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East of Denver by Gregory Hill
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East of Denver (edition 2012)

by Gregory Hill

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4916238,224 (3.79)9
Member:Luciana43
Title:East of Denver
Authors:Gregory Hill
Info:Dutton Adult (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:2013
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Fiction*

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East of Denver by Gregory Hill

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F Hill
  coolmama | Nov 7, 2012 |
Many people will find this book relate to them in some way. Who hasn't lived with or known someone with dementia or alzheimer's and seen all sides of this insidious illness? The protagonist and sometimes narrator, Stacey "Shakespeare" Williams a.k.a. "Shakes," is on his way back from Denver to the old family farm and his father. A quirky cast of old high school friends come back into Shakes' life when he arrives too, both helping and hindering.

His father is living by himself and as Shakes will find out, no one is checking on him. Though he is remarkably able to fix almost anything and is very precise in engineering, he is likely to ask in the midst of putting together amazing pieces of equipment he invented in the past, "Why are we doing this?" Of course, recent memory is what goes first, the past is the present.

The book takes us through the humour and pathos of alzheimer’s...the brilliant flashes of recognition, the sad demise of the person you once knew. But as Gregory Hill demonstrates in this exceptional book, though occasionally crude yet more realistic because of it, he shows that there is still a person there, and we can still learn from him. Although the book is fiction, I feel that the adventure was real. Well, maybe not the airplane but it sure was fun. I identified with this book in so many ways, as I'm sure other readers will, too. Shakes has anosmia and describes it well. This hit a chord as I'm an anosmiac, too (read the book).

The ending is reminiscent of old slapstick movies like the Keystone Kops, or the Pink Panther, but satisfying in a way. Hilarious and gut-wrenching, very well-written story. Gregory Hill has taken to heart the old adage of "keep them guessing." ( )
  readerbynight | Sep 19, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Gregory Hill won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011.

Disclaimer: I grew up near the area where the story takes place.

Due to that fact, I was especially interested in reading this novel. I'd been disappointed in the past by books set in northeastern Colorado -- most notably, Kent Haruf's Plainsong (though I'm still willing to give his other books a chance.)

I was impressed, though, by East of Denver. There were still a few elements I didn't like that I won't go into; but overall, I enjoyed the book tremendously. I very much related to the themes of the book involving the decline of the family farm, which is intense and personal for people who are attached to these communities, and Hill captures that very well.

There are so many things I could go into that I felt were spot on: declining farming communities, the 'plight' of the people who have stayed there, and the struggle of dealing with aging parents or grandparents who were once the stalwarts of the family.

No question about it, I'm looking forward to reading Hill's next book about a rancher (and basketball?) that takes place in the same general setting as this novel.

If you have an interest in small town life or farming, I highly recommend this book. ( )
  1morechapter | Sep 8, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Gregory Hill's East of Denver is full of quirky characters and dark humor. Shakespeare Williams returns for a visit to his home in rural Colorado and finds his father suffering from dementia, the farm falling apart, and the housekeeper dead in the bathroom. He moves back to take care of his father and the farm to the best of his ability, which isn't quite enough. Through reading about Shakespeare's escapades, the reader gets glimpses into the man his father used to be and feels moments of lightheartedness when father and son embark on crazy projects together.There is a darkness that pervades the novel, however, as the bank circles in with its foreclosure plans, Shakespeare's paraplegic high school friend reveals the misery of his life, and his overweight girlfriend becomes anorexic trying to change her life. There's alcohol, softball, gardening, and nature all combined to paint an unexpected picture of survival in small town Colorado. ( )
  JGoto | Aug 31, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One reason I selected East of Denver as an Early Reviewer is because the main character's name is Shakespeare Williams. The other reason is he returns home to his dad's farm (east of Denver) to bury his dead cat and finds things amiss. Specifically his dad, Emmett, is suffering from senility and the farm is in shambles.

