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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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Gob's Grief: A Novel Paperback – March 12, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unlike many a novelist, Chris Adrian isn't intimidated by history. Indeed, he treats historical events as raw material, to be reshaped and reconfigured through the processes of the imagination. It's an endeavor that would please Walt Whitman, one of the central characters in this challenging debut, Gob's Grief. Nor is the good gray poet the only "real" character--both Abraham Lincoln and radical feminist Victoria Woodhull put in appearances, giving an extra twist of verisimilitude to Adrian's rendering of America circa 1863, where the Civil War rages and the dead proliferate like weeds.

Gob's Grief opens with the story of Tomo, the fictional son of Woodhull. At age 11, he dreams of escaping Homer, Ohio, to join the fighting. Unable to convince his twin brother, Gob, to accompany him, Tomo finally sets out alone and is promptly killed by a bullet through the skull. His twin never recovers from this loss. In thrall to his grief, Gob grows up to become a doctor, dedicating himself to healing the war's wounded. And by night, he toils away at a more unlikely corrective: a time machine that will eradicate death and bring back all the lost soldiers. His sidekick in this project is none other than Whitman, who shares his desire to resurrect those millions of departed souls: "Their marvelous passion would go out from them in waves, transforming time, history, and destiny, unmurdering Lincoln, unfighting the war, unkilling all the six hundred thousand."

Gob's Grief is an ambitious and occasionally convoluted story, which remains true to the stubborn mysticism of thinkers like Whitman and Woodhull. Cutting back and forth between characters and historical moments, Adrian never pretends to retrospective detachment. Indeed, his novel will appeal to fans of John Dos Passos or E.L. Doctorow--writers who borrow from history but repay their debt in the form of fictional insight. --Ellen Williams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Blending history and fiction in the tradition of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, this skillfully imagined first novel follows Walt Whitman as the poet unwittingly aids the son of early radical feminist Victoria Woodhull in constructing a machine to bring back the Civil War dead; indeed, to abolish death altogether. While he is mourning a young soldier who dies in his care, Walt is directed by a message from the dead man to befriend Victoria's son, Dr. George Washington Woodhull, better known as Gob, on a stagecoach in 1868. In 1863, Gob's twin brother, Tomo, ran away to war and was killed. Wracked by guilt at having let his brother go off alone, Gob strikes a bargain with "a mad hedge wizard" known as the Urfeist, who agrees to teach Gob to "defeat death." Will Fie, who has also lost a brother, is compelled by restless spirits to join Gob's cause; wild boy Pickie Beecher, the first product of Gob's labors, calls the machine his brother; Gob's love, Maci Trufant, receives scribbled pleas from her own dead brother, who has seized control of her left hand. The story is repeated from each new character's vantage--gentle, disbelieving Walt is the most sympathetically crafted narrator--and though this allows for an admirably meticulous plot, it hampers the pacing and distances the reader from the difficult, unusual characters. Much like Gob's creation, the novel is a collection of fabulous parts in need of a heart to power them, yet impressing as a flight of fancy. (Jan. 16)from which this novel stemmed, was anthologized in Best American Short Stories 1998.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780375726248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726248
  • ASIN: 0375726241
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,460,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chris Adrian is a gifted, highly imaginative writer who takes the theme of grief and builds upon it by blending historical fact and actual people with a cast of intriguing, sometimes fascinating, characters. The Civil War details make for compelling reading and the first half of the book carries the reader along at a steady gallop. The second half, which delves into the backgrounds of many of the characters, is far slower in pacing and requires a committed interest on the part of the reader. The feel for time and place is wonderfully effective; the pervasive grief (of all the central characters) is almost overwhelming. But I found it tough going to get through to the end. This is a heavy book, on a heavy theme: the notion that the loss of beloved brothers could drive people to create a machine that would reverse the process and bring all the dead back to life.
Some of the characters in Gob's Grief are extraordinarily compelling creations, particularly the Urfeist, and Pickie Beecher. I recommend this book with the caveat that it is not for the faint of heart or those unwilling to suspend disbelief. Certainly, I'll be very interested to see what Chris Adrian does next. For a first novel, this is an impressive debut.
