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North: A Novel

North: A Novel

5.0 1
by Frederick Busch

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A taut, dark, psychological page-turner from the best-selling author of Girls.
Combining the pace of a detective story with the bold prose of a master storyteller, North is both an adventure and a pilgrimage. Alone and haunted by memories of his dead wife and child, Jack—who prowled the backwaters of Girls—returns to upstate New York from the Carolina


A taut, dark, psychological page-turner from the best-selling author of Girls.
Combining the pace of a detective story with the bold prose of a master storyteller, North is both an adventure and a pilgrimage. Alone and haunted by memories of his dead wife and child, Jack—who prowled the backwaters of Girls—returns to upstate New York from the Carolina coast, where he has been working as a security guard. A New York lawyer hires him to find her missing nephew, last seen in the area of Jack's northern hometown. His search gradually uncovers a dark underside of rural life and a cast of dangerous characters. Jack is besieged by memories as he uncovers a brutal crime and finds himself in a turbulent relationship with a treacherous woman. In trying to save another's life, Jack must relive his own; memory, obsession, and reality fuse; and Jack discovers the truth of Faulkner's observation that "the past is not really past; it's not even over."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a particular sense of landscape and of the rhythms of rural life, Busch (A Memory of War, etc.) once again maps out his home territory, upstate New York, in this hybrid of a somber literary novel and hard-boiled detective story. This follow-up to his 1997 novel, Girls, centers on Jack, an emotionally scarred security guard, who meets a woman on the Carolina coast and agrees to search for her missing ne'er-do-well nephew. The young man has conveniently disappeared in Vienna, N.Y., the very site of Jack's former troubles. Jack follows the trail upstate, where encounters with a dope farmer and a parasitic, sexually voracious reporter ensue. Constant flashbacks to the events of Girls-Jack's divorce, the death of his child and the search for another missing girl-are meant to up the emotional ante, but instead mire what should be a page-turner in the past. And while Busch combines the conventions of prurient sex and graphic violence with accomplished description and characterization, he sacrifices suspense and pacing in the process of straddling two genres. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A security guard who first appeared as a campus cop in Busch's novel Girls, Jack has left everything behind to recover from the deaths of his wife and infant daughter. When he meets the insecure but attractive Merle at the resort where he works, she persuades him to search for her nephew. This means a return to upstate New York, where Jack lived with his family, and he is soon overwhelmed with memories of family and failures that prove far more significant than the task at hand. With North, Busch puts some interesting twists on the hard-boiled detective genre: Jack, who becomes the classic loner detective, nurses both a death wish and a need to settle down. He falls for women who are older, independent, and accomplished and engages in a high-speed chase not to escape an enemy but to deliver his beloved mentor to a hospital. The accomplished Busch is known for exploring domestic themes and for creating characters struggling with life's hardships, and here he does not disappoint. This novel should satisfy both Busch's longtime readers and fans of the detective novel genre. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The search for a missing youth jump-starts Busch's brooding latest, a loose sequel to his 1997 stunner, Girls. Jack, the itinerant security guard who appears in Girls and (otherwise named) in the earlier short story "Ralph the Duck," is drawn away from his latest gig at a Carolina resort by a request from Manhattan attorney Merle Davidoff: to find her vagrant nephew Tyler Pearl, an inveterate gambler last seen in an upstate New York area Jack knows all too well. Returning to the hamlet of Vienna, where, years before, he and local police had failed to locate the body of a murdered girl, Jack surrenders again to his obsessive fixation with "kids gone missing and kids gone dead"-an obsession magnified by the deaths of his own wife and daughter, and the burden of guilt that surrounds those losses. Reconnecting with black state trooper Elway Bird, who's now dying of leukemia, and Elway's wife Sarah (with whom Jack has a more intimate history), he gradually uncovers evidence of "dope farming" and learns all he needs to know and more about transplanted Vermonter Clarence Smith and seductive rich-girl freelance journalist Georgia Bromell, as the story moves toward a violent climax, another bitter loss and a (painfully unconvincing) flurry of reconciliations and promises. North, which resembles a Ross McDonald mystery more closely than anything else Busch has written, is well worth reading: it's filled with potent atmospheric effects, wrenching dialogue, and a sure sense of its middle-aged protagonist's weary apprehension of the facts of his limits and his mortality. But it's weakened by Jack's genre-mannered narrator's voice, and a thudding overemphasis on the theme from which Busch can't seem tofree himself: that life is brutal and dangerous, and we cannot protect our loved ones from its ravages. We've heard it all before, in earlier, better books. This writer's failures are indeed more interesting than many of his contemporaries' successes. Still, North is a disappointment.

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Frederick Busch (1941–2006) was the recipient of many honors, including an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award, a National Jewish Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award. The prolific author of sixteen novels and six collections of short stories, Busch is renowned for his writing’s emotional nuance and minimal, plainspoken style. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he lived most of his life in upstate New York, where he worked for forty years as a professor at Colgate University.

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North 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Jack works as a security guard at a bar in a North Carolina resort. His wife left him years ago as his career in law enforcement has gone downward on the ladder of success. Always hoping for reconciliation, Jack now has to accept that is impossible because Fanny has died. He has as his only companion his nameless canine who Jack knows is dying too.----------------- When male prostitute Jason Arnold tries to pick up a classy looking six footer, Jack intercedes. The woman, New York attorney Merle Davidoff, thanks him for his intervention and admits she is embarrassed to learn the hunk is a whore. She offers Jack work to find her missing twenty-three year nephew Tyler Pearl, who last was heard from a few months ago in Vienna, New York. Jack takes the job in his hometown as a chance to redeem himself by rescuing the young man if needed even though Jack feels as if he has failed at everything he has tried to do which includes once not saving a little girl¿s life in Vienna.------------ This sequel to GIRLS returns Jack as the prime protagonist still failing in everything he has done until Merle gives him a chance for atonement (at least in his mind). The story line is character driven though filled with plenty of action as Jack sees an opportunity to climb out of the ooze he has fallen into before he fulfills his self-prophecy of slinking as low as a former military police officer can go. The mystery is well done but takes a back seat to a psychological thriller starring a man whose ¿significant other¿ over the last fifteen years is his recently deceased nameless dog.------------- Harriet Klausner