Shakespeare is a good kid so he decides to stick around and take care of his dad. They're both broke so they plant a vegetable garden to provide food for themselves. After all, Shakespeare's family has been farming since the Homestead Act. This was one of my favorite parts, just reading about them gardening and fixing up things around the farm.

The core of this story is Shakespeare trying to get his life in order while finding a way to care for his dad, and he is really good at thinking of silly solutions for a very complicated problem. At one point in the story Shakespeare decides to rob the bank with some old high school friends. It makes sense since the man who owns the bank used Emmett's senility against him to buy his Cessna for $20. But, you know, does robbing a bank really make sense?

Gregory Hill provides a lot of humor throughout the story, some of it dark. East of Denver is a good summer read for a few laughs and some pie in the sky moments. ( )
  PaperbackPirate | Aug 14, 2012 |
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Book description
When Shakespeare Williams returns to his family’s farm in eastern Colorado to bury his dead cat, he finds his widowed and senile father Emmett living in squalor. He has no money, the land is fallow, and a local banker has cheated his father out of the majority of the farm equipment and his beloved Cessna. With no job and no prospects, Shakespeare suddenly finds himself caretaker to both his dad and the farm, and drawn into an unlikely clique of old high school classmates: Vaughn Atkins, a paraplegic confined to his mother’s basement, Carissa McPhail, an overweight bank teller who pitches for the local softball team, and longtime bully D.J. Beckman, who now deals drugs throughout small-town Dorsey. Facing the loss of the farm, Shakespeare hatches a half-serious plot with his father and his fellow gang of misfits to rob the very bank that has stolen their future.

Mixing pathos and humor in equal measure, Gregory Hill’s East of Denver is an unflinching novel of rural America, a poignant, darkly funny tale about a father and son finding their way together as their home and livelihood inexorably disappears.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0525952799, Hardcover)

Lev Grossman Reviews East of Denver

Lev Grossman is the book critic for Time Magazine and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Magicians and The Magician King, and of the international bestseller Codex. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Read his review of Gregory Hill's East of Denver:

East of Denver is a slow burn, but by the end it’s burning hot: you’ll leave this book a little charred. It begins with Shakespeare Williams (never mind, it’s a long story) coming back to his hometown of Dorsey--a tiny agricultural flyspeck that is, yes, east of Denver--to take care of his father, Emmett, who’s in the process of succumbing to senility while the family farm falls down around his ears. Shakespeare has no job and no prospects. He spends much of his time tinkering with machinery and chatting with his demented dad, and their conversations are the heart of the book. They’re a comedy duo, part Laurel and Hardy, part Vladimir and Estragon. Emmett’s mind wanders as they talk, to the point where you think he’s lost the thread completely, then all of a sudden he zeroes back in and whops Shakespeare with a massive punch line. There’s black despair underlying every word they say, but it never overwhelms the humor.

Not much else goes on in Dorsey. When he’s not with his dad, Shakespeare hangs out with old friends from school, like Carissa (the world’s only fat anorexic) and Vaughn (a paraplegic), who are going nowhere about as fast as he is. (Nobody in Dorsey is in mint condition. Shakespeare himself is anosmic, meaning he has no sense of smell.) There’s only the barest ghost of a plot, involving Emmett’s failing finances, a quarter-serious plan for a bank heist, and a stolen plane, but the characters and the voices are so strong that a ghost is all the book needs. The losers chat, and the farm slowly gives in to entropy and goes dark, and you hang on every word. This is writing on a par with that of top-flight black-comic novelists like Sam Lipsyte and Jess Walter, and it deserves to be read. --Lev Grossman

(Photo © Elena Siebert)

Read more expert reviews of East of Denver

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Arriving at his family's farm in Eastern Colorado to discover his father's home in a terrible state because of the dishonest machinations of a corrupt banker, Shakespeare Williams falls in with former classmates in a plot to rob the bank that has cheated them.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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