The Clearing

The Clearing

Book - 2003
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In the years before World War I, Byron Aldridge led a charmed life as the charismatic heir apparent to a Pennsylvania timber empire; and to his younger brother, Randolph, he was both guide and idol. But he returned from France a different man and was not home long before those festering memories sent him drifting from one settlement to another, working as a lawman, and then disappearing altogether. Finally his family discovers him in a remote Louisiana mill town, promptly buys the property, and puts Randolph in charge of this place unlike any he has ever seen, where men are surrounded by cypress swamps and menace, leading lives of ceaseless, backbreaking toil punctuated only by the brutal entertainments provided by the Sicilians who control the whiskey and card games and girls, and by the rough justice meted out by the still-tormented Byron. Randolph struggles to understand him, and to regain his trust, even as their wives presently contend with their own hopes and disappointments and while the future grows uncertain yet fearsome all around them. This is a story about family, about marriage, about what sustains people through loss; it is a reckoning of the sacrifices they must make in order to establish a community in the deepest wilderness, and to defend what is most precious to them. Palpably atmospheric, with a remarkable range of characters and emotions,The Clearingdisplays more powerfully than ever before Tim Gautreaux's masterful understanding of time, place, and human nature.
Publisher: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2003.
ISBN: 9780375414749
Branch Call Number: GAUTR
Characteristics: 305 p. ; 25 cm.


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Nov 27, 2017

The setting: The early 1920's; a waterlogged, steamy, snake-infested lumber mill in the center of old-growth cypress forest in Louisiana. Less than 100 miles from New Orleans by way of a sagging spur-line railway, but it but might as well be on another continent. A place so economically and socially isolated from the rest of North American civilization that lawlessness, brutality and drunkenness completely overwhelm everyone living there.
The Players: A severely PTSD stricken veteran of WW1; the earnest, Pittsburgh raised younger brother sent to operate the mill and rescue him from his tortured dissolution; the hardy women who have followed such men into the forest; the gamblers, whores, pimps and bootleggers who feed on the men who toil in this hellish environment.
Add to all this the overhanging menace of a criminal organization that operates according to its own vindictive code, where there are no limits to the depraved tactics they may employ to gain ascendancy or exact vengeance when their power is challenged.
All of that together, presented in strong, nearly cinematic language adds up to a great book.

Sep 21, 2014

Beautifully written. The author places you right into the setting and balances this with insight into the emotions of the characters. I like the masculine feel of the story combined with the emotional sensibility of a more feminine novel... if that makes sense. This is a book that flows so smoothly I consciously slowed down my reading at toward the end to try to make it last longer.

Mar 17, 2014

SPL needs e-book or large print of this book.

Jan 23, 2014

A remarkable novel that manages to combine beautiful writing, compelling atmosphere, and a plot that could hold its own with any thriller. We are pulled into a world where life, especially black life, is cheap, where wounds from the Civil War sting as much as those of the just-concluded First World War, and where casual cruelty and an odd nobility fight for the upper hand. My first novel by Tim Gautreaux and I will definitely read others.

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