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Beyond the Bedroom Wall (Graywolf Rediscovery) Paperback – May, 1997

4.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Woiwode's 1975 novel follows three generations of the Neumiller family. LJ's reviewer found it a tad "overlong" (LJ 10/15/75), but fans of sweeping family sagas will probably go for it.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Graywolf Rediscovery
  • Paperback: 625 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555972586
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555972585
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald Scheer on August 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I believe I first read Larry Woiwode's short stories about the Neumiller family in The New Yorker and Harper's before they were woven together into this richly emotional novel about a family of young children whose mother becomes ill and dies. Although there is a whole range of deeply felt emotions in the book, it is often the heartbreak of everyday life that permeates the work. Meawhile, there is a near-Proustian depth of detail in the account of lives lived in small midwestern towns, first in North Dakota and then Illinois.
Woiwode also captures the dynamics of family life, particularly in the close relationship between the narrator and his slightly older brother (a relationship celebrated, explored, and lamented in a sequel novel, "Born Brothers"). It's been years since I read "Beyond the Bedroom Wall," but there are moments in it almost seared into memory like film images. That is partly due to Woiwode's poetic gift for language that makes you want to read and savor every word on every page.
In later years, Woiwode returned to North Dakota and has lived there in a rural community in a kind of self-imposed spiritual exile. The early writings, in my opinion, are far superior to his later work. When he wrote "Beyond the Bedroom Wall," he was at the peak of his powers as a storyteller. Yes, it's a "great" American novel.
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By A Customer on April 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book over a number of months. During that time my wife was suffering from a serious illness. Woiwode's description of Alpha's death was so true and painful to me I had to put the book away for quite some time. My wife recovered; I finished the book. There is no question that this is a powerful and beautiful novel. As good as anything written this century.
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Format: Paperback
For years I have griped about the teaching of "The Great Gatsby" in high school. It is a book about loss, failure, hope, dreams and the confusion of the past. It is not a book a 16 year old can understand. But it is short. So it is assigned in high school English classes across the country.

I acquired my copy of "Beyond the Bedroom Wall" in the mid 70s. I was a regular reader of the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. Someone (or maybe both someones) gave it a superlative review, and I bought a hardback copy, a thing I rarely did back then. I have moved this tome across multiple states, having it glare at me every time I placed it in a box, stacked it, or dusted it, its poetic and longing author telling me, "Go on, but I really don't care if you read me or not."

After 35 years I finally ignored that curly wistfulness and cracked it open. And what a shock. I have no memory of why I bought it. I know it won a bunch of awards, but those didn't and don't mean much to me. No idea why I've carried it all these years, placing its pale beige heft on bookshelves in 5 or 6 states. But I'm grateful I did. And doubly grateful I never peeked inside before this summer. This is a book to be appreciated only by someone no longer quite so young as the boy who bought it. As a parent and grandparent, I know the longing that goes in both directions as I look with fear and foreboding at my declining father, remember my recently deceased mother, and glance with cautious hope toward children and grandchildren. The familial love Woiwode captures is of surpassing beauty and poignance. No gooey smarminess, no coy condescension, yet without pretense or phoniness. A story of highly flawed but loving people who lose and rebuild and lose and rebuild.
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Format: Paperback
It's been years since I read this fine novel from cover to cover--but not so very long ago since my latest brief delve. It was not unlike visiting old friends or neighbors, and I was most happy to spend some time with them. Larry Woiwode brings the simple pleasures and heartbreaks of everyday life vibrantly to life in this book, a "family saga" in the very best sense. There's a real joy to watching the lives of these characters unfold, and a recognized danger in the closeness of family life--I still recall the dread with which I read when it became clear that one of the characters was facing death. Creating that depth of feeling in a reader is no mean feat, but Larry Woiwode pulls it off time after time, as adroitly as a bird landing on a twig. He is certainly one of America's most under-appreciated writers, and this is a wonderful place to begin discovering his talents. These characters and events will linger a long long time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book covers four generations of the Neumiller family beginning with Otto Neumiller, German immigrant who wants land and homesteads in North Dakota. He marries another German immigrant and starts a family. The book begins when a sister writes to her brother about their father's death. Charles Neumiller returns home, builds a coffin, prepares his father for burial, then buries Otto Neumiller in his land where he wanted to be buried. Charles is the father of eight, soon to be nine, the father of a good German Catholic family as is his wife.

The book is long, over 600 pages. Mr Woiwode is a poet which is obvious in his writing, descriptions of the world around him, his attention to details other writers would overlook. I had read this book years ago and felt the need to read it again.

Martin is Charles's oldest and is in love with Alpha, a young neighbor. She is not German Catholic, but has a Norwegian mother, a Celtic father. Martin's mother disapproves of this family as does Alpha's mother does of Martins. The two marry and become parents of three sons, two daughters.

These German characters are hard working, believe in education. Martin becomes a teacher, principal in several schools. He believes in education, but also in hard work. During the summer he works different jobs to support his large family. Alpha also taught school before she had children.

Then Alpha dies when her children are quite small. The children try to remember their mother, memories are fading, coming, going. The kids also write about their experiences growing up in this book. Their German grandparents are family oriented, Alpha's not so much. The Germans move to Illinois, their children and grandchildren live close. Alpha's move to California.
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