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By A Customer on February 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
A boy, Tomo, runs off to battle during the Civil War, leaving his hesitant twin brother Gob behind, and is almost instantly killed. A few years later we meet Gob once again, now a doctor driven by guilt and loss to construct a fantastic machine that will bring Tomo (and all the thousands of Civil War dead) back to life. Others are driven to join Gob's quest--the poet Walt Whitman, who hears the voice of a dead soldier in his head; Dr. Will Fie, literally followed by ghosts through the streets, and beautiful Maci Trufant, who flees her father's madness only to find her own left hand becoming the instrument for her dead brother's frantic communications, scribbled from somewhere beyond the grave.
GOB'S GRIEF is a strikingly emotional and original novel, set in a time when Americans were seemingly drowning in anguish, desperately trying to make sense of a country that had turned on itself. Elements of romance, history, horror, spiritualism and magic realism are ambitiously combined, with mixed results--sometimes the book feels repetitious and overstuffed, and some elements simply never quite manage to fit. However, as a whole, this is a memorable debut novel from a talented writer. I'll be looking for his name again.
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By A Customer on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The nod to Best Book of the Year has certainly peaked early with the release of Chris Adrian's "Gob's Grief". Far too few contemporary tomes manage to balance the World of Ideas a la Saul Bellow and gripping drama as beautifully as Adrian does. His prose is consistantly poetic, inspired and enchanting, transporting the reader into Civil War-torn America with complete ease. "Gob's Grief" soars, transforms and, ultimately, helps heal the mortal wounds that are part of being all too human. Stunning.
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Format: Paperback
this is one of the most imaginative and beautifully written books I have ever read. The opening chapters dealing with the death of Tomo are some of the most heartbreaking and disturbing words ever written about War.
The tale of Gob, Macie, Dr. Fie, Pickie, and Walt Whitman is very engrossing. The obsession with conquering death permeates every chapter. The feelings of grief and despair are palpable.
The ending, while it may leave some disappointed, was handled very well. With a tale of this scope and subject I was very leary of how the ending would be done, but I was not disappointed.
I eagerly await the next effort by Mr. Adrian!
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By A Customer on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gob's Grief is beautiful, sensitive, insightful, moving, repetitive, convoluted, a little too "artful," and (as one reviewer said) "wonderous strange." If you like this kind of thing, you'll give this book five stars. If you want a story that makes sense, or has realistic (and sane) characters and a reasonable progression from beginning to end, you'll have a hard time getting through it. I am in the latter group.
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By A Customer on March 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This novel amazed me for the way it tells of the myriad affections there are between people, most of them unable to be sanctified by marriage, and many of them familiar from experience, and not for having been described in prose. The novel does so in a landscape that reminded me of Jules Verne, or of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and Adrian is in a way a sort of Ariel, the shapeshifting magician's attendant spirit, than like any other writer he is compared to (for I do think him unique)--- taking on shapes we know (Whitman, Woodhull) and that, in taking them on, he owns and then reintroduces to us. Reading of his Whitman you feel that it is Whitman better than a biography might display, and yet you know, another spirit is present, also---the counterfeit of good magic. All of this is done to tell his story, of men who have all lost brothers, of the flesh or spirit or both, and have set themselves against Heaven, God, and the angels to get them back. In the way that it is the story of the glorious machine these men build, it is like Verne, actually, but in the manner of a brother, perhaps, borne of a different father. Don't mistake this for some dreary historical fiction that seeks impossibly to be an historically accurate tale of the past returned complete---to truly write such a thing (and many critics would have us believe we need to try to do so), a writer would need the machine these men are trying to build. It's better than that, though, the novel slips off the realism that has afflicted the intentions of so many too-earnest American writers, and tells us something real about how people feel, and what that can make them do, and build. In a way one has the sense that for the writer, the novel is very like the impossible machine Gob and Will build: composed of other people's bones and the representations of their deaths, filled with the brightest light, magnificent for what it cannot do and for what it does, both.
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