So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

2 out of 5 stars

In the rural community of Lincoln, Illinois a farmer is murdered after a neighbouring farmer shoots him. The community is shocked by this and again by the second tragedy that was to befall them soon after. What is left of the two families are left to patch up their lives and the case is soon forgotten about. Except by the narrator of the story. He was almost friends with the son of one of the deceased and the memories of the time still weight heavily in his mind.

Fifty years later, he decides that he wants to fill in the gaps of what happened at the time. He writes off to the local paper for copies of the articles that were written at the time and eventually gets a set of articles sent to him. It felt like looking at history through the wrong end of a set of binoculars. In amongst the $7 suit adverts of the time were the nuggets of information that washed over him as a child. As he starts to go back over the events that led up to this double tragedy he realises that he has more questions than answers now.

Even though I have only given this two stars, there were some parts of this novella that I liked, the prose is taut and sparse, he has barely wasted a letter in the writing of this. It felt at times a little like Of Mice and Men the way he portrayed the sense of place that you get from reading it. I could see the fields that the community lived in and sense the bleakness from the uniformity of it all. The main problem that I had with it was that it didn’t feel cohesive to me. It jumps back and forwards and you find out almost immediately about the murder and the remainder of the book is spent with the narrator exploring and trying to understand what happened all those years ago and coming to terms with his guilt.

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3 Comments

  1. Jackie Law

    I like the sound of this one – novella length with taut, sparse prose and a strong sense of place is right up my street.

    • Paul

      I have passed it to my Brother in law, I am more than happy to send it on when he has read it

      • Jackie Law

        That is a generous offer – thank you.

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