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Goliath Hardcover – April 24, 2012
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“Like a contemporary Winesburg, Ohio, Susan Woodring's Goliath brings small town life beautifully, achingly alive. Sprinkled with marching bands, baseball, and parades, and a cast of southern characters who will charm the pants off you, Goliath is a memorable novel, written in a new memorable voice.” ―Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle
“Goliath is a careful, contemplative study of the rhythms of collective grief. Woodring's sense of the constraints and hard-earned pleasures of home rings as true and pure as a train whistle in the night.” ―Michael Parker, author of The Watery Part of the World
“Woodring's writing is so clear and moving that the reader often feels, as she says of about one of her characters, as if 'the world had been sucked clear of true sound.' This beautiful portrait of a place and its people, rendered so quietly and intimately, shuts out the world outside its pages as you read. Only the best novels can make you forget yourself as reader. Goliath is the kind of book you don't want to put down or to end.” ―Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury
“Goliath is a beautiful and quietly moving story of love, grief, forgiveness and redemption -- heady themes handled here with a big heart and a deft hand. In prose exquisitely clear and with details that will make your heart ache, Susan Woodring has written a meaningful portrait of small town life, and what it means to move through grief toward love.” ―Bret Lott, author of Ancient Highway
“Ultimately a novel about a town that takes on a life of its own, Woodring's latest is melodious, deliberate, surprising, and full of those essential little moments that make up entire lifetimes. Readers who enjoy sinking into the layered details of small-town life should enjoy this rich portrait.” ―Julie Trevelyan of Booklist
About the Author
SUSAN WOODRING grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her previous publications are a first novel, The Traveling Disease, and Springtime On Mars: Stories. She has been published in Passages North and a variety of other literary publications. She won the 2006 Isotope Editor's Prize, has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and was a notable mention in Best American Short Stories 2010.
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Over the last few decades, many of these rural factories have shut down as American manufacturing has moved to urban areas or, more and more, to other countries. What happens to a town like a Mayberry when its one factory ceases to operate? That is the central question that Susan Woodring explores in her novel Goliath. The furniture factory that has been the anchor for the town of Goliath for as long as anyone can remember goes bankrupt. Deprived of its economic engine, the town simply rolls over and dies while its inhabitants are left to face a very precarious future.
I give the author high marks for creating a realistic picture of a changing culture that has been destroying smaller towns in the U.S. for 20-30 years without much notice. The death of rural America has been a sad outcome of the country's recent economic history.
Certainly, on one level, Goliath is about the demise of a small southern village. On another level, though, the book is about human relationships. Almost the entire framework of this book is structured around the relationships of various townspeople to one another. Interestingly, the word "love" rarely appears which is too often the way we think about relationships in books. Instead, the author describes characters who must work through the many and varied problems that people face each day in interacting with one another. This book does not ask the simplistic question: "Will they fall in love?" Rather, it wants the reader to consider: "How will these characters manage to coexist with the people who have become a part of their lives?" Because such relationships can be so challenging, Goliath is filled with individuals who suffer from their own particular brand of arrested development.
The central character in Goliath is Rosamond Rogers who must deal with her platonic admiration/affection for her long-time boss, the president of the furniture factory who commits suicide as the book begins. Her fondness and respect for this man color her relationships with a former husband (who abandoned her 15 years earlier for reasons that remain clouded until the end), a previous suitor whose children forced him to marry another, a widowed neighbor who watches over her, and her own daughter (Agnes) who has dropped out of college to do virtually nothing. Likewise, Agnes struggles with her own relationship issues: a boy-husband whom she "married" in college in a common law ceremony under a tree and a gentle street pastor who wants to be part of her life. In each of these relationships, we probably know how we think they should turn out but (as in life) the author rarely leads us to easy resolutions.
A parallel story in Goliath tells of the young boy who first finds the dead body of the company president and the alienation from society that he feels after the discovery. Following the trauma of seeing the dead man, he struggles with the relationship to his parents and to a disturbing (but exciting) young girl in his class at school.
Goliath has a leisurely pace that mirrors the rural Southern lifestyle that the book portrays. Woodring can be a bit wordy at times but, in the end, the reader comes to know and understand (and care for) the characters that form this story. These are rarely happy individuals but they do their best each day to deal with the hands that life has dealt them. Isn't that what a lot of life is about?
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