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Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed…
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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

by Ed Tarkington

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1222398,704 (3.9)2
  1. 10
    My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (achedglin)
    achedglin: Both are well-written Southern gothic bildungsromans set roughly in the late 1980s. They both involve a central crime and betrayal of trust, but are both largely about community. They're not exactly the same, but a fan of one will probably appreciate the other.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What’s it about . . .
This is mostly a coming-of-age-story set in Spencerville, Virginia, in the 1970s. The story goes on to span a lifetime including lots of family drama, small town entanglements, and a mystery.

Our narrator is eight-year-old Rocky Askew. He adores his older half-brother, Paul, a rebellious teen with a cool car and a hot girlfriend. One day Paul disappears with his girlfriend and doesn’t return for seven years. During that time Rocky becomes a teenager and begins his journey toward adulthood, but never forgets about Paul.

What did I think . . ..
This is a nostalgic read for those of us who grew up in the 70s. There are many cultural references and Neil Young songs are mentioned often. But even if one can’t relate to the times, the book is well-written, very readable, and with a host of interesting, although often troubled, characters. There was a lot going on, sometimes too much, but still a worthwhile read.

Audio production . . ..
I listened to the audio book which was narrated by Peter Berkrot. His performance was very enjoyable and a pleasure to listen to with excellent pacing good character vocals. ( )
  UnderMyAppleTree | Feb 27, 2017 |
This book grabbed me, pretty much from the beginning. Rocky is a young boy who idolizes his cool older brother, even when it seems like things aren’t going so well for him. Even when he abandons Rocky in the woods. Even when he disappears, his high school girlfriend along for the ride.

Rocky is left to grow up in his small Virginia town without him, with his aging father and young mother, and some neighbors that he is a little too curious about. Especially the daughter, who is definitely too old for the teenager.

And then there’s the murder. And that’s when my spidey sense began to tingle.

The further I read, the more I realized the inspiration for Tarkington’s debut novel. The bones of the mystery belong to a well known murder case in Bedford County, Virginia. I won’t go into more specifics, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone that doesn’t want to be spoiled. But the deeper I got into it, the more I recognized it, thanks to being a bit of a true crime TV junkie. And even though I was then able to figure out the secret, I wasn’t upset at all. Frankly, I was tickled that I recognized it, and I’m rather surprised I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other reviews of the book.

But regardless of the spark of inspiration, this was a solid novel. Music fans will pick up on a lot of references, but everyone else can just enjoy a story that at its core is about family and the unbreakable bonds it can create. ( )
  miyurose | Feb 1, 2017 |
Teenagers are both fragile and bristly. Touched the wrong way, the bars come up, a better attempt, the gentle emerges.
Paul is a teenager and takes his eight year old brother into the woods and almost abandons him.
Almost doesn't really undue a story, as we know from folk and fairy tales where the near rescue or near disaster still carries the sting of horror. Still, a brother worshiped is not immediately undone even by this act. Years, a disappearance, and a few crimes later, family wounds will surface. This was an engaging book on cd in the car, with parents and teens, and then, disturbing and uncomfortable. The format made it difficult for me as a reader, I wished I had read it alone, pausing when I needed to, etc as dealing with the issues and story line when I wanted to. Over all, a well written book which inhabited VA in the 1970's and take the reader there for a disturbing ride. ( )
  plumcover3 | Oct 31, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I listened to this book on CD compliments of the publisher and LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I enjoyed this book a lot. I love Southern novels,coming of age books, and small town life books. This one hit all three. It made driving around quite enjoyable for several weeks! ( )
  Irishreader | Sep 6, 2016 |
This is that rare first novel that has no false steps. To be fair It is not the first novel Ed Tarkington wrote; it's the first one that got published. According to an article Tarkington wrote for lithub.com he actually wrote two more that were quite different from this one and they didn't find a buyer. Thank goodness he kept at it and I hope he is hard at work at another one.

