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Eli the Good

Eli the Good

4.5 26
by Silas House

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Bicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 will go down as the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his beautiful and distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild and


Bicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 will go down as the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his beautiful and distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild and confused sister; his former war-protester aunt who moves in under mysterious circumstances; and his tough yet troubled best friend Edie, the only person with whom he can completely be himself. As tempers flare and his father's nightmares rage, Eli watches from the sidelines, but soon even he cannot escape the current of conflict. From the award-winning Silas House comes a tender look at the complexities of childhood and the realities of war-a quintessentially Southern novel filled with music, nostalgic detail, a deep respect for nature, and the powerful sense of place that House is hailed for.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his YA debut, adult author House tells the story of a smalltown family reeling from the Vietnam War. The narrator, Eli Book, describes the summer of 1976, when he was 10 years old, with the hindsight and perspective that adulthood brings (“It's important that you know this: my mother was beautiful.... She must have driven the boys at the high school absolutely crazy”). Eli lives with his father (a traumatized Vietnam vet); his loving but distant mother; a rebellious teenage sister; and his outspoken antiwar activist aunt. The candid conversations between Eli and his best friend, Edie, underscore the turmoil in both of their households. House laces the book with references to Bob Seger and Happy Days, but keeps the focus on the family's crackling dynamics and Eli's struggle to make sense of them. There's subtle poetry at work in House's writing, and as the tension and summer months heat up (“The sun broiled on the sky, a living thing that pulsated and grew larger”), Eli comes to understand how love and forgiveness can overcome even the most deep-seated conflicts. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Myrna Dee Marler
It is 1976, the summer of the bicentennial, and ten-year-old Eli is having a tumultuous summer. His father suffers from PTSD after the Vietnam War and occasionally tries to choke his mother to death in his sleep; his aunt, a free-spirited war protestor and constantly at odds with her brother, arrives looking for a safe haven while she deals with breast cancer; Eli's seventeen-year-old sister has just discovered that her mother was "knocked up" by someone else before she married the man she has thought was her father; and, Edie, the next door neighbor and Eli's best friend, has emotionally abusive parents in the process of getting a divorce. Eli is a thoughtful kid and an avid reader and he spends a lot of time alone or lurking about in trees and bushes fortuitously overhearing essential private conversations. It is tempting to label him a snoop, but his aunt tells him he is one of the best people she has ever known and crowns him "Eli the Good." Eli has good tendencies, but sometimes he acts destructively, probably as a result of all the turmoil around him. He is a bit young for this to be a coming of age story, but he certainly loses a lot of his innocence during the course of the summer. The voice is that of a grown up Eli looking back on that crucial summer. The text is lovely, filled with descriptions of nature, and summer, and 1970s memories. This novel is both a thought-provoking read and a nostalgic look back at recent history. Reviewer: Myrna Dee Marler
Kirkus Reviews
The summer of 1976 was when ten-year-old Eli Book first knew his father, when he "first saw the war inching its way beneath his skin, behind his eyes." It was a summer destined for conflict, with his father home from Vietnam and suffering terrible nightmares that wrench him from his sleep and Eli's Aunt Nell, a famous antiwar protestor, come to live with the family. It was a summer when family secrets rose to the surface and Eli began to see the world in a new light. As in any good Southern novel, it's the well-drawn characters and rich setting-including the popular culture of the time (Laverne and Shirley, The Waltons, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin)-that make this a memorable story. Though the prose is overwrought at times and House takes liberties with the conventions of point of view, it's an important story about war's hold on soldiers and their families. Readers will want to keep an eye out for future works by this talented writer. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
950L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Silas House is the nationally best-selling author of the award-winning novels CLAY'S QUILT, A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES, and THE COAL TATTOO. He serves as writer-in-residence at Lincoln Memorial University and lives in eastern Kentucky with two daughters and two dogs.

