Gift Guide

Gob's Grief

( 8 )


In the summer of 1863, Gob and Tomo Woodhull, eleven-year-old twin sons of Victoria Woodhull, agree to together forsake their home and family in Licking County, Ohio, for the glories of the Union Army. But on the night of their departure for the war, Gob suffers a change of heart, and Tomo is forced to leave his brother behind. Tomo falls in as a bugler with the Ninth Ohio Volunteers and briefly revels in camp life; but when he is shot clean through the eye in his very first battle, Gob is left to endure the ...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.74 price
(Save 18%)$16.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (45) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $9.46   
  • Used (40) from $1.99   
Gob's Grief

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99 price


In the summer of 1863, Gob and Tomo Woodhull, eleven-year-old twin sons of Victoria Woodhull, agree to together forsake their home and family in Licking County, Ohio, for the glories of the Union Army. But on the night of their departure for the war, Gob suffers a change of heart, and Tomo is forced to leave his brother behind. Tomo falls in as a bugler with the Ninth Ohio Volunteers and briefly revels in camp life; but when he is shot clean through the eye in his very first battle, Gob is left to endure the guilt and grief that will later come to fuel his obsession with building a vast machine that will bring Tomo–indeed, all the Civil War dead–back to life.
Epic in scope yet emotionally intimate, Gob’s Grief creates a world both fantastic and familiar and populates it with characters who breath on the page, capturing the spirit of a fevered nation populated with lost brothers and lost souls.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Impressive…. So much more ambitious and profound than most contemporary American fiction.” –The Washington Post

“A masterpiece of retrospective mythology…. Adrian hasn’t just reimagined or reenacted this time of national crisis; he’s managed to relive it through his characters.”–Walter Kirn, GQ

“Remarkable…. Utterly different. A work unlike any that has come before it.”–The Economist

“Unlike many first time novelists, Adrian takes great risks here. He brings to life scores of historical figures, from Walt Whitman to Abe Lincoln, with a startling ease and grace. More remarkable, however, is his ability to inspire sympathy for–even faith in–Gob’s mission.” –Time Out New York

“Remarkable . . . utterly different. A work unlike any that has come before it.” –The Economist

Dennis Drabelle many things in Gob's Grief are so well done -- and the novel is so much more ambitious and profound than most contemporary American fiction -- that it deserves to be read, and book groups will have a field day discussing it.
Washington Post
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Blending history and fiction in the tradition of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, this skillfully imagined first novel follows Walt Whitman as the poet unwittingly aids the son of early radical feminist Victoria Woodhull in constructing a machine to bring back the Civil War dead; indeed, to abolish death altogether. While he is mourning a young soldier who dies in his care, Walt is directed by a message from the dead man to befriend Victoria's son, Dr. George Washington Woodhull, better known as Gob, on a stagecoach in 1868. In 1863, Gob's twin brother, Tomo, ran away to war and was killed. Wracked by guilt at having let his brother go off alone, Gob strikes a bargain with "a mad hedge wizard" known as the Urfeist, who agrees to teach Gob to "defeat death." Will Fie, who has also lost a brother, is compelled by restless spirits to join Gob's cause; wild boy Pickie Beecher, the first product of Gob's labors, calls the machine his brother; Gob's love, Maci Trufant, receives scribbled pleas from her own dead brother, who has seized control of her left hand. The story is repeated from each new character's vantage--gentle, disbelieving Walt is the most sympathetically crafted narrator--and though this allows for an admirably meticulous plot, it hampers the pacing and distances the reader from the difficult, unusual characters. Much like Gob's creation, the novel is a collection of fabulous parts in need of a heart to power them, yet impressing as a flight of fancy. (Jan. 16) FYI: "Every Night for a Thousand Years," the New Yorker story from which this novel stemmed, was anthologized in Best American Short Stories 1998. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Adrian's novel was reborn from a story that first appeared in The New Yorker in 1997, just as in the novel itself an 11-year-old bugler, Tomo, killed during the battle of Chickamauga, is reborn from a machine designed by his grief-stricken twin brother, Gob, in the years following the Civil War. It is difficult to categorize this fantastical tale of the obsession, longing, and madness that comes with war and its aftermath. Gob and Tomo are the fictional sons of a real woman, 19th-century suffragette Victoria Woodhull, who is fairly rendered. Yet for all the accuracy, this is anything but a historical novel. As indicated earlier, its basic premise involves the construction of a machine to bring back the Civil War dead. The blurring of the lines between reality and madness is made most abundantly clear in the story of Maci Trufant, Gob's love, who also lost a brother to the war. Her left hand becomes a vehicle through which he speaks, while her right hand continues to write speeches for Woodhull. Highly imaginative, this is a "large," complex, thought-provoking work sure to arouse much discussion. Most public libraries will want at least one copy, as will academic libraries collecting new and/or experimental fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/00.]--David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
John Freeman
A soulful, searching literary debut...Unlike many first time novelists, Adrian takes great risks here. He brings to life scores of historical figures, from Walt Whitman to Abe Linconl, with a startling ease and grace. More remarkable, however, is his ability to inspire sympathy for—even faith in—Gob's mission. It is a testament to Adrian's powers as a writer that we finish this story crushed anew by the knowledge that we can never truly revive our lost ones.
Time Out New York
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375726248
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/12/2002
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 976,077
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Adrian’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Story and in Best American Short Stories. Currently a medical student, he lives in San Francisco.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


