Sunday, July 1, 2012

So Long, See You Tomorrow

First, I want to emphatically state that I never pick reading material to complement my geographical location. Yet before heading to farmland in the Heartland, I grabbed this drama played out between tenant farmers in the 1920's and then it grabbed me while I lazed away an afternoon on the porch of a 1910 Sears Roebuck Modern Home.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell is a telescopic look into a tragedy that claimed the lives of two neighboring farmers. Fifty years after the incident a townie, connected to the deaths through his friendship with the killer's son, reflects on the events that unfolded to culminate in murder and the families' fragmentation.

There was little doubt who shot Lloyd Wilson in the early dawn, while he milked his cow by lantern light. Lloyd's wife had recently requested a legal separation and moved into town with her four children. Fern Smith, the wife of Lloyd's closest neighbor Clarence, sued for divorce citing Clarence's repeated cruelty but omitting her affair with Lloyd. Clarence countered-sued and the resulting court case aired intimacies and humiliations that drove Clarence off the farm and into depression and seclusion - broken only by the deadly retort that rang through the quiet morning.

Maxwell's atmospheric writing captures the time and place and images jump like photographs off of the page. This classic, compact tale (originally published in The New Yorker) won the National Book Award in 1982 and was described by reviewers as a "dark treasure". I think you'll agree.

Vicki Ann


  1. I grew up in the Midwest, too, but that didn't make the book at all compelling to me. If you are looking for vivid writing, and characters that are interesting in any way, my advice is to look elsewhere. The only character I cared about was the dog.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I agree that Maxwell expresses the dog's longing more intimately than any of the other characters and I was affected as well. I found the book interesting, in part, because of all that adult passion relayed in such a dispassionate voice. What drove Lloyd and Fern other than discontent and lack of options? Certainly there is no yearning in the telling, yet there are lines of narrative and dialog that grabbed my reader’s heart and kept me turning pages.
      Vicki Ann


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