A Piece of My Heart

Overview

Ford's mesmerizing first novel is the story of two godless pilgrims. Robard Hewes has driven across the country in the service of a destructive passion. Sam Newell is seeking the missing piece of himself. When these men converge, on an uncharted island in the Mississippi, each discovers the thing he's looking for--amid a conflagration of violence that's as shocking as it is inevitable.

"This is one of those books that hit you hard...a story filled with breathing characters and genius-crafted dialogue between ...

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A Piece of My Heart

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Overview

Ford's mesmerizing first novel is the story of two godless pilgrims. Robard Hewes has driven across the country in the service of a destructive passion. Sam Newell is seeking the missing piece of himself. When these men converge, on an uncharted island in the Mississippi, each discovers the thing he's looking for--amid a conflagration of violence that's as shocking as it is inevitable.

"This is one of those books that hit you hard...a story filled with breathing characters and genius-crafted dialogue between moments of consummate description.... I can't be unbiased. I'm mad for this book."--Elizabeth Ashton, Houston Chronicle

A story that recounts the convergence of two self destructive men in backwater Mississippi, that is at once, a comical and menacing tale.

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Editorial Reviews

Walter Clemons
It's power is mysterious and unmistakable…extraordinary.
Newsweek
Elizabeth Ashton
This is one of those books that hit you hard…a story filled with breathing characters and genius—crafted dialogue between moments of consummate description….I can't be unbiased. I'm mad for this book.
Houston Chronicle
Raymond Carver
Ford is a masterful writer.
Chicago Tribune
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394729145
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/1985
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 485,976
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Ford
The author of five novels and two collections of stories, Richard Ford was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Independence Day, the first book to win both prizes. In 2001 he received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction.

Biography

Richard Ford lived with his parents in Jackson, Mississippi, until he was eight years old, at which time his father suffered a near-fatal heart attack. After that, he shuttled back and forth between his parents' home in Jackson and Little Rock, Arkansas, where his maternal grandparents managed a hotel. Ford describes his childhood as happy and contented -- at least until he was 16, when his father died and the young man began to seriously think about his future.

Although he attended Michigan State University with the vague intention of going into hotel management, Ford soon switched over to literature. After graduation, he married his college sweetheart, Kristina Hensley, but was having trouble settling on a career direction. He applied for several jobs (including the police and the CIA!) and even started law school. It was only after none of these panned out that he begin to consider writing for a living. On the advice of a former teacher, he applied to graduate school and was accepted into the University of California at Irvine, where he came under the happy, unexpected tutelage of Oakley Hall and E. L. Doctorow.

He began work on his first novel, the story of two drifters whose lives intersect on a desolate island in the Mississippi River. An excerpt appeared in The Paris Review, and the book was accepted for publication. In 1976, A Piece of My Heart was released to good reviews, but Ford bristled at being pigeonholed by critics as a regional writer. "I'm a Southerner, God knows," Ford said in an interview with the literary journal Ploughshares, "but I always wanted my books to exist outside the limits of so-called Southern writing."

In the early '80s, Ford's wife (who holds a Ph.D. in urban planning) was teaching at NYU, and the couple was living in Princeton, New Jersey. Disillusioned with novel writing, Ford took a job with the glossy New York magazine Inside Sports, but in 1982 the magazine folded, leaving him unemployed again. Tentatively he returned to fiction with the glimmer of a story idea based loosely on his most recent experiences. Several years in the making, The Sportswriter introduced Frank Bascombe, a middle-aged writer from suburban New Jersey who forsakes his promising literary career to pen articles for a glossy New York magazine. Published in 1986, the novel was named one of Time magazine's five best books of the year and was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award.

Ford claims that he never intended to write a trilogy around Frank Bascombe. But, in between other literary projects (including an acclaimed 1987 short story collection, Rock Springs), he found himself inexorably drawn back into the life of his melancholic protagonist. In 1995, the superb sequel, Independence Day, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Then, in 2006, Ford concluded the saga with The Lay of the Land, a bittersweet set piece nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Although Ford modestly maintained that the only reason he won the Pulitzer Prize was that Philip Roth had not written a novel that year, in fact his angst-ridden suburban Everyman Frank Bascombe ranks alongside Roth's Nathan Zuckerman (or, for that matter, John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom) as one of American literature's most unforgettable, richly drawn characters. For a man who stumbled into writing with very little forethought or design, Richard Ford has indeed come far.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 16, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jackson, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      B.A., Michigan State University, 1966; M.F.A., University of California, Irvine, 1970

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