Red Sky at Morning: A Novel

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The classic coming-of-age story set during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.

"...a sort of Catcher in the Rye out West."--Book World

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Red Sky at Morning: A Novel

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The classic coming-of-age story set during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.

"...a sort of Catcher in the Rye out West."--Book World

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Editorial Reviews

World Book
A sort of Catcher in the Rye out West.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060931902
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Series: Perennial Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 297,231
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Bradford was born in 1932. He is also the author of So Far from Heaven.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

We were using the old blue china and the stainless steel cutlety, with place mats on the big oval table and odd-sized jelly glasses for the wine. The good stuff was all packed and stored, and the Salvation Army was due the next day for the leftovers. My mother called this last dinner a picnic, but she didn't wear her overalls to it. She had on the blue hostess gown with the purple flowers.

Dad looked four sizes smaller in his newly delivered summer uniform, and the tight stock collar was giving him trouble. He kept swallowing and twisting his neck. The two and a half stripes looked good, though; they made a nice contrast with Jimbob Buel's civilian seersucker. He was holding a glass of my father's Tavel rose', looking at the candlelight through the wine, the perfect Virginia connoisseur. He was probably thinking a seventeen-year-old snot like me was too young to know its virtues.

Well, I do know its virtues, Jimbob boy. Paul and I knocked off a bottle of it just last week, warm, a refined accompaniment to cornbread and beef cracklins.

Courtney Ann Conway squeezed my leg under the table. "Ah bet you'll be sorry, leavin' Mobile with all the pawties and all comin' up." I didn't answer right away. I was figuring how to get Jimbob into the Bankhead Tunnel, and pump a little mustard gas in there. If I could block the exits, and use two pumps, maybe....

"Josh, are you listenin' to me?"

"I'm sorry, Corky. I know I'll miss a lot of parties, but I really have to leave town. You know: the war and everything."

"You're such a brave and manly chap," said Jimbob. "I think it's charming of you to defend your country off there inUtah, or Iowa, or wherever it is."

"Mr. Buel, I forgot you were wearing khaki. The candlelight makes your clothes look more like seersucker."

"Now, Joshua," said Mother, very sharp and offended. "That is enough of that. Quite enough. You've been terribly rude this evening. Mr. Buel's asthma is well-known."

"Sorry again," I said. "Sorry all around." Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

"Josh," said my father, "have some more ham-with-CocaCola-sauce, Probably the last time you'll have it for the duration." He picked up a thick slice of the nasty stuff with the serving knife and fork, and I passed my plate. Glup. Good salt-cured Tennessee smoked ham. Perfectly decent Coca-Cola from Atlanta. Put them all together, you've got Secrets from a Southern Kitchen.

Jimbob's helping himself to another glass of wine; I notice he's not eating the ham. Corky's burping, soft and low, an exceltent thing in woman. I suppose the bubbles in the sauce got to her. And Amalie's sitting over there stoking it away, okra and ham on the fork at the same time, all stuck together with grits.

"I think the Navy's so romantic, Mr. Arnold. You look like a regulah ol' salt." Good for you, Cork. Even with your head full of cornpone you always say the right thing. I'll bet old Oscar Wilde is lying there in Paris right now, gnawing on his knuckles, wishing he could have made bright talk like that.

"Miss Courtney's absolutely right, Frank," said Jimbob. "You seem positively encrusted with salt. And to be a Commodore right off the...."Commander."

". . . Commander, pardon me, right off the bat like that, why, the Navy Department must have great faith in your seamanship. My family, of course, were usually Army, not nearly so fashionable."

"I'm considered a fair hand with a Dolphin-class sloop, I admit," Dad said, straightening up and looking a little keener. "It's a shame the Navy isn't using them this war. Last I heard, they'd converted to ironclads throughout."

"And rightly so, I maintain," Amalie said, poking her fork at Dad. She's been concentrating on the grits so hard she hasn't heard anything. Look at her sitting there like a big pale lady bullfrog; that concentration on the grits is paying off in fanny.