Walt dreamed his brother's death at Fredericksburg. General Burnside, appearing as an angel at the foot of his bed, announced the tragedy: "The army regrets to inform you that your brother, George Washington Whitman, was shot in the head by a lewd fellow from Charleston." The general alit on the bedpost and drew his dark wings close about him, as if to console himself. Moonlight limned his strange whiskers and his hair. His voice shook as he went on. "Such a beautiful boy. I held him in my arms while his life bled out. See? His blood made this spot." He pointed at his breast, where a dark stain in the shape of a bird lay on the blue wool. "I am so very sorry," the General said, choking and weeping. Tears fell in streams from his eyes, ran over the bed and out the window, where they joined the Rappahannock, which had somehow come north to flow through Brooklyn, bearing the bodies of all the late battle's dead.

In the morning Walt read the wounded list in the Tribune. There it was: "First Lieutenant G. W. Whitmore." He knew from George's letters that there was nobody named Whitmore in the company. He walked through snow to his mother's house. "I'll go and find him," he told her.

Washington, Walt quickly discovered, had become a city of hospitals. He looked in half of them before a cadaverous-looking clerk told him he'd be better off looking at Falmouth, where most of the Fredericksburg wounded still lay in field hospitals. He got himself on a government boat that ran down to the landing at Aquia Creek, and went by railroad to the neighborhood of Falmouth, seeking Ferrero's Brigade and the Fifty-first New York, George's regiment. Walt stood outside a large brick mansion on the banks of the Rappahannock, somebody's splendid residence converted to a hospital, afraid to go in and find his mangled brother. He took a walk around the building, gathering his courage, and found a pile of amputated limbs, arms and legs of varying lengths, all black and blue and rotten in the chill. A thin layer of snow covered some of them. He circled the heap, thinking he must recognize his brother's hand if he saw it. He closed his eyes and considered the amputation; his brother screaming when he woke from the ether, his brother's future contracting to something bitter and small.

But George had only gotten a hole in his cheek. A piece of shell pierced his wispy beard and chipped a tooth. He had spit blood and hot metal into his hand, put the shrapnel in his pocket, and later showed it to his worried brother, who burst into tears and clutched him in a bear hug when they were reunited in Captain Francis's tent, where George sat with his feet propped on a trunk and a cigar stuck in his bandaged face.

