After spending some time with Andy Weir on Mars (and after slogging through the weirdness of Still Life with Woodpecker), I wanted to read something a bit more mundane. I’d never heard of The Long Home or William Gay, but Goodreads thought I’d like it since I love Larry Brown and the library happened to have a copy, so I jumped in.
And it was so good.
Also: very like Larry Brown in subject matter, though not in style. It’s like Larry Brown went literary. I’ll stop talking about Larry Brown now.
The Long Home is set in 1940s Tennessee. It begins with a flashback to ten years before: Dallas Hardin has taken over a sick man’s home (and his wife and daughter). He gets into an argument with a man named Nathan Winer, kills him, and dumps him into a pit next to his house. Ten years later, Winer’s son is a teenager and doesn’t know what happened. He ends up working for Hardin, building a speakeasy of sorts. The younger Winer falls in love with the sick man’s daughter and tries to rescue her from Hardin. Meanwhile, he befriends an old man named William Tell Oliver, who knows what happened but doesn’t want to tell anyone. Things happen. It’s a complex plot.
It’s such a good novel. I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of William Gay before, but I guess it’s because at some point when I was in college, I decided that I hated Southern lit, and I avoided it until a year or two ago. Ahhh, dumb youth. The Long Home is a great example of contemporary Southern lit and reminds me of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. I’ll be reading Gay’s other books in short order. Of course, like almost every author I decide I like, he only published a small handful of novels, and he died a few years ago. So it goes.
If you don’t have an arbitrary hatred of Southern lit (or are ready to get over it), you should give William Gay a try. The Long Home is definitely worth a read.
As a side note, this novel reminds me of this song (specifically, this version of this song):