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Paperback The Clearing : A Novel Book

ISBN: 1400030536

ISBN13: 9781400030538

The Clearing : A Novel

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Book Overview

In his critically acclaimed new novel, Tim Gautreaux fashions a classic and unforgettable tale of two brothers struggling in a hostile world. In a lumber camp in the Louisiana cypress forest, a world of mud and stifling heat where men labor under back-breaking conditions, the Aldridge brothers try to repair a broken bond. Randolph Aldridge is the mill's manager, sent by his father--the mill owner--to reform both the damaged mill and his damaged older...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Thanks For Recommending This Book John!

This is a beautifully written novel set in the Louisiana Backwoods Bayou Country. Randolph Aldridge is a quest to save his brother in the mean world of alligators, swamps and hard working and hard drinking men who live for their next paycheck and the next shot of hard liquor.Upon his arrival he has to deal with primitive attitudes and a way of life that seems alien to most people who live in big cities. As far as I am concerned John Steinbeck owns Monterey and the Salinas Valley but Louissiana belongs to Tim Gautreaux.

brothers battle geography, memory and evil in bayou epic

In Tim Gautreaux' spellbinding novel, "The Clearing," Randolph Aldridge sets out to locate and reclaim his shell-shocked and spiritually lost older brother, Byron. Randolph's odyssey takes him not only to the most remote, primitive and violent region of Louisiana bayou virgin forest, but to the extremities of human nature as well. Randolph, the lumber mill manager, confronts an untouched geographic environment and must also face his worst fears: the primitive qualities of the human heart, an unalloyed fear of death, and his own capacity to comprehend vengeance and to exact it. In its exploration of the consequences of war, of good people's need to be just in the face of withering evil and of the human heart's capacity to love, "The Gathering" is nothing less than brilliant. In search of meaning and purpose, Randolph and Byron are equally lost souls. As the younger brother, Randolph struggles with his place in the family, and he chafes at his subterranean disappointment with his life. His acceptance of his father's demand that he discover the whereabouts of his older brother and be the means of his brother's redemption presents an opportunity to not only discover the definition of manhood, but to become one on his own terms. Randolph's actions, which ultimately involve his own liberation, create a genuine interdependence with Byron. It is Byron's existential despair that gives the novel its power. Ruined by the degradations of World War I, Byron has consciously sought to efface himself from his family and the nation which precipitated his emotional ruin. After reluctantly recounting but one horrific episode of his experiences in the trenches, Byron "stared down...and his face seemed like something carved by wind out of the side of a mountain." As a representative of the "Lost Generation," it is not surprising that Byron has chosen to enforce law and order on a population that, in Gautreaux' capable hands, appears incapable of civilized behavior. As a lawman, Byron's justice is swift, calculated and brutal. He offers no apologies but is fully aware of the human toll his work exacts. As events spiral out of control in the "The Clearing," Gautreaux requires his readers to consider whether good men can overcome the antagonistic influences of geography, post-trauma distress and humans' ability to inflict pain, suffering and disgrace on each other. The novel's deterministic fatalism contrasts sharply with the brothers' understated heroism, and it is this tension between light and dark, degradation and realization that makes the novel a riveting read. We face the "jaundiced anger" of battle-scarred World War I veterans and realize it is only the most delicate of lines which makes one man an amoral, vicious killer and another a despairing, driven lawman. Descriptions of the Louisiana cypress bayou are so meticulous and forbidding that we sweat sympathetically and our hearts palpitate in fear of primordial insects, snakes and alligators

An absolute knockout; harrowing and superbly written both

I can add little to what has already been contributed by the majority here except for my own enthusiasm for what was, for me, the best novel I've read in well over a year. I found the plot and conflicts riveting, the characters beautifully drawn and involving and the setting and atmosphere, first and foremost, almost overwhelming, the stuff of nightmares, which is offset by the sheer beauty of the writing.Towards the novel's end, Gautreaux describes the sound of a distant train whistle as that of the cry of "a white ibis caught in an alligator's jaws," a phrase that could well apply to THE CLEARING.A week on, I've yet to be able to stop thinking about it and have added it to a shelf of alltime favorites.

A Superb Storyteller's Latest Work

My favorite sentence: "The mill manager rose to wakefulness the way a Louisiana coffin pushes up out of the mud after a week-long rain." Mr. Gautreaux's cypress swamp and his characters ring true to me. His acknowledgements mention "several old men, now dead, who didn't know I was listening." I think he was listening very carefully, and am grateful for his reconstruction of this post-World War I backwoods sawmill.If truth is stranger than fiction, then this fiction is strange enough to be true. Gautreaux knows his characters thoroughly, even the bit players. Pay attention as you read. Little things happen constantly that, coupled with chance, eventually have enormous consequences. I recommend pausing at the end of each chapter to review what just happened. (It's enjoyable, easy reading, but i found myself being pulled along by the story's momentum faster than i could appreciate the subtleties.) At one point i wondered, now if Carl Hiaasen had a villain in this situation. . . Tim Gautreaux's world can be violent, and justice is not guaranteed.I have come to think of Tim Gautreaux's stories as somewhat unique among contemporary writing in having a moral or ethical dimension. I don't feel that he's preaching to me, but after reading one of his stories (including this novel), i often conclude that what kept a particular character from disaster was an inner moral compass, which let him make the better choice in a difficult place, without knowing why. Being a prude doesn't cut it; you have to shrug off imperfections in the other guy and yourself. But when life gets serious, you have to take a stand.As you'll see if you decide to read The Clearing, there are at least three social themes in the story. One or more may be of personal interest to you; if so there's enough detail in Gautreaux's characterizations to engage you. Alternatively, there's a rocking good story to carry you over the deeper issues, if you're reading mainly for entertainment.This may be a book you'll want to read twice.

A novel teaming with the hazards of the swamp

This novel takes place in the southwest Louisiana of the 1920s, a place at the very end of the virgin cypress era, a region no more tame than a sack plumb full of cottonmouth moccasins. In this tale, Tim Gautreaux's fourth book-length work of fiction, all of the innate wildness and danger of the cypress swamp comes full bore, like a reader's feast of unforgettable words. Two brothers, Byron and Randolph Aldridge, the sons of a Pennsylvania timber baron, go south for different reasons. Byron, a lawman in the fictional Nimbus, is fleeing his memory and his war-torn past, the skull-wrenching effects of World War I service. His younger brother attempts to bring Byron back to the family and to sanity. This attempt, coupled with the hazards of the swamp, crazed sawmill workers, corrupt marshals, and the liquor-running mob, is slowly fashioned into a beautiful piece of work.I will only mention Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses) in passing. Not mentioning McCarthy would be a mistake, for this book has the beautiful marks of McCarthy's influence on Gautreaux, and the language used throughout the story is at a level on par with McCarthy's inestimable prose. Ultimately, this is a novel about love and lust, place and period that only Gautreaux could write, now at the height of his powers as one of the South's greatest living authors.The Clearing had me involved in a cast of characters far beyond what I'm used to. Believe it or not, I read it on my honeymoon. This says less about me and more about the strength of Gautreaux's novel. A marvelous Louisiana story for our times. I highly recommend this novel.---------- Reviewed by Dayne Sherman
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