"You shouldn't fret," said George. "I couldn't be any healthier than I am. And I've been promoted. Now you may call me Captain Whitman." But Walt could not help fretting, even now that he knew his brother was alive and well. A great, fretting buzz had started up in his head, inspired by the pile of limbs, and the smell of blood in the air, and by ruined Fredericksburg, all broken chimneys and crumbling walls across the river. Walt stayed in George's tent and, watching him sleep, felt a deep thrilling worry. He wandered around the camp, and as he passed by a fire in an enclosure of evergreen branches piled head high against the wind, he met a soldier. They sat down together by the fire, and the soldier told Walt hideous stories about the death of friends. "He put his head in my lap and whispered goodbye to his mama," the soldier said. "And then he turned his eyes away from me and he was dead." Walt put his face in the evergreen wall, smearing his beard with fresh sap, and thought how it smelled like Christmas.

Ten days later, Walt still couldn't leave. He stood by and watched as George moved out with the healthy troops on Christmas Day, then idled in the deserted campground, watching the interminable caravans of army wagons passing and passing into the distance. Near at hand, some stragglers crossed his line of sight--a large young man leading a mule that pulled a wagon, on top of which perched a fat man cursing in French. When all were gone, and the campground empty, Walt went up to the brick mansion and made himself useful, changing dressings, fetching for the nurses, and just sitting with the wounded boys, with the same excited worry on him as when he watched George sleep. Back in Brooklyn a deep and sinister melancholy had settled over him. For the past six months Walt had wandered the streets with a terrible feeling in him--Hell under his skull bones, death under his breast bones, and a feeling that he would like most of all to lie down under the river and sleep forever. But in the hospital that melancholy was gone, scared off, perhaps, by all the shocking misery around him, and it had been replaced by a different sort of sadness, one that was vital, not still; a feeling that did not diminish his soul, but thrilled it.

When Walt finally left Falmouth, it was to watch over a cargo of wounded as they traveled through the early-morning darkness back to Aquia Creek, where they would be loaded on a steamer bound for Washington. With every jolt and shake of the train, a chorus of horrible groans wafted through the cars. Walt thought it would drive him insane. What saved him was the singing of a boy with a leg wound. The boy's name was Hank Smith. He'd come all the way from divided Missouri, and said he had a gaggle of cousins fighting under General Beauregard. He sang "Oh, Susannah" over and over again, and no one told him to be quiet.

All the worst cases went to a hospital called Armory Square, because it was closest to the boat landing at the foot of Sixth Street. Walt accompanied them, and kept up the service he'd begun at Falmouth--visiting, talking, reading, fetching, and helping.

And he went to other hospitals. There were certainly enough of them to keep him busy. Their names were published in the papers like a list of churches--Finley, Campbell, Carver, Harewood, Mount Pleasant, Judiciary. And then there were the public buildings, also stuffed with wounded. Even the Patent Office held them; boys on cots set up on the marble floor of the Model Room. He brought horehound candy to an eighteen-year-old from Iowa, who lay with a missing arm and a sore throat in front of the glass case which held Ben Franklin's printing press. Two boys from Brooklyn had cots in front of General Washington's camp equipment. Walt read to them from Brooklyn papers his mother sent down, every now and then looking up at the General's tents rolled neatly around their posts, his folded chairs and mess kit, his sword and cane, his washstand, his surveyor's compass, and a few feet down in a special case all to itself, the Declaration of Independence. Other wounded boys lay in front of pieces of the Atlantic Cable, beside ingenious toys, in sight of rattraps, next to the razor of Captain Cook.

Walt could not visit every place all in a day, though he tried at first. Eventually, he picked a few and stuck with those. But mostly he was at Armory Square, where Hank Smith was.

"I had my daddy's pistol with me," said Hank Smith, sprawling in his slender iron-framed bed. "That's why I got my leg still." It wasn't the first time Walt had been told how Hank had saved his own leg from the "chopping butchers" in the field hospital, but he didn't mind hearing the story again. It was spring. The leg was still bad, though not as bad as it had been. At least that was the impression that Hank gave. He never complained about his wound. He'd come down with typhoid, too, a gift from the hospital. "I want my pistol back," he said.

