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The Clearing (2003)
by Tim Gautreaux (Author)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375414746, Hardcover)In Tim Gautreaux's first novel, The Next Step in the Dance, the author staked a literary claim to Louisiana bayou country. In his second novel, The Clearing, he colonizes that claim. The atmosphere of the novel is humid and snake-infested, a swamp alive with mosquitoes and hungry alligators, stinkbugs and stench, flooding and freezing alternately. The setting provides a fitting backdrop for the bare subsistence lives of the people who live there.
The time is 1923, the place a family-owned mill, and the people a motley collection made up of a manager from Pennsylvania, his brother the constable, poor white and black loggers, three women, Sicilians, and polyglot Cajuns. Byron, the constable, a golden boy before the war, eldest son and heir apparent to a timber fortune, returned from France a damaged man, no longer interested in family or future. He drifted away from home and lost contact. When the novel begins, he has been found in this Louisiana backwater and his brother, Randolph, is dispatched to manage the family mill until the cypress forest is cleared and to bring Byron home. What happens to them in this hermetically sealed redoubt is a story of intense and forgiving brotherly love, as Randolph struggles to reclaim Byron and to maintain decency against formidable odds. They must deal with the Sicilians who own the gambling, liquor and women and will do anything to hang onto this franchise; the loggers who work and fight in equal part; and each other, not as the boys they were, but as the men they are.
You might learn more about old-time logging than you ever wanted to know, but the story is as compelling as Cold Mountain or All the Pretty Horses and just as well written. --Valerie Ryan
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:55 -0400)
Returning from the Great War a changed man, Byron Aldirdge drifts away from his privileged and charmed life to take a job as a constable in a remote Louisiana sawmill, while his younger brother, taking over management of the mill, struggles to understand him, in an atmospheric novel of the family, justice and obligation.
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