillas) in the Kansas-Missouri borderlands. Several of the characters are actual historical figures, like William C. Quantrill, Cole Younger and Senator Jim Lane. Black John Ambrose, the leader of Jake's band, was clearly modelled on "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and Jake's friend, the black freedman, Holt, is a composite of those African-Americans who, surprising as it may seem, did in fact fight with the Confederate raiders.

Politically incorrect, unrevisionist and understated in style, "Woe to Live On" is brutal, shocking and full of random, escalating violence and moral ambiguities.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book just after finishing the much acclaimed "Cold Mountain." has certianly missed the boat in not linking the two books. As a history buff, and avid reader I found that "Woe to Live On" has "Cold Mountain" beat for getting the feel of the time and believable characters. It also told the story in an appropriate amount of pages (unlike "Cold Mountain").
I live in Missouri and have traveled through the South and North -- I have noted that in the South there are allot of monuments to the Confedracy, in the north there are allot of monuments to the Grand Army of the Republic. This book demonstrates why Northwest MO doesn't have any monuments to the Civil War. We have a few markers for battles, but no monuments to either side -- it was just too painful a topic with neighbors on opposing sides. I hope the movie does the book justice. (Why aren't they re-releasing the book with the actors on the cover a la Sense and Sensibility?)
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By S. Harris on September 13, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The influence of both Twain and Cormac McCarthy are fairly clear to see in Daniel Woodrell's Ride with Devil. The sheer carnage reminds one of McCarthy's Outer Dark and Blood Meridian. But there's more. Ride With the Devil is also a coming of age novel telling the story of Jake Roedel, a young Bushwhacker (and immigrant's son), who has not known a woman, but who has killed 15 men.

In Woodrell's hands, Jake is a complex mix of child and killer. He has been hardened by a war that, in the contested border areas of Missouri & Kansas, was as murderous as modern day Bosnia. Robbery, murder, torture, in an eye for an eye conflict, was the coin of the day. Nevertheless, the reader senses the human Jake trying to peek out from beyond the callus. Sometimes it's a moment of tragically misplaced pity for a northern militia acquaintance, or his growing interest about the woman, the widow Sue Lee, of his "near" brother Jack Bull. And then there's growing friendship with Holt, a freed slave who has been riding with the bushwhackers. A common ground gradually develops between the despised immigrant's son, and the mistrusted black man, as they see the south fall apart due to invasion. Interestingly, Woodrell is able to show both characters growing dissatisfaction for the southern cause, as its increasingly being fought (the raid on Lawrence being a point of true descent), while at the same time retaining their hate for northerners who seek to impose, through invasion, new rules for the old. A subtle truth that historians still can't seem to get right, but which acquires an awful plausibility in the half-boy, half-man voice of Roedel. This is fine novel that should be probably be viewed beyond the genre of a western and/or historical fiction.
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