"I'll see what I can do." Walt always said that, but they both knew no one was going to give Hank back the pistol with which he'd threatened to blow out the brains of the surgeon who tried to take his leg. They had left him alone, then, and later another doctor had said there wasn't any need to amputate.

"Meanwhile, here's an orange," said Walt. He pulled the fruit out of his coat pocket and peeled it. Soldiers' heads began to turn in their beds as the smell drifted over the ward. Some asked if he had any for them.

" 'Course he does," said Hank. In fact, Walt had a coatful of them. He had bought them at Center Market, then walked through the misty, wet morning, over the brackish canal and across the filthy Mall. The lowing of cattle drifted towards him from the unfinished monument to General Washington as he walked along, wanting an orange for himself but afraid to eat one lest he be short when he got to the hospital. He had money for oranges, sweets, books, tobacco, and other good things from sponsors in Brooklyn and New York and elsewhere. And he had a little money for himself from a job, three hours a day as a copyist in the paymaster's office--he'd given up, for the present, on seeking a fancier appointment, put away in a drawer the letters of introduction to powerful personages from Mr. Emerson. From his desk in the paymaster's office, he had a spectacular view of Georgetown and the river, and the stones that were said to mark the watery graves of three Indian sisters. The sisters had cursed the spot: anyone who tried to cross there must drown. Walt would sit and stare at the rocks, imagining himself shedding his shirt and shoes by the riverside, trying to swim across. He imagined drowning, too, the great weight of water pressing down on him. (When he was a child, he'd nearly drowned in the sea.) Inevitably, his reverie was broken by the clump-clump of one-legged soldiers on their crutches, coming up the stairs to the office located, perversely, on the fourth floor.

After he'd distributed the oranges, Walt wrote letters on behalf of various boys until his hand ached. Dear Sister, he wrote for Hank, I have been brave but wicked. Pray for me.

Armory Square was under the command of a brilliant drunk named Canning Woodhull. Over whiskey, he explained to Walt his radical policies, which included washing hands and instruments, throwing out used sponges, and swabbing everything in sight with bitter-smelling Labarraque's solution. He had an absolute lack of faith in laudable pus.

"Nothing laudable about it," he said. "White or green, pus is pus, and either way it's bad for the boys. There are creatures in the wounds--elements of evil. They are the emissaries of Hell, sent earthward to increase our suffering, to increase death and increase grief. You can't see them except by their actions." The two men knocked glasses and drank, and Walt made a face because the whiskey was medicinal, laced with quinine. It did not seem to bother Woodhull.

"I have the information from my wife," Woodhull said, "who has great and secret knowledge. She talks to spirits. Much of what she hears is nonsense--do not tell her I said so. But this bit about the creatures in the pus--that's true."

Maybe it was. Woodhull's hospital got the worst cases and kept them alive better than any other hospital in the city, even ones that got casualties only half as severe. The doctor stayed in charge despite a reputation as a wastrel and a drunk and a nascent lunatic. A year earlier he had been removed by a coalition of his colleagues, only to be reinstated by Dr. Letterman, the medical director of the Army of the Potomac, who had been personally impressed by many visits to Armory Square. "They say General Grant is a drunk, too," Letterman said in response to the charges against Dr. Woodhull.

"The creatures are vulnerable to prayer and bromine, and whiskey and Labarraque's. Lucky for us." Woodhull downed another glass. "Ah, sir--there is the matter of the nurses. Some of them are complaining. Just last Tuesday I was in Ward E with the redoubtable Mrs. Hawley. We saw you come in at the end of the aisle and she said, 'Here comes that odious Walt Whitman to talk evil and unbelief to my boys. I think I would rather see the evil one himself--at least if he had horns and hoofs--in my ward. I shall get him out as soon as possible!' And she rushed off to do just that. And you know how she failed to eject you, how she always fails to eject you." He poured again.

