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4.0 20
by Larry Brown

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“Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit.” —The Washington Post Book World

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green.

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down--not in his


“Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit.” —The Washington Post Book World

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green.

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he is the son of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, and he’s desperate for a way out. When their paths cross, Joe offers him a chance just as his own chances have dwindled to almost nothing. Together they follow a twisting map to redemption--or ruin.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With this powerful, immensely affecting novel Brown comes into his own as a writer of stature. As in his previous books ( Dirty Work ; Big Bad Love ), his subjects are poor Southern rednecks who exist from day to day, from hand to mouth, in tar-paper shacks and shabby mobile homes. Some are hard, mean and utterly lacking in moral fiber; others, such as the eponymous protagonist, try to live with integrity and dignity despite limited opportunities, despite the ingrained, ubiquitous habit of drinking prodigious amounts of beer and whiskey. Joe Ransom is almost 50, newly divorced, with bitter recollections of years spent in the pen for assaulting a police officer while drunk. A product of his time and place, Joe is reckless, self-destructive, hard-driving, hard-drinking, sometimes ruthless, but he is essentially kindhearted and decent. Joe manages a crew of black laborers who poison trees for a lumber company. When he gives a temporary job to teenage Gary Jones, part of a migratory family so destitute the boy has never seen a toothbrush or understood the significance of a traffic light, Joe is touched by the boy's dogged determination to work although Gary's alcoholic, vicious, amoral father takes the money as soon as Gary earns it. In his own laconic way Joe acts as mentor for Gary, until, in the novel's wrenching conclusion, fate and Joe's own stubborn morality wrench them apart. Seamlessly constructed, the novel hums with perfect pitch, with language as lean and unsparing as the poverty-mired Mississippi rural community Brown depicts. He has achieved mastery of descriptive detail, demonstrated in scenes that variously depict the contents of a country general store, a bloody dogfight, men butchering a deer, Joe cleaning out bullet wounds in his arm without an anesthetic, a punishing rainstorm. The dialogue is as natural as spring water. Brown never condescends to his uneducated, gambling-addicted, casually promiscuous characters; with compassion and eloquence, he illumines their painful lives and gives them worth. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The author of Dirty Work ( LJ 7/89) scores tough points with this disturbing look at the underside of rural life. Joe Ransom is 43, a hard-drinking, rough-edged ex-con who's used up most of the cards in his personal deck. Foreman of a Mississippi lumber company's ``tree-poisoning'' crew, he meets Gary Jones, age 15, seeking work. Gary's father is an itinerant farm worker, a man so thieving, murderous, and unwashed that Faulkner's Snopeses look genteel in comparison. Gary has never been to school, owned a toothbrush, or had enough to eat. He wants out of the everyday horror of his life. His dream is modest: to own an old pickup, to buy enough food to feed his addled mother and silent little sister. Joe likes Gary, and between backsliding bouts of boozing, whoring, and gambling, tries to help. The bond they forge and a slim hope for redemption link them in a shattering, inevitable climax. Recommended.-- Le nore Hart, Machipongo, Va.
Kirkus Reviews
With this, his fourth book in as many years, Brown delivers on the huge promise of his first, the tough-as-nails collection of stories, Facing the Music. With none of the melodrama or self- indulgence of his last two books, Brown here pares his prose close to the bone, stripping away the slightest hint of sociology or regional color. This is white trash, lumpen fiction with a vengeance, and a vision of angelic desolation. Joe Ransom is an unlikely role model. He drinks too much, gambles too often, and angers too quickly. A failure as a father and husband, he did some time in the pen before returning home to his job as foreman for a forest defoliation crew. But to 15-year- old Gary Jones, Joe's a hero. The son of a truly evil no-count drunk migrant worker, Gary is honest, hard-working, and loyal. When his pathetic family wanders into this Mississippi town and squats in an abandoned country cabin, Gary finds a job on Joe's all-black crew. Saving to buy Hoe's old pickup, Gary hides his money from his foul-smelling father, a bum so low he sold one of his kids and pimps his 12-year-old daughter. Gary and Joe prove to be "kindred spirits"—they're both essentially good and just men, despite what the local cops think. Much of the novel demonstrates the disparity between Joe's worldliness and Gary's naivet‚—the illiterate teenager has never seen a toothbrush. In his direct, credible style, Brown also chronicles the utter depravity of Gary's old man, Wade. This is a world of pit bulls, shotguns, plump whores, and guys name "Icky"—an unlikely setting for Brown's profoundly moral fiction. "Bright with pain and liquor," this raw and gritty novel ranks with the best hard-knocks,down-and-out work of Jim Thompson and Harry Crews. It's lean, mean, and original.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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Meet the Author

