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Preston Falls: A Novel

by David Gates

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208495,067 (3.61)7
"Beautifully written.... Gates [has a] pitch-perfect ear for contemporary speech...and...[a] keen, journalistic eye."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times In this comic, fiercely compassionate novel, David Gates, whose first novel Jernigan was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, sends his protagonist on a visceral journey to the dark side of suburban masculinity, explores the claims youth makes on middle age, and the tenacious --at times perverse--power of love to assert itself. When Doug Willis has a mid-life crisis, he doesn't join a gym or have an affair. Instead he gets himself arrested while camping with his wife and kids, takes a two month leave of absence from his PR job, and retreats to his farmhouse in rural Preston Falls--where he plugs in his guitar and tries to shut out his life. While his wife, Jean, struggles to pay the bills and raise their sullen, skeptical kids, Willis's plans for hiatus crumble into Dewars-and-cocaine fueled disarray. A shattered window, an unguarded gun, and a shady small town attorney force a crisis--and Willis can't go home again. With its biting humor and harsh realism, Preston Falls confirms David Gates as a talent in the tradition of Russell Banks and Richard Ford: a master of dark truths and private longings.… (more)

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Showing 3 of 3
This is a book for the Jonathan Franzen and Richard Yates lovers amongst us. Willis, the protagonist, is having some sort of midlife crisis. He doesn't exactly know what's making him unhappy or what will actually make him happy, but he's taken a 2 month sabbatical from his PR job in NYC to figure it out. By himself.

The book opens with his family joining him at their second home in backwoods Preston Falls for the Labor Day long weekend which will kick off his sabbatical. Despite being on the cusp of having two months pretty much by himself up there, Willis is at snapping point with everyone and everything, and he's done with pretending otherwise. Meanwhile his wife is reaching the end of her tether with his absolute selfishness and total lack of regard for their marriage or sense of responsibility for the children. When a snap reaction results in Willis winding up in the county jail, the gulf in their marriage becomes an ocean, and the delicate balance of their relationship reaches tipping point as Willis' hits the turbo on his me-me-me mode.

This was a fabulous read, and will probably end up one of my favourite books of the year. David Gates ratchets up the tension fantastically about what's going to happen next to Willis and to the marriage. He's out of control and undeserving of all the good things he has in his life, yet somehow we still root for him to get his sh*t together and do the right thing.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy good ole American family / relationship angst novels.

4.5 stars - it lost steam a little towards the end right when it counted, but otherwise this was a brilliant page-turner. ( )
  AlisonY | Nov 1, 2019 |
An outstanding start - perfectly paced, beautifully written with a story developing nicely without getting too far fetched for the first two parts of this book. Then when it changes to the wife's perspective, it begins to drag and moves away from Doug and more on to the two (annoying) children. At least 50 pages too long this section,and whilst just as well written, removing Doug out of the equation derails the narrative. The final part, bringing everything to a conclusion feels rushed and not almost fully believable in the context of everything else, especially as the first half of the book was so faultless. I would still recommend however, and will be investigating the author's other works. ( )
  Ignatius777 | Aug 3, 2019 |
Is there a word for something which is one notch down from a masterpiece?

I reserve the M-word for a small handful of books that I have genuinely found to be life-changing, or which blew me away to such an extent that I still need to take deep breaths when thinking of them.

Preston Falls isn't quite that good, but it is bloody close.

Like Charles Baxter, Kent Haruf, Richard Yates and Anne Tyler, David Gates is able to capture the honest frustration and tragedy of a relationship in a few short words. He flits between male and female perspectives with ease and is equally convincing with both. I have had this book on my shelves for about five years or so and am kicking myself for leaving it so long to read it. I was a fool to do so.

Doug Willis is approaching 50 and is bored with his marriage and fed up with his kids. Funnily enough, his wife Jean has more or less had enough of him and the two children are too busy being vegetarian and a problem child to care less. So when Doug decides to spend a two month sabbatical at their summer home out in the sticks it seems to suit just about everybody. Until, that is, Doug gets arrested and finds himself involved in a small town drugs ring. Things really are going tits up.

Preston Falls is painfully well-observed, especially when it comes to those cruel inner thoughts we have about the ones we love but never dare utter out loud. Gates latches on to the harshness of ordinary lives, that ever-present sense of failure and paranoia, but does so with a glint in his eye. This stuff hurts as it is so recognisable, but it is funny too.

I now want to read everything he has written, always the highest praise I can have for a writer, although that only extends to one more novel and a collection of stories which I must confess I am a little disappointed about. ( )
  scottpack | Feb 18, 2008 |
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"Beautifully written.... Gates [has a] pitch-perfect ear for contemporary speech...and...[a] keen, journalistic eye."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times In this comic, fiercely compassionate novel, David Gates, whose first novel Jernigan was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, sends his protagonist on a visceral journey to the dark side of suburban masculinity, explores the claims youth makes on middle age, and the tenacious --at times perverse--power of love to assert itself. When Doug Willis has a mid-life crisis, he doesn't join a gym or have an affair. Instead he gets himself arrested while camping with his wife and kids, takes a two month leave of absence from his PR job, and retreats to his farmhouse in rural Preston Falls--where he plugs in his guitar and tries to shut out his life. While his wife, Jean, struggles to pay the bills and raise their sullen, skeptical kids, Willis's plans for hiatus crumble into Dewars-and-cocaine fueled disarray. A shattered window, an unguarded gun, and a shady small town attorney force a crisis--and Willis can't go home again. With its biting humor and harsh realism, Preston Falls confirms David Gates as a talent in the tradition of Russell Banks and Richard Ford: a master of dark truths and private longings.

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