"Shall I stop coming, then?"

"Heavens no. As long as old Hawley is complaining, I'll know you're doing good. God bless her pointy little head."

Two surgeons came into Woodhull's makeshift office, a corner of Ward F sectioned off by three regimental flags.

"Assistant Surgeon Walker is determined to kill Captain Carter," said Dr. Bliss, a dour black-eyed man from Baltimore. "She has given him opium for his diarrhea, and, very foolishly, in my opinion, withheld ipecac and calomel." Dr. Mary Walker stood next to him, looking calm, her arms folded across her chest. Her blue uniform was immaculate, a studied contrast to Woodhull's stained and threadbare greatcoat, which he wore in winter and summer alike.

"Dr. Walker is doing as I have asked her," said Woodhull. "Ipecac and calomel are to be withheld in all cases of flux and diarrhea."

"For God's sake, why?" asked Dr. Bliss, his face reddening. He was new in Armory Square. Earlier that same day Woodhull had castigated him for not cleaning a suppurating chest wound.

"Because it is for the best," said Woodhull. "Because if you do it that way, a boy will not die. Because if you do it that way, some mother's heart will not be broken."

Dr. Bliss turned redder, then paled, as if his rage had broken and ebbed. He scowled at Dr. Walker, turned sharply on his heel, and left. Dr. Walker sat down.

"Buffoon," she said. Woodhull poured whiskey for her, handed her the glass, then took a rag and began to knock the lint from her second lieutenant's shoulder straps. It was an open secret in the hospital that they were married in all but name.

"Dr. Walker," said Woodhull, "why don't you tell Mr. Whitman about your recent arrest?"

The woman sipped her whiskey and told how she'd been arrested outside of her boardinghouse for masquerading as a man. Walt only half listened to her talk. He was thinking about diarrhea. It was just about the worst thing, he had decided. He'd seen it kill more boys than all the minie balls and shrapnel, and typhoid and pneumonia, than all the other afflictions combined. He'd written to his mother: War is nine hundred and ninety-nine parts diarrhea to one part glory. Those who like wars ought to be made to fight in them. And sometimes, up to his neck in sickness and death, he did believe that the war was an insufferable evil, but other times it seemed to be gloriously necessary, and all the blood and carnage and misery a terrible new beginning that was somehow a relief to him.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. From each of the main characters to Alanis Bell in the woods of Homer, Ohio [p. 115], Gob's Grief can be read as an elegy to lost brothers everywhere. How does the concept of brotherhood convey the personal yet universal nature of loss and death? What is the larger symbolism of the rending apart of twin brothers?

2. What does Gob's machine symbolize? Gob asks, "Is it useful to [the dead] that we mourn? Life might spend all its days grieving for lost life. You'd think something could be done with it." And Walt responds, "All the precious blood. A great work ought to be coming, oughtn't it?" [p. 69] Is Walt's vision of "a great work" the same as Gob's? Does Gob's machine work? Is his project a success? Why does Maci's father build his machine, and what does the existence of another machine like Gob's suggest about post-Civil War society? Why does Maci's father call his machine "the Infant" [p. 268]?

3. What is the nature of the grief and suffering in the novel? Is it for the living or the dead? According to the Urfeist, "Every last creature is sad. . . . Not that they mourn their beloveds. They mourn themselves. They are sad because they know that they are going to die" [p. 253]. Does the Urfeist's assertion, echoed by Walt's fear of death [p. 108] and Gob's fear of death [p. 117], encapsulate the theme of Gob's Grief? Or does Maci's sentiment, "It is memory that keeps us all ever from being happy" [p. 381] more accurately summarize the theme of the novel?