Larry Brown was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he lived all his life. At the age of thirty, a captain in the Oxford Fire Department, he decided to become a writer and worked toward that goal for seven years before publishing his first book, Facing the Music, a collection of stories, in 1988. With the publication of his first novel, Dirty Work, he quit the fire station in order to write fulltime. Between then and his untimely death in 2004, he published seven more books. His three grown children and his widow, Mary Annie Brown, live near Oxford.

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Joe: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
MarinewifeAG More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have ever had to read for a college course. I stayed up after a long day and read the whole thing. Brown has a great writing style and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is not predictable and you will want to know what is going to happen next. This book is going to be part of my permanent library and I will be reading it again and again. This book is a great escape from the outside world. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of southern fiction a like to read realistic fiction you don't want to miss this one. Very realistic story about the darker side of life. I rooted for Joe and Gary all the way thru and found myself hating Wade.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was a very good story of a everyman and his coming to grips with both the mundane and evils that surround us all.
Timhrk More than 1 year ago
Joe features one of the most believably evil characters in all of contemporary fiction, the father of a poor white trash family in Mississippi. They are homeless migrant workers and the father, an alcoholic, sells his infant son to a rich family. The main story is about the older son who befriends Joe, a middle age guy living out in the woods who needs to save a life for his own personal redemption. Larry Brown died too young. Here he is at the height of his powers. Please visit: timothyherrick.blogspot.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to put down after I started reading it. I love those kind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm sure I will enjoy it when I do get to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understand the movie better but i didnt really like
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, it was nice talkin to u again :) i,m glad someone remembers me.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
You might be a redneck if you read this novel, and you feel as though you’ve met a few of your kin. You might be a redneck if you read between these pages, and you feel like you’re coming home. You might be a redneck if words like y’all and fixin’ to flow freely from your lips. You might be a redneck if JOE makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You might be a redneck if you’re building relations with your second cousin on your mama’s side. You might be a redneck if you whistle between the gaps of your missing teeth. You might be a redneck if soda pop is your favorite breakfast beverage. This novel helped me get reacquainted with my southern side, where the tea is always sweet, the hollers are narrow enough that you pinch your gut around the turns, the neighbors greet one another in the morning, where the gathering spots are the local Wal-Mart and Burger King and, where the widest road is a four-lane highway. Where an entire town gets all up in your business and “Country Roads” is your state’s unofficial song. Yes, I’m talking about West By God Virginia, which ain’t all that different from the heartland of Mississippi. At least according to the latest poll where we’re ranked as the two most obese states. So, yes, one could make the argument that I already had a predisposition to like this novel, and I’d agree with you. But Larry Brown knows how to spin a tale on the back roads, conjuring up dirt and dust, and a voice that sang me to sleep in a country twang where the syllables were extended on account of them being important words, and y’all don’t want to miss ’em the first go round. If you missed this book the first go round, as I’m willing to bet a few of ya might’a done, you’d better find that horse and saddle up and don’t forget your spurs, in case this particular colt decides to shove you off. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality and Graceful Immortality
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't own this book. A friend loaned it to me via our nooks. It took a while to get into it, but once I did I enjoyed it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just watched the movie tonight. It was sad but.. the acting was great...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have a brother named joe, so when i saw this i imeditaly knew that it would be good. Not just for thw fact it was named after my brother but because it is actually good d amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hold up a finger and I reach into my sachel again and pull out a rounded cap. I place it on the dagger and stab the wall. Ice slowly starts spreading outwards. "Everything it hits freezes. A kid from Athena helped me build it." I go back to camp.