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A death in the family by James Agee

A death in the family (original 1957; edition 1969)

by James Agee

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Title:A death in the family
Authors:James Agee
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A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957)


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Pultizer Prize winner
Slow Read — beautiful writing

As Jay Follet hurries back to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, he is killed in a car accident--a tragedy that destroys not only a life but also the domestic happiness and contentment of a young family. A novel of great courage, lyric force, and powerful emotion, A Death in the Family is a masterpiece of American literature.
  christinejoseph | Jun 19, 2017 |
Shouldn't I love a Pulitzer Prize winning book? I can understand the grief of this family that lost its husband/father/child because he seems a genuinely nice man. Unfortunately, I don't like anyone else nearly as well. This book centered on grief didn't affect me nearly as much as, say, Joan Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking." ( )
  LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
In beautiful lyrical writing the story examines the emotions and thoughts after a death in the family. Jay Follet is called to see his father who is ill. On his return journey to his wife Mary and children, he is killed in a car crash.

Early in the story Jay and Mary's son Rufus asks excellent, but difficult to answer questions about death, heaven and God. "Will the cat be in heaven too? And the rabbits? Will they still be all bloody?" In a way, it was a childish version of what the adults would consider later, when they were trying to come to terms with Jay's death. Agee describes so well the literal way that children react to death. Although the pacing is slow as events are described in excruciating detail, the beautiful writing keeps this book engaging. ( )
3 vote VivienneR | Jul 18, 2016 |
A Death in the Family reveals the plot in it's title. It premise is simple: A father dies and the family deals with his death. The difficult part is telling the children, and so it goes on...
The prose by James Agee is poetic and startling in it's ability to stir emotions and describe the beauty of it's time and place. I was moved by his writing.
I was not moved, however, by the plot as I had anticipated. I was more emotional while reading A Year of Magical Thinking. James Agee's book felt dated in some ways, and I had difficulties relating to Mary and her grief. I felt much more connected to Rufus, and felt strongly the relationship he had with his father. 3 stars is all I have for this at the moment. Maybe 4 if I was just rating his writing, which was beautiful. ( )
1 vote bpeters65 | Jul 16, 2016 |
'nobody that ever lived is specially privileged; the axe can fall at any moment on any neck'
By sally tarbox on 3 April 2013
Format: Paperback
A heartbreaking work about the first few days after a death, from the point of view of a wife and her two small children.
For the first third of the book, Agee lets us into normal family life prior to the accident. The reader is constantly aware of the dreaded axe about to fall, and as good natured father Jay is called out in the middle of the night to visit his own sick father, the reader is aware of hints and symbols:
"It was just nearing daybreak when he came to the river; he had to rap several times on the window of the little shanty before the ferryman awoke."
The uncertainty in the immediate aftermath ;the confusion in the children's minds; religious dissent between family members (as their deeply Catholic mother struggles to maintain her faith: ' "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory", she said with almost vindictive certitude.')
Wonderfully written and with hope amid the tragedy... ( )
1 vote starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
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We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine with "A death in the family : a restoration of the author's text"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375701230, Paperback)

Forty years after its original publication, James Agee's last novel seems, more than ever, an American classic. For in his lyrical, sorrowful account of a man's death and its impact on his family, Agee painstakingly created a small world of domestic happiness and then showed how quickly and casually it could be destroyed.

On a sultry summer night in 1915, Jay Follet leaves his house in Knoxville, Tennessee, to tend to his father, whom he believes is dying. The summons turns out to be a false alarm, but on his way back to his family, Jay has a car accident and is killed instantly. Dancing back and forth in time and braiding the viewpoints of Jay's wife, brother, and young son, Rufus, Agee creates an overwhelmingly powerful novel of innocence, tenderness, and loss that should be read aloud for the sheer music of its prose.

"An utterly individual and original book...one of the most deeply worked out expressions of human feeling that I have ever read."--Alfred Kazin, New York Times Book Review

"It is, in the full sense, poetry....The language of the book, at once luminous and discreet...remains in the mind."--New Republic

"People I know who read A Death in the Family forty years ago still talk about it. So do I. It is a great book, and I'm happy to see it done anew."--Andre Dubus, author of Dancing After Hours and Meditations From A Moveable Chair

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:21 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

On a sultry summer night in 1915, Jay Follet leaves his house in Knoxville, Tennessee, to tend to his father, whom he believes is dying. The summons turns out to be a false alarm, but on his way back to his family, Jay has a car accident and is killed instantly, leaving his wife, brother, and young son to deal with his sudden death.… (more)

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