4. Other than the angel's warning to Will that Gob's machine is an "abomination" [p. 182] and Gob's strangely rational acknowledgement, "Oh yes. The angels--they're very much against us" [p. 202], Gob's Grief seems strangely devoid of religion. Does this lack of religion reflect a postwar nihilism? Or, conversely, can the entire novel be read as a religious allegory? If so, what do each of the characters in the novel represent?

5. Even as Maci watched Walt in Gob's machine, she "thought it was folly, just an enormous monument to Gob's Grief that was beautiful and complex, but no more likely to raise the dead than an ordinary lever." But at the same time, "Maci believed and believed and believed. . . . She considered how it was wonderful that a machine could manufacture faith and put it in you, how it could abolish doubt, and that this was perhaps more miraculous than the abolition of death" [pp. 372-3]. Is Maci's faith, in fact, the driving force behind Gob's machine? Why is the abolition of this vague concept of "doubt" so significant?

6. Will recalls his brother Sam: "When they were small, Sam had tried to teach him how to wake within sleep, to know he was dreaming while he was dreaming. 'Then you are the master of your whole world,' Sam confided" [p. 158]. What do the characters' dreams reveal about them? How does the retelling of dreams advance the plot? [See, for example, Tomo's dreams on pp. 7, 23, 211 and Walt's dreams on pp. 47, 31, 52, 100, 102.]

7. What are the roles of Walt's Hank, Will's Jolly, and Maci's brother Rob? Are they actually spirits, or are they the characters' consciences? Why might these characters be able to "hear" or "see" the spirits, while Gob, whose "fondest wish" [p. 114] is to see a spirit, is unable to?

8. Do the characters in Gob's Grief live by any conventional codes of morality? Do traditional concepts of right and wrong have a place in either the novel or in post-Civil War America?

9. How is the construction of Gob's machine implicitly compared to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge [p. 197]? How are each of these parallel constructs a particular manifestation of the post-Civil War mentality--one a grotesque distortion of the other?

10. What image of doctors emerges from Gob's Grief? What attitude toward death and life should a doctor have? On the one hand, "It seemed to Will that Gob was becoming a doctor for the wrong reason, not because he loved life, but because he was obsessed with death" [p. 167]. On the other hand, for Will himself, "Medical school was the last place he should be, in his condition, because the sad natural histories of disease became personal to him" [p. 156]. What does it take to be a good doctor? Are the expectations for physicians different today than they were at the end of the nineteenth century? In the novel, how are doctors likened to soldiers and medicine to war?

11. Who is the Urfeist? Is he a doctor? What does he teach Gob? How does Gob feel about him? How do these feelings compare to his feelings for his father? His mother? How does the role he plays in Gob's development compare to the role Frenchy plays in Will's development, or the role Victoria Woodhull plays in Maci's life?

12. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, "Kosmos" is the Greek word for "order, universe" and has evolved into the English word "cosmos," which is defined as "the universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious whole." In his 1958 critical essay on Leaves of Grass, John Kinnaird describes the multiple components of Walt Whitman's persona utilized in his poems, the third being the "kosmos": "[The kosmos] is the most functionally mythical aspect of the persona--the furthest from worldly ego and the closest to his dream life--the fantastic, serio-comic mask of godhead whereby Whitman resolved in imagination the contradictions of his conscious identity into a divinely free and conventionally lawless unity of opposites" [source: Roy Harvey Pearce, ed., Whitman: A Collection of Critical Essays, "Leaves of Grass and the American Paradox," p. 30]. In light of these definitions, why might Gob have chosen Walt Whitman to power his machine?

13. In her recent biography of Victoria Woodhull, Barbara Goldsmith states, "The rise of Spiritualism . . . expanded at a time when devastating war had imposed the unbearable loss of husbands, sons, and lovers" [source: Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, p. xiv]. Does this provide a clue as to why Adrian chose Victoria Woodhull as the other unique historical character upon which to anchor his story? Is Woodhull's Spiritualism another expression of Gob's Grief? Maci gets "so tired that she confused their projects, so she thought that Gob was building a machine to expose and destroy hypocrisy, and that Mrs. Woodhull was writing an article that argued so powerfully against death that nature, shamefaced after reading it, would revoke mortality" [p. 363]. Is the reader intended to recognize in Maci's confusion a bizarre resemblance between Gob's efforts and his mother's?

