Lost Highway

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Overview

Richard Currey's Lost Highway has attracted a legion of admirers since its initial publication in 1997. The book depicts the epic struggle of an ordinary person living his dreams and following his passion. Lost Highway is the story of Sapper Reeves, a gifted country musician from the small town of Maxwell, West Virginia. Sapper’s story covers the events of more than half a century, from his birth in a poor coal mining town through his travels on the back roads of Appalachia in search of recognition and respect. ...

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Overview

Richard Currey's Lost Highway has attracted a legion of admirers since its initial publication in 1997. The book depicts the epic struggle of an ordinary person living his dreams and following his passion. Lost Highway is the story of Sapper Reeves, a gifted country musician from the small town of Maxwell, West Virginia. Sapper’s story covers the events of more than half a century, from his birth in a poor coal mining town through his travels on the back roads of Appalachia in search of recognition and respect. Along the way, Sapper’s embattled love for his wife and struggle to come to terms with his combat-wounded son form the basis of his artistic and personal redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The new novel by the much-praised Currey (Fatal Light; The Wars of Heaven) is as eloquently piercing and deeply American as a classic folk ballad. In fact its first-person narrator, Sapper Reeves, is a West Virginian who learns to play the banjo as a boy and then finds that music is taking over his lifewith often disastrous consequences. He and two fellow musicians form a little group they call the Still Creek Boys and take their act, singing and playing songs largely written by Sapper, all over the tiny towns and backwater hamlets of the mountain country, usually sleeping in the car to save money, sometimes not getting paid at all. It's just after WWII, and existence in the hardscrabble country is tough. Sapper meets and marries loving Riva, has a little boy, Bobby, but is still away more than he's home. There is a moment of fame at a big broadcast jamboree; a small company in Nashville cuts a record of the group; but essentially their worn lives do not change, and Riva's patience with their eked-out existence wears thin. Then Sapper is badly hurt in a barroom brawl, takes to the bottle, abandons his music and begins to slip away into lonely pointlessness. Bobby grows up and is injured in Vietnam, there is a quiet reconciliation with Riva and, at last, like an infinitely slow dawn, recognition for Sapper's great gifts begins to come his way. This is all told by Currey in haunting, limpid prose that allows the brooding sweetness of Sapper Reeves to emerge on the page like music itself. (May)
Library Journal
Set on the road, in forlorn honky-tonks and eventually in Carnegie Hall and a Nashville recording studio, this novel from the author of Fatal Light (LJ 5/15/97) documents the career of country musician Sapper Reeves and the Still Creek Boys. Sapper's banjo melodies are haunting, and his original lyrics inspired, but for years his achievements are minimal. He loves nothing more than his wife and son, but his constant touring tears the family apart. Only after his career seems shattered and his son is almost destroyed by combat in Vietnam does Sapper finally attain success with his music and and a better family life. Narrated mainly in brief vignettes, the story is sparse but engaging. Like many country songs, it displays aching loneliness and bitter failure but also the redemptive power of love and fidelity to one's dreams. Currey's terseness averts sentimentality but still offers homey wisdom and celebrates abiding human values. Recommended for most collections.Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Kirkus Reviews
A sentimental, heart-wrenching tale from novelist and story- writer Currey (The Wars of Heaven, 1990, Fatal Light, 1988, etc.) offers brief glimpses of a banjo player's path—though tragic—to fame and self-respect.

A coal miner's son born poor but proud enough to take up the banjo to ease the worry of his widowed mother, Sapper Reeves is cut from the rough, durable broadcloth of American legend. At the opening of the novel, Reeves, in his 70s, takes a break from writing the songs for what will prove to be his capstone album and drives back to his hometown of Maxwell, West Virginia, reflecting on the origins of the Steel Creek Boys, a trio he formed in 1947 with his boyhood chum Estin Wyrell and the handsome, self-assured Leonard James. With Leonard on guitar and Wyrell on fiddle, the three left their jobs, wives, and infants to go in search of success, but found mostly misery, disappointment, and loneliness while performing at high-school socials and dingy roadhouses. The joys of playing country music are never enough to overcome the disappointments, as the trio are cheated by dishonest club owners, exploited by radio stations, and insulted by drunks. After a hostile audience beats them up and smashes their instruments, Reeves slips for several years into an alcoholic funk, losing the affections of his trusting wife, Riva, but not of his young son, Bob, who later joins the Marines, goes off to fight in Vietnam, and returns home physically and spiritually crippled. Reeves's early experience with failure helps him cope with his son's despair. Then an unexpected gift of a banjo from Wyrell, and Riva's cautious return, bring Reeves back to his music at a time when a younger generation is looking for heroes.

More bitter than sweet, and frequently fogged by self-conscious Faulknerisms, but finally saved by a convincing depiction of the hard lives of its characters and the stubborn persistence of their modest hopes in the midst of loss.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780937058961
  • Publisher: West Virginia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Edition description: 2nd Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 245
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Currey was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He served from 1968 to 1972 in the U.S. Navy, and afterwards attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1980 he published his first book, Crossing Over: A Vietnam Journal, which went on to earn a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Currey’s international breakthrough came with his first novel, Fatal Light, short-listed for the 1988 PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel. A winner of the Vietnam Veterans of America's Excellence in the Arts Award, Fatal Light was published in twelve languages. Lost Highway, his most recent novel, has been hailed as a definitive work of Appalachian fiction.

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Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Interstate 40 East, Tennessee, June 15, 1997
  • Part I
  •   Winter 1947—Summer 1950
  •   Winter 1950—Autumn 1952
  •   Spring 1953—Autumn 1955
  • Part II
  •   Winter 1961
  •   Spring 1961—Summer 1965
  •   Summer 1966—Winter 1967
  •   Spring 1968
  • Part III
  • Summer 1968
  • Interstate 79 North, West Virginia, June 16, 1997
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