I'll Never Be Long Gone

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Overview

The lives of brothers Charlie and Owen Bender are changed forever on the night their father walks into the Vermont woods with a death wish and a shotgun. The second shock comes when his suicide note bequeaths the family's restaurant to Charlie alone, while leaving Owen with instructions to follow his own path, wherever it may take him.

Years later, the restaurant is a success. The void in Charlie's life, created by his beloved brother's absence, is finally filled when a ...

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I'll Never Be Long Gone

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Overview

The lives of brothers Charlie and Owen Bender are changed forever on the night their father walks into the Vermont woods with a death wish and a shotgun. The second shock comes when his suicide note bequeaths the family's restaurant to Charlie alone, while leaving Owen with instructions to follow his own path, wherever it may take him.

Years later, the restaurant is a success. The void in Charlie's life, created by his beloved brother's absence, is finally filled when a passionate affair becomes a deeply satisfying marriage. And now prodigal son Owen is returning home, to be welcomed back into the family fold. But the cruel legacy that tore a brotherhood apart created wounds not easily healed . . . and there must be reckoning.

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Editorial Reviews

Tampa Tribune
“Greene’s novel unfolds... with words filled with beauty and strength.”
Howard Frank Mosher
“Written gracefully and with great sensitivity... in the tradition of Kent Haruf’s Eventide and Mark Spragg’s An Unfinished Life.”
Susan Cheever
“A story of love, betrayal, and violence that kept me turning the pages to the end.”
Brett Lott
“A bright new voice in American Literature.”
Arizona Republic
“Greene makes us see these things so clearly that they seem like sensual daydreams right there on the page.”
Arizona Republic
“Greene makes us see these things so clearly that they seem like sensual daydreams right there on the page.”
Publishers Weekly
The rugged, rain-lashed landscape of Eden, Vt., becomes a palpably biblical backdrop for a moving generational tale in Greene's second novel (after Mirror Lake). The Bender brothers Charlie, 18, and Owen, 17 find their lives reshaped by the will of their formidable late father. To Charlie goes the family restaurant, Charlotte's; to Owen goes $10,000 and a directive to find himself. Greene flashes to years when Charles Sr. pitted son against son in Iron Chef-like matches picking his successor, it's now clear. Charles's will also bequeaths his wife the freedom to return to city life, which she promptly does. Working himself to the bone in the kitchen, Charlie seeks an assistant chef, and Owen's high school girlfriend, Claire Apple, resurfaces with impeccable timing, having acquired both beauty and culinary savvy in her time away from Eden. The two fall in love, marry and have a son, Jonah, setting the stage for a smoldering Cain-and-Abel conflict when Owen returns after years of adventures. Greene's evocative descriptions of nature, food and love infuse this novel with sensuality and a nostalgia-tinged melancholy. And if Greene's reach for scriptural allegory feels presumptive, the book is redeemed by its careful consideration of the burden, and blessing, of legacy. Agent, Nick Ellison. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his second novel, Greene (Mirror Lake) returns to Eden, VT, this time exploring what family means and to what extent kinship aids in survival. Eighteen-year-old Charlie and 17-year-old Owen have grown up in the kitchen of their family restaurant. When their father commits suicide, Charlie inherits the eatery while Owen gets $10,000. The brothers had been best friends until their father, as controlling in death as he was in his kitchen, tears them apart with the reading of his last wishes. Owen uses his inheritance to leave Eden and spends the next 17 years in the U.S. Merchant Marines, during which Charlie makes a nice life for himself, improving the already stellar reputation of the restaurant; marrying Owen's old girlfriend, who shares his passion for food; and fathering a son. When Owen finally returns, will the small town of Eden be big enough for the three of them, or will some family relationships have to be severed permanently? Though the food descriptions are mouth-watering, Greene doesn't break any new ground here; the book is a pleasant enough read, but by no means essential. Recommended for larger popular fiction collections, particularly in the Northeast.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical and Community Coll. Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two brothers in rural Vermont carry on dutifully after the suicide of their father, in Greene's uncomplicated, heavily moralistic debut. Charlie and Owen are young men ready to start their lives when their father, the owner and chef of the notable local restaurant Charlotte's, kills himself in the woods near their home. He had lung cancer and not long to live; his will decrees what the various family members are supposed to do now that he's gone. He leaves older son Charlie the restaurant, judging that he has "the right instincts and temperament to be a good, and maybe even a great, chef"; Owen gets $10,000 and an invitation to head out into the world to seek his fortune; the remainder of the dead man's money goes to their mother Charlotte, so she can return to her native New York City, where she was happiest. Owen leaves his girlfriend Claire, a pretty local girl, and joins the Merchant Marines, traveling the world for the next 18 years. Meanwhile, dutiful, responsible Charlie puts all his heart and energy into Charlotte's, leaving no time for romance until Claire, having learned the culinary arts during a year abroad in France, answers an ad for help at the restaurant. Charlie, who'd always admired her from afar, falls head over heels and proposes marriage in a matter of weeks; Claire, seeing no better prospects and rather enjoying the quiet, stable life at home in Vermont, accepts. Years of married contentment and a son follow as the couple work side by side at Charlotte's. Then handsome, wayward Owen returns and finds Claire as appetizing as ever. When Charlie gets badly burned in the kitchen and is hospitalized for several weeks, brother and sister-in-law embark on an affair. Loveeventually wins out in this quiet melodrama, though it's hardly a thrill as described in Greene's uninflected prose.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060765811
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/24/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 927,332
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Educated at Hobart College and the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College, he is the author of Mirror Lake and I'll Never Be Long Gone. He currently lives outside Montpelier, Vermont, with his wife, Tia, their infant daughter, and their three dogs.