14. What did Will learn from his glass house? Does Maci learn the same lessons from Rob's sketched body of Pvt. Vanderbilt? What might the sketches have meant for Rob [p. 278]?

15. Is Maci insane, as she suspects [pp. 295-6]? Is Gob insane? How are the concepts of sanity and insanity defined in the novel?

16. What role does sexuality play in the novel? How do the relationships between Will and Gob; Walt and Gob; Walt and Hank; and Gob and the Urfeist simultaneously expand and scar the notion of brotherhood? Why does the novel close with an act of sexual intercourse between the aging Tomo and his wife?

17. Why does Will Fie dislike Walt so much [p. 234]? What is the significance of the character Oliver Barley [pp. 42, 51], and how does his role in the novel compare to Will's?

18. Will thinks, "This was the transformation their engine had effected, to make the ridiculous sensible and the sensible ridiculous" [p. 219]. Does Will's disorientation convey a thematic effect of confusion to the reader? Does Adrian's decision to relate his story out of chronological order emphasize this theme?

19. Can Gob's Grief be read as an embodiment of Walt Whitman through the dramatization of the different components of his poetry, his philosophy, and what his life came to represent to America? If you are not familiar with Walt Whitman's life or his epic collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, some of these components are the following: lament over the horrors of war; admiration for the soldiers; exaltation of democracy and individual liberties; a new, modern America; brotherhood and the universality of man; egotism and the search for self; and the immortality of man's soul [sources: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; John Addington Symonds, Walt Whitman: A Study; Roy Harvey Pearce, ed., Whitman: A Collection of Critical Essays; and, James E. Miller, Jr., Walt Whitman].

20. Is Gob's Grief best described as historical fiction or fictionalized history? How does Adrian successfully blend the genres of fiction and nonfiction, and how does this technique affect a reader's ability to relate to the characters?

21. Excepting his obsession with funerals and empathy for the mourners, does it appear that Tomo's life turned out to be devoid of spirits and fairly ordinary? In what ways is his life different from Gob's, and why?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2001

    A Masterful Work.

    The nod to Best Book of the Year has certainly peaked early with the release of Chris Adrian's 'Gob's Grief'. Far too few contemporary tomes manage to balance the World of Ideas a la Saul Bellow and gripping drama as beautifully as Adrian does. His prose is consistantly poetic, inspired and enchanting, transporting the reader into Civil War-torn America with complete ease. 'Gob's Grief' soars, transforms and, ultimately, helps heal the mortal wounds that are part of being all too human. Stunning.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2001

    magic, symbolism, history

    Not only does the magic of this book mesmerize the reader, but recognition of such famous Americans as Lincoln (whose top hat seems to empower the title character) and Walt Whitman--and the intertwining of their lives--creates a delightful and moving historical narrative. Symbols are frequent but carefully chosen (Gob=God; look out for the son and Holy Ghost, too) and well-placed. Though I was initially skeptical of the sheer magic employed, Adrian never disappoints. I loved this book. Email me if you can explain the varying justification of the lines--they alternate between chapters and I haven't yet figured out why.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    grief articulated

    While I'm not a big fan of most 'experimental fiction', I couldn't put Gob's Grief down. Not only was the writing really beautiful, but Adrian articulated so much about grief that I never thought could be put into words until I read this book. It is written with stunning honesty. In fact, I finally understand what people mean when they say that sometimes you need the fantastic to explain the true.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    Professor Delaney

    "Still you are a troublemaker hooligan!"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013


    "Im really sorry for causing trouble Professor Delaney!"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013


    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)