"Rightly so what, Amalie?" my father said, genuinely puzzled.

"That about the boats, with the iron on them. Much better. Didn't you say something about putting iron on boats? Well, I think it's a wonderful idea, and I'm only sorry they didn't think of it sooner. Frank, honey, would you pass me another slice of that delicious ham, and maybe a tee-ninecy spoonful of okra? Lord, Ann, I surely wish you'd give me the recipe for that deficious ham. Everytime I have it here I eat more than's good for me. Thank you, Frank. Little more grits? Thank you, honey."

"There's really nothing to it," said Mother. "The trick is, you're supposed to warm the Coca-Cola before you pour it over the ham. Then you just keep on basting. Lacey got it right the first time I showed her how." Yeah, she got it right, and she stiff cries every time she has to pour Coca-Cola over a country ham. You messed up the best cook anybody ever had, and I'm glad she's got a good job at the compass factory. They don't float that old needle in Coca-Cola.

"You do run a superlative kitchen, Miss Ann," Jimbob said. And you get a superlative amount of free victuals over here, too, don't you, Buel boy? When's the last time you missed a meal with us? Was it the time I had the mumps? Must have been. You wouldn't want to catch it and have that patrician Virginia jawline puff up. You wouldn't want somebody to safety-pin your pajama bottoms to the bed. If Grant's artillery had been a little sharper they might have hit your house and killed your grandfather, and stopped the whole useless line of Buels right there. Worst mistake of the war...

Red Sky at Morning. Copyright © by Richard Bradford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
In the summer of 1944, Frank Arnold, a wealthy shipbuilder in Mobile, Alabama, receives his volunteer commission in the U.S. Navy and moves his wife, Ann, and seventeen-year-old son, Josh, to the family's summer home in the village of Corazon Sagrado, high in the New Mexico mountains. A true daughter of the Confederacy, "wrapped up in tissue paper like a Wedgwood egg cup," Mrs. Arnold finds it impossible to cope with the quality of life in the largely Hispanic village and, in the company of Jimbob Buel--an insufferable, Virginia-born, South-proud professional houseguest--takes to bridge and sherry. Josh, more the son of his Baltimore-raised father than of his class-conscious, Old South mother, becomes an integral member of the Sagrado community, forging friendships with classmates at Helen De Crispin school, with the town's disreputable resident artist, with Chango Lopez--macho bully turned model student--and with Amadeo and Excilda Montoya, the couple hired by his father to care for their house. Josh narrates the story of his fateful year in Sagrado and, with deadpan, irreverent humor, reveals the events and people who influence his progress to maturity. Unhindered by his mother's disdain for these "tacky, dusty little Westerners," Josh comes into his own and into a young man's finely formed understanding of duty, responsibility, and love. One of America's finest coming-of-age novels, Red Sky at Morning remains a "first novel to rejoice in" (Harper's) and "a novel of consequence" (New York Times Book Review).

Discussion Topics
1. How does Bradford portray racial prejudice? How do relations amongdifferent ethnic groups in Sagrado differ from those in Mobile? What is the significance of--and some of the confusions and consequences related to--Steenie's classification of people in Sagrado as Anglo, Native, and Indian?

2. How would you describe Josh's father and his relationship with his son? What role does Frank Arnold play in Josh's life? Are his presence at the novel's beginning and his few letters to Josh sufficient to establish and maintain his presence as a force in Josh's life?

3. Are Bradford's "Native" characters--the Montoyas, Sheriff Chamaco, Chango Lopez, and others--fully realized individuals? To what extent do they provide a clear understanding of the life, traditions, and history of Sagrado?

4. What differences between life in Sagrado and life in Mobile are critical to the story and to Josh's character and coming to maturity? How does Josh deal with those differences?

5. Do we learn enough about Ann Arnold's life and attitudes to adequately understand her reaction to living in Sagrado? In what ways would the story have been different if told from her perspective? Can you sympathize with her unhappiness and her inability, or refusal, to adapt to life in Sagrado?

