“M. Glenn Taylor’s plain spoken eloquence on labor, race, and war recalls the voices in Studs Terkel’s inspired Working. The Marrowbone Marble Company is a novel of stirring clarity and power.”
—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
Author M. Glenn Taylor was nominated for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for his novel The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart. Taylor returns spectacularly with The Marrowbone Marble Company, a sweeping story set against the changing landscape of post-World War II America that recalls The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and the early lyrical work of Cormac McCarthy. A masterwork of Southern fiction that the National Book Award-winning author of Spartina, John Casey, calls, “a terrific rough-and-tumble novel,” The Marrowbone Marble Company is a gift from a truly exhilarating American voice.
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About the Author
Glenn Taylor was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. His first novel, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award. Taylor lives in Chicago with his wife and three sons.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1941 in Huntington, West Virginia, eighteen year old orphan Loyal Ledford works as a furnace tender at the Mann Glass Company factory while also attending college. He likes his boss' daughter Rachel and persuades her to go out with him. When the war breaks out, Loyal joins the Marine Corps. After major combat tours, he comes home to a hero's welcome. He marries Rachel, they have two kids and he returns to the glass manufacturing factory. However, he suffers from the trauma of battle until he meets his cousins, the Bonecutter brothers. They form a partnership, The Marrowbone Marble Company and a company village that welcomes all races and proves successful over the couple of decades until the civil rights movement marches through the area threatening his business, his village and his family. This super historical epic returns to the land of The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart as The Marrowbone Marble Company focuses on a man who is ahead of his time re race relations only to be threatened by those trying to catch up. After serving in some of the Pacific's more harrowing battles, Ledford suffers from PTSD until he meets his relatives and their land, which turns him into a visionary. Readers who relish a profound historical tale will appreciate the life and times of the battle fatigued dreamer in the Mountaineer State as he keeps the insightful story line mostly focused although some meandering in the foothills occurs. Harriet Klausner
I received this book through the First Reads giveaway program on Goodreads. Writing a review of M. Glenn Taylor's The Marrowbone Marble Company has been difficult for me - not because of the book itself but because determining where it fits in my reading experience and my life experience has been an elusive process. Covering the period from October, 1941 to January, 1969 - with a ten-year gap from 1953 to 1963 - the book could be "about" any of several things. The protagonist, Loyal Ledford, tends the furnace on the swing shift in a West Virginia glass factory until he enlists in the Army immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His experiences and the people he serves with in the Pacific are things that will continue to influence him long after the end of the war. On his return to West Virginia, he resumes his job at the glass factory, marries, and begins to raise a family. Unhappy with the hierarchy under which he works at the glass factory, he soon leaves to not only build a marble factory but a new community as well, based on what each member is able to contribute. In June of 1963 I was a few weeks shy of my eighth birthday. In January of 1969 I was a semester and a summer - one that included the first moon landing and Woodstock - away from high school. My age and living in southern New Mexico during that time period meant that I didn't understand much about what little exposure I had via the evening news to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, so reading about how a community in West Virginia experienced that time gave me a very different perspective on it. While reading the book, I fell into thinking that it was about the Civil Rights Movement but in the weeks since I turned the last page, the story has risen into my conscious thought on numerous occasions and I've come to realize that the point of the story is much more fundamental. It's about doing what's right and about learning that knowing what's right isn't always as easy as it should be. Loyal Ledford learns through hard lessons that what's right for one isn't always right for another and that subsuming one's own "right" to that of another or of a group can lead to bitter or disastrous results. Ultimately he learns that doing the right thing always involves a personal choice and that making that choice won't necessarily lead to the best results. Taylor writes in such a way that you feel the protagonist's mood and frame of mind through the "voice" of the story. He develops his characters so well that if you were dropped into the Marrowbone community, you would know everyone there by sight. I enjoyed this book immensely and know that it will be with me for quite some time.
Loyal Ledford grows up surrounded by tragedy, and at age thirteen is left to raise himself simply and quietly. Being alone suits him, and he works hard, not making waves. He enlists after Pearl Harbor, eager to defend his homeland. Being sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, he learns the horrors of war and the fragility of friendships. He returns to West Virginia an angry man, an alcoholic really, who is unable to cope when faced with cruelties in the world. He begins by shutting out the newspaper...he can't bear to hear of other tragedies in the world. As the civil rights struggles heat up, he is shocked and angered by a country that willingly lets blacks fight alongside whites, but then denies them the ability to sit together at a restaurant or on a bus. This disparity eats at him, until he thinks he's found the solution. He sets out to create a utopian community deep in the hills, one that allows people of different races to live side by side, work the land, and form a closeknit family structure, one that he never had. It works out beautifully, for a time. The success he finds eases his injured heart, and he begins to forget the ugliness of the War he fought. However, word gets out about his community and he's labelled a Communist, and the new community faces its first real challenges: surviving amid the hate from the outside world directed at it. Things begin to go terribly wrong, and the inner person he thought he left behind returns. This work of fiction is well-written and shows the different ways people try and repent from their sins....Ledford sincerely wants to make things right. The clue though, is that besides the newspaper, he then shuts out television, unable to cope with any sort of evil without taking it personally. It's apparent that he is only comfortable in a made-up world of his own making. When he is outside the community, his personality changes. However, he's a likable character and the story unfolds beautifully. A little too beautifully. His new community seems too ideal, the residents behaving perfectly, and a mutual understanding that is a little bit unimaginable. There are no disputes over housing, work, or food, and the ability for everyone to get along so well was unrealistic. Additionally, I kept wondering where the money was coming from, as money for this community and the new marble factory they build is never an issue. I thought that seemed a glaring omission, and it unsettled me throughout the last half of the novel. Outside the depictions of war, this is a very peaceful book, a pleasant read that appeals because it represents an ideal most people yearn for. The underlying character study of Ledford is what makes it unique, and shows how complicated people are, and how difficult it is to flee from the past.