Losing Absalom

Overview

Sonny Goodman may have hopped the “modern underground railroad called education” and arrived in far-flung Minneapolis, but with the impending death of his father, North Philadelphia is calling him home. Quickly caught in the web that inner-city life has woven around his family’s dreams, Sonny must find the strength to confront the toll urban corrosion has wrought upon the ones he loves.

Named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, winner of the...

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Overview

Sonny Goodman may have hopped the “modern underground railroad called education” and arrived in far-flung Minneapolis, but with the impending death of his father, North Philadelphia is calling him home. Quickly caught in the web that inner-city life has woven around his family’s dreams, Sonny must find the strength to confront the toll urban corrosion has wrought upon the ones he loves.

Named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, winner of the Minnesota Book Award and compared to the work of James Baldwin and August Wilson, Alexs D. Pate’s highly absorbing debut novel “rings with a truth as immediate as body counts in the headlines, as enduring as a classic tragedy.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Absalom Goodman worked all his life to build a home for his family. Now the neighborhood has changed for the worse, lifelong dreams have turned into bitter realities, and Absalom is dying of cancer. But these tragedies bring Absalom's loved ones together, and in a fateful moment that is harrowing and redeeming, they find their lives changed forever. Winner of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One final battle crowns a lifetime of struggle for the hard-working, African American family man at the center of this moving first novel. In honest and lyrical prose, Pate explores the American dream, the inner city, the hope and sorrow of parenthood and the fragility of life. As Absalom Goodman lies dying in a Philadelphia hospital with his wife Gwen and two grown children gathered around him, his mind retraces the journey of his life and surveys the results of his ceaseless labors. Gwen and both children reflect on their roles within this family and the fundamental strength of Absalom, which guided them. Sonny, now part of predominantly white corporate America, returns home to confront a life he thought he had left behind. Rainy, an aspiring singer who lives in the family homestead with her boyfriend, lives in a different kind of denial. Gwen and Absalom hope to hold on, both for themselves and for these children who still so obviously need them. Pate's restrained writing steers clear of the maudlin while gracefully illuminating both the contemporary and timeless aspects to his tale. Amid the realities of decay and dying can be glimpsed a brief, fragile vision of strength and hope. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This heavy, overwritten first novel concerns a black man who returns to his North Philadelphia home when he learns that his father, Absalom, is dying of brain cancer. Sonny has been working and living in the corporate world of Minneapolis and, for no apparent reason, was unaware that his father was at death's door. His 36-year-old sister, Rainy, who yearns to be a singer but refuses to take lessons, is living in the old family home in its now deteriorating neighborhood. Her boyfriend, Dancer, a would-be photographer, is dealing drugs out of the house. As Absalom lies dying, he is privy to and comments upon the thoughts and actions of his children-- always in italics. Pate takes forever just to move a character from one room to another and wildly overreaches for descriptive depth: his ``paper bag brown face''; the ``enamel sparks from his grinding teeth''; ``Her thoughts had congealed into a muddy clump.'' One woman has ``long black hair and excavating eyes.'' The minimal plot and the foreshadowed tragedy are drowned in the dripping bathos. Not recommended.-- Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib. & Historical Soc . , Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566891707
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,133,857
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexs D. Pate's debut novel Losing Absalom received a Minnesota Book Award and was named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Additional novels include the New York Times best-seller Amistad, Finding Makeba, The Multicultiboho Sideshow, and West of Rehoboth. Pate, born in Philadelphia, now teaches at the University of Minnesota. E. Ethelbert Miller, whose commentaries appear on NPR, is the former chair of the Humanities Council and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. The author of nine books of poetry, editor of four anthologies, and advisory editor for African American Review and Callaloo, he has been the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University since 1974.

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