6. What is the significance of the novel's title, in addition to its popular reference ("Red sky at morning, sailors take warning")? In what ways does the title apply to Josh and to the story's development? What should give the novel's characters cause to take warning?

7. What is the sequence of events, experiences, and insights that make up Josh's progress toward moral, emotional, and intellectual maturity? How do others--family, friends, teachers, and other residents of Sagrado--influence that progress? What does he learn from each?

8. What feelings and values are associated with Bradford's presentation of the New Mexico landscape? What is the significance of Romeo Bonino's returning his carved boulders to the mountain clearing? Do you agree with his explanation of why he returns the boulders?

9. What purpose is served by Josh's Christmas visit with Amadeo and Victoria to the mountain village of La Cima? To what extent does the lawlessness of La Cima throw into relief the need for a social order based on law, mutually beneficial communal behavior, and a recognition of everyone's humanity?

10. What attitudes, behaviors, and expressed beliefs and values of the men, women, and children of Sagrado provide a persuasive picture of the kind of lives they lead and aspire to? What is the significance of Victoria's revelation--to Jimbob's consternation--that her family has been in Sagrado since 1598?

11. Josh explains to Mr. Gunther that he believes his father's reference to "Sage Counsel" "means the counsel of Amadeo and Excilda, since they're both pretty sage." Is Josh correct? What about the Montoyas' life and outlook might explain Josh's trust in them?


About the Author
"Bradford believes in the human comedy the way DiMaggio believes in baseball, the way Nureyev believes in the dance, the way people, no matter what, believe in laughing when they might just as well be weeping."
--Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi's Honor
Born in 1932, Richard Bradford has spent most of his adult life in New Mexico, a landscape to which he pays homage in both of his novels, Red Sky at Morning and So Far from Heaven. Before the 1968 publication of Red Sky at Morning-- which many reviewers favorably compared to such coming-of-age novels as The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird--Bradford had worked as a technical writer, a promoter of tourism, and an environmental-impact analyst.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2003

    One of my all time favarites

    I have loved this book since I first read it back in the 70's. I have to pull it off the shelf and re-read it every few years.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2009

    Red Sky At Morning

    This is a quiet little wonderful book. Mr. Bradford possessed a wicked humor that personified the coming-of-age writers, post WWII. This is a 'character' book and Bradford understood the feelings of the newly liberated from the traditional generations of the 20's and 30's.

    The relationship between Josh and his father is understated and very fine. (Dad had an unusual gifted way of breaking the sound barrier between parent and child.)

    This will be one of those few once-a-year reads for this writer, like 'Lonesome Dove' and 'The Power of One'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2008

    An Adventure in commercial fishing...

    How could I not love Red Sky Morning? My love of fishing goes back to my childhood. The fact that my experiences are in farm ponds did not stop me from enjoying Andrew Rafkin¿s adventures. He was seventeen-years-old when he took the summer job of working on his father¿s commercial fishing boat. I will never look at ¿StarKist¿ again without thinking of Rafkin¿s experience. He tells of facing a storm at sea. Commercial fishing is extremely dangerous. ¿You could lose your boat by staying out too long, ignoring weather reports, or catching more than the capacity of his boat. A captain may violate all three of these risks, which could result in a disaster.¿ Red Sky Morning is a fascinating peek inside the life of a commercial angler. Andrew Rafkin has a talent for narrating a story and bringing it to life. Unfortunately, this book still needs some editing. Rafkin is the author of Creating Madness, a fictional account of a terrorist attack along the U.S. coast. This gripping tale is a must read for sportsmen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    A great read!

    I love this book! It's one of those books, like Catcher on the Rye, that will always be with me. I love the characters and the way the author wrote it. He doesn't drag on. It's a really fast read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2005

    A Must Read - Over and Over Again

    Like many readers who left reviews, I too read Red Sky at Morning every few years. It's funny, smart, poignant, and real. Whether you are 15 or 65, it's a beautifully written story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    This was great!