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Read an Excerpt

I'll Never Be Long Gone

A Novel
By Thomas Greene

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Thomas Greene
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060765801

Chapter One

They buried Charles Bender on a cool fall day when the sun moved in and out of high clouds. They buried him in the cemetery on a sloping hill above the town of Eden, Vermont, in a cemetery with gravestones that dated back to the mid-1800s, gravestones with names barely legible, babies next to mothers, mothers next to fathers. It was where all the oldest names of Eden were: Morse, Beckett, Singleton, Fiske, Walden.

The plot Charlotte picked was near the top of the hill, near where the forest started, and from it you could see, if your eyes were good, the restaurant he had named many years ago after his wife. You could see Charlotte's itself by tracing the Dog River where it ran through the trees, where it straightened out on the stretch by the Old County Road. You could make out the roof of the former schoolhouse and you could see the river running past it and you could see where it fitted into the world around it.

From the truck in front of the gates, Charlie saw that the funeral-home people had already arrived. He saw the black hearse parked up among the stones, near their father's final resting place. Charlie was behind the wheel of the truck, his mother in the seat next to him, Owen, his brother, leaning over the bench behind. They all wore dark sunglasses. Of the two boys, Charlie was more his father's son. He was almost six feet four, as tall as Charles had been, and at eighteen years old he still had a full head of brown hair, though you could see where it was starting to recede on his forehead and where it was thinning. He had his father's pale blue eyes, a robin's egg blue, and while you might not think him handsome, there was a strength about him, a presence, that echoed his father.

By contrast, his brother, Owen, the younger by a year, had the good fortune to physically resemble his mother. Charlotte was the kind of beauty seldom seen in Eden, a tall, willowy blonde who turned heads. Owen had her fair hair, and her sharp green eyes, and he was tall, too, though not as tall as his brother, closer to six feet two, and slender. He had his mother's features, her small nose, her high cheekbones, and you might have thought him a pretty boy if it were not for the saving grace of his jaw, which suggested his father, strong and angular, and had the effect of making his whole face masculine.

The boys were waiting for their mother. They knew they were on her schedule and they were grateful for it. They were grateful for her grief for in an odd way it dulled their own. It made it possible for them to focus on something beyond what haunted them after discovering their father in the woods.

Their mother said, "Let's go."

At the graveside, the funeral director, a kind man named Crane, asked them if they wanted to say anything and they did not and nodded no and he did not respond but looked at the two men on either side of the shiny oak coffin, and while they watched, Charles Bender was lowered into the loamy earth.

Charlotte looked away when the boys fulfilled tradition by scooping out handfuls of soil and throwing them onto the shiny wood of the coffin, the granules of dirt sliding off it and running down the sides. When the men began shoveling in the hole, the three of them turned and began to walk back down the drive, Charlie and Owen, standing on either side of their mother, locking arms, as if supporting her, which they were doing, but supporting themselves as well.

They drove in the pickup down the back roads of Eden to Charlotte's. It was cold enough outside to have the heat on in the truck and it was warm as they went. The late-afternoon sun hung low and fat above the mountains. There was a light breeze and the first fallen leaves blew in front of the tires on the hard dirt road. The dirt was darkened from the heavy rain of the previous week. They did not pass any cars and Charlie drove fast. Normally Charlotte would have said something about his driving but this time she gazed blank-faced out the window to her right at the passing woods. Charlie wished someone would say something, anything, and when he thought he should, his brother shattered the silence from the back by saying, "Who's going to be here?"

Charlie saw his mother shrug. She said, "Friends of your father's. He had a lot of friends. Not close friends, of course, but people who knew him."

"Acquaintances?" Owen said.

"Something like that," his mother said. "The waitresses, of course. Probably some of the farmers."

"What do we need to do?" said Charlie.

"I don't know," Charlotte said, and then paused for a moment before saying, "Be strong."

Charlie pulled into the parking lot. It was full of cars and pickup trucks like the one they drove. When they stepped out, they could hear the soft flow of the river behind Charlotte's and they could hear a car heading their way on the road, the distinctive muted sound of tires on the hard dirt.

Together, as they had done leaving the cemetery, they walked toward the former schoolhouse, the restaurant their father had built, and they walked arm in arm, Charlotte between her two tall sons. They still wore their sunglasses and when they reached the solid wooden door that led into the dining room they did not take them off, though they paused for a moment, as if collecting their shared breath, and then Charlie moved forward and and brought the latch of the handle down and pushed the door open. brought the latch of the handle down and pushed the door open.

Continues...


Excerpted from I'll Never Be Long Gone by Thomas Greene Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Greene.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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