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Gob's Griefby Chris Adrian
This story has everything ? Civil War heroics, survivor guilt, social history, the most believable rendition of Walt Whitman ever attempted in a novel, and an ending of 19th-century fantastical proportions I personally found quite refreshing. Truly, it's nice to see a writer of "literary fiction" employ fantasy to so much profit, and in a first novel, no less. I love this book for many reasons, one of which is for its originality, its pure and innovative voice, and the risks Adrian took. Chris Adrian is a medical student, but I hope, purely for selfish reasons, he has the good sense to give up the blade and take up the pen for more novels like this one.
Synopses & Reviews
When Chris Adrian's now classic short story, "Every Night for a Thousand Years," was published late in 1997 in the New Yorker, the readers of that magazine witnessed the flowering of an astonishing new voice. Now, four years later, Broadway Books is immensely proud to be publishing the novel that flowed from that unforgettable story.
Gob's Grief recounts the lives of Gob and Tomo Woodhull, fictional sons of Victoria Woodhull, the nineteenth-century protofeminist. In August 1863, eleven-year-old Tomo runs off to fight in the Civil War, during which he tragically takes a bullet in the eye and dies. Gob grows up in a profound state of grief, and by the time he's an adult studying to be a doctor in New York City, he has hatched an idea to build a machine that might bring Tomo — indeed, all the war dead — back to life. As Gob's obsessions deepen, we are taken from the battlefields at Chickamauga Creek to the society balls of New York; from innocent childhoods in Homer, Illinois, to the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Along the way we are presented with an astonishing cast of real and imagined characters: Walt Whitman, ministering lovingly to the Civil War wounded; Mrs. Woodhull and her sister Tennessee; Gob's love, Maci Trufant; and even the evil Urfeist, a figure who seems to float sinisterly between the living and the dead.
Both convincing in its portrayal of the collective madness America went through after the carnage of the Civil War and yet otherworldly in its discussion of grief and longing, Chris Adrian's novel is at once an announcement of a major talent and an extraordinary achievement in literary art. In short, Gob's Grief is destined to be seen as an instant classic in American fiction.
"[A] skillfully imagined first novel....The story is repeated from each new character's vantage...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." Publishers Weekly
"Highly imaginative, this is a 'large,' complex, thought-provoking work sure to arouse much discussion." Library Journal
"A masterpiece of retrospective mythology. Adrian hasn't just reimagined or reenacted this time of national crisis; he's managed to relive it through his characters." GQ
"Remarkable...utterly different. A work unlike any that has come before it." The Economist
"Impressive. So much more ambitious and profound than most contemporary American fiction." The Washington Post
In the summer of 1863, Gob and Tomo Woodhull, eleven-year-old twin sons of Victoria Woodhull, agree to together forsake their home and family in Licking County, Ohio, for the glories of the Union Army. But on the night of their departure for the war, Gob suffers a change of heart, and Tomo is forced to leave his brother behind. Tomo falls in as a bugler with the Ninth Ohio Volunteers and briefly revels in camp life; but when he is shot clean through the eye in his very first battle, Gob is left to endure the guilt and grief that will later come to fuel his obsession with building a vast machine that will bring Tomo-indeed, all the Civil War dead-back to life.
Epic in scope yet emotionally intimate, Gobs Grief creates a world both fantastic and familiar and populates it with characters who breath on the page, capturing the spirit of a fevered nation populated with lost brothers and lost souls.
About the Author
Chris Adrians fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Story and in Best American Short Stories. Currently a medical student, he lives in San Francisco.
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