    Actually, this is much better than Catcher in the Rye! This books is clever and genuinely funny - one of the funniest I've read since the second Harry Potter! A MUST read by every age group from 15 or 16 up to the older generation! Unfortunately, I can't find anything else by this author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2000

    A warm, funny book to re-read over the years

    I first read Red Sky at Morning when I was 14, and immediately bonded with the teen age narrator, fatherless in a strange new world. The wry humor, sarcastic wit and evocation of a vanished, war time New Mexico all combine for a wonderful read. I've reread it with great pleasure several times since (32 years and counting) and ordered a new copy for my 16 year old son. He read it and passed it along to his sister which I choose to interpret as an act of kindness, rather than the usual bantering siblings display. A fine book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Highly recommend

    This is a humorous story but I must also remember that is surrounding events during World War II. The story has a much deeper level that involves race relations, social status, snobbery, and an underlying realization that end the end, color, location, ethnic background or other is not what truly defines a person; it's what's in our hearts and souls that truly says who we are.

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  • Posted January 17, 2013

    In the book ¿Red sky at Morning¿, Mr. Frank Arnold has to go to

    In the book “Red sky at Morning”, Mr. Frank Arnold has to go to the U.S. Navy because he volunteered. Mr. Arnold’s wife Ann and his son Josh have to leave Mobile, Alabama and move to Corazon, Sagrado in New Mexico. Josh tries to fit in with the Hispanics in Sagrado and Ann isn’t able to stabilize in Sagrado because she isn’t use to the climate and she doesn’t understand Spanish. On Josh’s first day of school, he gets bullied by this boy who is called, “Chango” which means monkey in Spanish because he has huge arms. Amadeo and Excilda is a couple who have been hired by Mr. Arnold to take care of the house and to feed Josh and Ann while he is in the navy. In the book Josh meets new friends and is becoming a responsible man. Josh has to learn to take care of himself and of his mom because his mother gets drunk, so she can forget about her stress.
    When I first started to read this book I didn’t really get the feel for it. I decided to give this book a shot and I continued to read it. As I began to read further and further, I started to enjoy it and I could not put this book down, I had to know what was going to happen next. This was my first time reading a book that his comical and I thought it was going to be a bad book experience but I was wrong. This book had teenage romance, funny things in the book, adventure, and teenage mischief. The plot in the book was good because of Josh’s mother getting drunk on sherry.
    Josh is a teenage boy who moves to Sagrado and is trying to fit in and learn Spanish while he is there. On Josh’s first day of school, he gets cursed by a boy name Chango because he thought Josh was looking at his sister. Chango is a bully throughout the book and he hangs out with kids who are tough. The suspenseful part was when Chango and his friends were chasing Josh because he had pushed Chango. While they were chasing Josh, they lost him and Chango’s friend Tarzan asked him if he knew where Josh was at and Chango said no and Tarzan was mad that he decided to stab Chango in the stomach. Once Chango recovered from his injury, he has changed to a different person and has become nice to people and is a man of God.
    Overall I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend this book to boys because the book is told by a Josh’s point of view, but girls could also read it too. If you’re the type of person who likes a book that has comedy, adventure, romance, and more, I would recommend you to read this book. What are you waiting for, go to your nearest library and check out this astounding book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    One of my all time favorites

    This is a go to book when you are feeling sad. The scene where they play chicken with the dead horse makes me laugh just thinking about it. I first read it in junior high and had to buy a new copy as an adult since I had worn out the binding on the original.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2007

    I thought it would be way better...

    I have heard about this book a lot and how great it was supposed to be... but i was rather dissapointed. I thought it was boring and I don't think the story line was all that great. It had its moments i suppose but it just was that good a book for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2007

    red sky at morning this is your warning

    This book is horrible. I would not recommend this book to anyone because there were a lot of GAY SEX scenes in it. Also I could not focus on this book. I think it sucked.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 1999

    The Book That is Weak Sauce

    The book was not worth reading I though that it should not even be compared with Catcher In The Rye the book explained things in adults words but only a teenager would understand the point of the story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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