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Eli the Good 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Elsie_Brooks More than 1 year ago
Eli and I were 10 in 1976. Silas House's novel took me back to the bicentennial, hometown parades, and the fear and loathing of Vietnam Vets that plagued our nation. House's writing is so personal and descriptive you feel like you are part of the memory. His references to television shows and pop music were lend historical perspective to the work. From House's description of his father's service station, I could almost smell the Texaco station my uncles owned during my childhood. My 11-year old daughter is reading the book now. I think it will give her insight into her parents' childhoods. It is difficult to believe the same man penned Eli the Good and A Parchment of Leaves; though, I loved them both.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will do anything for anyone if they can find Lila Opal or Skylar pls
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enters as the body shots begin. "When will it be my turn?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whats a body shot?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I grin and laugh. You wanna see it thst bad?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She grinned. "Sure!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Body shots anyone?" I ask glancing at Kristen
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Tess. I've tried everything to stop you. All's that's left to do is to join you. So see you on the other side." I grimly raise a vial filled with an enigmatic green liquid before going back to res 5.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She stands on her tippytoes to kiss you on the lips.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great author-this book takes you back to seventies childhood!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took some thinking for me to determine wheather or not that this was a good book. It really was. Eli is a a mature kid, so you also hve to grow up whole reading thos. It was a real touching book about his family actually coming together instea of favoring to certain people.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's 1976 and 10-year-old Eli has a lot on his plate to deal with. His father suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and frequently wakes up with nightmares, his sister's turning into a wild child, his Aunt Noel comes to live with them and is diagnosed with cancer, and his best friend, Edie, doesn't seem to want to be friends with him anymore. When war hits close to home, Eli struggles against all hope to keep his life together. Will Eli survive the summer or will things gets worse? An enjoyable tale that does a great job of portraying the realities of living in America during wartime. The text is well-written, the characters are believable and are easy to relate to. Readers will enjoy following Eli as he discovers who he is and what his family means to him amidst all the chaos and conflict life seems to bring his way.
tarheelreaderbl More than 1 year ago
Once again, Silas House does not disappoint. Eli the Good is a touching story of a 10 year old boy experiencing the pains of growing up in a house full of secrets in 1976. From flashbacks to the Vietnam war to frequent references to popular music of the time, House successfully takes the reader back in time to those days that were turbulent and yet, innocent at the same time. Having been Eli's sister, Josie's, age in 1976, I was immediately reminded of what it was like to be a teenager in those days. A wonderful read for young adults (or older adults...) as well!
brightmyer More than 1 year ago
Silas House is the bestselling Kentucky author of CLAY'S QUILT, PARCHMENT OF LEAVES and THE COAL TATTOO - all centering around several generations of the same family growing up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. With this book, Silas tries his hand a writing for young adults and he has ended up with an endearing look at a slice of life from the summer of 1976. Eli Book is a ten year old boy, living like most children of the 1970s - riding his bicycle all over town, splashing in the town creek and enjoying hot summer days with his best friend Edie. This is really the coming of age story of how Eli deals with the overwhelming situations of strife in his young life. Eli has undying love for his parents, Loretta and Stanton Book, but his growing curiosity of the secrets they both carry is threatening to eat him alive. Eli feels jealousy of his mother's unconditional love for his father - he wants to be the number one love of her life. Eli is filled with uncertainty and longing to understand his father's past as a Vietnam veteran and the nightmares that consume his dreams. There is also underlying tension from Eli's sister, Josie, as she comes to grips with the fact that her mother was pregnant with her before Loretta and Stanton were married - she is not Stanton's biological daughter, but he has raised her as such. Then there is Stanton's way-ward, wildflower of a sister, Nell, who comes to live with the family for the summer. Stanton has unresolved feelings for his little sister because he feels betrayed that she was a war protester. And then there is Edie, the sweet little girl from next door who has been Eli's best friend and confidante. Their friendship is pure and an accurate portrayal of childhood innocence of past decades. But she has family problems of her own and leans on Eli's family as her support system. This is a book full of emotion and House's stylized lyrical prose. The words drip off the page and you want to lap them up, savoring every last drop and flavor. He has successfully written a compelling story that will not only capture the hearts of the intended young adult audience, but will hold an equal place in the hearts of adults. This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a great story and is destined to become a classic.