The book starts out in 1977 in a small town in Virginia. Richard, called Rocky by his brother Paul, is seven years old and Paul issixteen. Paul is a bad boy or at least the good people of Spencerville think he is. This is how he and his friends are described on page 9: Especially among the good Episcopalians and Presbyterians of the Boone's Ferry neighborhood, Paul and Rayner Newcomb and their crew were symbols of menace, with their muscle cars blasting loud rock out the open windows, with their cigarettes and their unkempt hair and their insouciant contempt ...They threw beer parties when their parents were out of town. They parked their cars in empty lots and dead-end streets, drawing the less reckless but still hopelessly curious girls and boys to them like sailors to the Sirens' song. They picked fights and pulled pranks. They trespassed anywhere and often, mounting the roofs of tall buildingsand dangling perilously from trestle bridges. Invading construction sites and boarded-up houses, they plowed the fertile fields of former vestal virgins, leaving behind thier spent condoms and beer cans and cigarett butts like dogs marking trees.
I can just picture them; heck, I knew them although a little earlier than 1977. Rocky adores Paul and also has a crush on Paul's girlfriend, Leigh. Paul is actually Rocky's half-brother and when his mother dies in Akron Ohio when Paul is in first year university Paul goes a little crazy. He picks Rocky up at his school, drives to where Leigh is in university and tells Leigh he wants to take off out west with her and Rocky. Leigh convinces him to take Rocky home, promising to go with him if he does. That's the last Rocky sees of Paul for seven years. Leigh, however, returned home to Spencerville about seven months later. Richard (there's no-one left to call him Rocky) doesn't see her for years until one day she turns up riding a horse with the next-door neighbour, Patricia Culver. Turns out Leigh is marrying Patricia's brother. Richard starts working for the neighbours so he can see more of Leigh but he ends up seeing more of Patricia, lots more of Patricia. Richard is seduced by Patricia who is much older than he is and for weeks all he can think of is having sex with her. On the night before her wedding Leigh takes Richard on a long drive and tells him everything about the months she was away with Paul including the fact she had an abortion after she came home. She also tells him that she knows what he is doing with Patricia. Richard tells Patricia about Leigh's confession and Patricia makes sure the news spreads. The wedding goes on but is never finalized; Leigh has a breakdown at the altar and Richard's father has a stroke. After that Richard's life as he knew it crumbles and it seems like the Culvers are at the root of every bad thing. Paul returns home when he learns of his father's health and financial problems. He tells Rocky the Culvers will get theirs. When the Culvers are found murdered in their house with symbols of satanic abuse on the walls in their blood it seems that Paul was right. Does this mean Paul was involved in their murder? The police think so. Read the book to find out for sure.

If you are wondering about the title it is a quote from Neil Young's song. Young is a subliminal presence in this book. I wonder if Neil has read this. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 7, 2016 |
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Epigraph
How accidentally a fate is made...or how accidental it all may seem when it is inescapable. - Philip Roth
Dedication
For Elizabeth-Lee
--- and in memory of my father, Edward H. Tarkington Sr.
First words
Paul was my half brother.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 161620382X, Hardcover)

“A wonderful, beauty-haunted piece of work. Tarkington’s voice in his hard-to-put-down debut novel has a timeless feel to its cadences, the same bittersweet music we hear in the storytelling of the best of our Southern writers.” Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother Paul--sixteen and full of rebel cool, smoking cigarettes, driving around in his Nova blasting Neil Young--until the day Paul, in an act of vengeance against their father, picks Rocky up from school and nearly leaves him for dead in the woods. Paul then runs off with his beautiful, fragile girlfriend, never to be heard from again.

Seven years later Rocky is a teenager himself. Although he’s never forgotten the abandonment of his boyhood hero, he’s now getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors’ daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. But the affair sets off a sequence of events that bring ruin to both families.

In the spirit of Willie Morris, Tom Franklin, and Wiley Cash, this spellbinding debut draws you into a small-town American Gothic story of family fealty, scandal, and murder.

“This addictive tale of abandonment and forgiveness will haunt you long after you’ve turned the last page.” —Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

“An elegant bildungsroman . . . The plot turns along family strife, naked desire, and sometimes violent treachery, but at its core Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a love story that just might break your heart, too.” —Matt Bondurant, author of The Night Swimmer

“Funny, desperate, sad, tender, suspenseful, intelligent, insightful, and full of nothing but heart, heart, heart.” —George Singleton, author of Between Wrecks

 

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 29 Aug 2015 16:22:37 -0400)

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