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Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
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Work Like Any Other

by Virginia Reeves

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Easily one of the best novels I've read this year. Roscoe is a complicated, believable character and he made the book for me. I'm not sure I entirely buy the conclusion, which felt a bit neat to me, but that is just a quibble. The writing is so good and the characters so well-drawn that I could hardly put the novel down. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I had trouble getting started in this novel and I kept putting it down each time I would start reading it. I am happy to report that the last third of the novel redeemed it - somewhat. The main characters remained unsympathetic until it was almost to late to make a difference for me, and some of them remained that way to the end. I do not think that the author did a good job of helping the reader to understand what motivated them. For that reason, I have trouble figuring out why this novel was nominated for a Booker Prize. It was a good enough novel but I certainly didn’t think it wa of the caliber to make it onto the Booker Longlist. I have to wonder what the committee was thinking when they added it to this 2016 list. The ending was satasifying but I am not sure that makes up for the muddle in the middle of the novel. ( )
  benitastrnad | Apr 29, 2018 |
Written in spare, honest, and straight-forward language, this book held my interest in the beginning and the end, but I almost put it down in the middle section. I'm glad I kept at it, though, as I felt it was well written and authentic in its emotions. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Nov 10, 2017 |
Roscoe and his wife Marie live with their child on a failing farm in rural Alabama in the 1920's. Roscoe is obsessed with electricity, and dreams of electrifying the farm, which he believes will make it more profitable. Without authority, he, with the assistance of the black farmhand Wilson, attaches the farm to electrical lines and begins siphoning off electricity. And for a while, the fortunes of the farm turn around miraculously. When Roscoe's theft of electricity is discovered as the result of a tragic accident, Roscoe and Wilson are arrested. Roscoe spends the next 20 years in prison. Marie and his son never visit, seemingly abandoning him. Nevertheless, Roscoe dreams of his future release and returning to Marie.

This novel had some interesting aspects. There were lots of discussions of rural electrification, and for the most part the depiction of life in the rural south in the 1920s/30s feels authentic. The difference in the penal treatment of Roscoe (white) and Wilson (Black) was egregious. However, I found the depiction of the relationship between Roscoe's family, particularly Marie, and Wilson's family to be extremely unrealistic for its time and place.

This book was long listed for the 2016 Booker.

2 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Sep 21, 2017 |
This book was easy to read, but lacking in depth.... or at least I thought so. This book resulted in the longest, most interesting book club discussion we have had in the 9 year history of our club. I gained a new appreciation for the characters and complexity of the story through our talk; and, after reading hundreds of books, I think this is one of those that I will continue to remember for years to come. ( )
  FoxTribeMama | Aug 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Reeves is a fine wrangler of words, able to snake sentences of slithery charisma in and around each other. This is especially true in her depictions of time and place: her settings and the people in them stand firm and vivid in the mind’s eye — a room in the farmhouse will surround you, the clanks and cries of the jail will reverberate clearly. In its finest moments you are learning from the inside out, not just the outside in.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Australian, Sam Cooney (Apr 9, 2016)
 
A tale of guilt and redemption set in 1920s Alabama.

This is the story of Roscoe T Martin and the death that transforms his life. An electrician by trade, Roscoe is frustrated by life on the failing farm his wife inherited from her father. Roscoe decides that he can save the farm—and himself—by running power lines to his family’s property and its machinery. The farm does prosper for a time, but the reader knows from the novel’s opening line that this scheme will end in tragedy.

Elegant to a fault. Lacking in heart.
added by kidzdoc | editKirkus Reviews (Dec 21, 2015)
 
When you’re on the last few pages of a book and find yourself longing for more, then you know that it is a very powerful read. Such is the case with Work Like Any Other. Author Virginia Reeves has delivered a commanding, dramatic novel of life in 1920s Alabama, inside a family torn apart by anger, resentment, shame, guilt, and desire.

This is a deeply gripping portrayal of Americana in the Deep South, replete with racism, violence, and heartbreak. It is astonishingly well-written, particularly for a debut novel. Reeves delivers powerful heartrending scenes of despair and hope. The reader is immersed within a family torn apart by guilt, yet connected by an undercurrent of love. Reeves paints magnificent scenes with expressive and direct language. Her characters are well thought out and deeply permeated with emotion.
 
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Epigraph
Alabama does not mean "Here we rest." It never did.

— Mrs L.B. Bush, from "A Decade of Progress in Alabama," 1924
Kilby Prison marks the impending transfer of the State of Alabama from the rear ranks of prison management to the front ranks. Alabama is following the example of the State of New York and the State of Virginia in establishing a central distributing prison to which prisoners will be sent immediately upon their conviction, and where they will receive: first, a thorough study of their history; second, a most thorough examination, mental and physical, by trained experts; third, a thorough course of treatment to remove any remedial defects; fourth, assignment to that prison and employment for which the convict is best adapted; and fifth, a systematic course of reformatory treatment and training, in order that the prisoner may be restored to society, if possible, a self-respecting, upright, useful and productive citizen.

— Hastings H. Hart, from Social Progress of Alabama, 1922
Dedication
For my grandmother, Theresa Reeves
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The electrical transformers that would one day kill George Haskin sat high on a pole about ten yards off the northeast corner of the farm where Roscoe T Martin lived with his family.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 150111249X, Hardcover)

In this astonishingly accomplished, morally complicated, “exceptional and starkly beautiful debut” (Kevin Powers, National Book Award–nominated author of The Yellow Birds), a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama struggles to overcome past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter.

Roscoe T Martin set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the twentieth century: electricity. It became his training, his life’s work. But when his wife, Marie, inherits her father’s failing farm, Roscoe has to give up his livelihood, with great cost to his sense of self, his marriage, and his family. Realizing he might lose them all if he doesn’t do something, he begins to use his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness. Even the love of Marie and their child seem back within Roscoe’s grasp.

Then a young man working for the state power company stumbles on Roscoe’s illegal lines and is electrocuted, and everything changes: Roscoe is arrested; the farm once more starts to deteriorate; and Marie abandons her husband, leaving him to face his twenty-year sentence alone. Now an unmoored Roscoe must carve out a place at Kilby Prison. Climbing the ranks of the incarcerated from dairy hand to librarian to “dog boy,” an inmate who helps the guards track down escapees, he is ultimately forced to ask himself once more if his work is just that, or if the price of his crimes—for him and his family—is greater than he ever let himself believe.

Gorgeously spare and brilliantly insightful, Work Like Any Other is “a striking debut about love and redemption, the heavy burdens of family and guilt, and learning how to escape them…Virginia Reeves is a major new talent” (Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of The Son).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:10:41 -0400)

"In this astonishingly accomplished, morally complicated, "exceptional and starkly beautiful debut" (Kevin Powers, National Book Award-nominated author of The Yellow Birds), a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama struggles to overcome past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter. Roscoe T Martin set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the twentieth century: electricity. It became his training, his life's work. But when his wife, Marie, inherits her father's failing farm, Roscoe has to give up his livelihood, with great cost to his sense of self, his marriage, and his family. Realizing he might lose them all if he doesn't do something, he begins to use his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness. Even the love of Marie and their child seem back within Roscoe's grasp. Then a young man working for the state power company stumbles on Roscoe's illegal lines and is electrocuted, and everything changes: Roscoe is arrested; the farm once more starts to deteriorate; and Marie abandons her husband, leaving him to face his twenty-year sentence alone. Now an unmoored Roscoe must carve out a place at Kilby Prison. Climbing the ranks of the incarcerated from dairy hand to librarian to "dog boy," an inmate who helps the guards track down escapees, he is ultimately forced to ask himself once more if his work is just that, or if the price of his crimes--for him and his family--is greater than he ever let himself believe. Gorgeously spare and brilliantly insightful, Work Like Any Other is "a striking debut about love and redemption, the heavy burdens of family and guilt, and learning how to escape them ... Virginia Reeves is a major new talent" (Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of The Son)"-- "A starkly beautiful, morally complicated and astonishingly accomplished debut set in 1920s rural Alabama following Roscoe T. Martin, a prideful electrician sent to prison after his illegal siphoning of electrical state power for his wife's family's farm leads to an innocent man's death"--… (more)

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