Local Souls: Book summary and reviews of Local Souls by Allan Gurganus

Local Souls

By Allan Gurganus

Local Souls
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

With the meteoric success of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Allan Gurganus placed himself among America's most original and emotionally engaged storytellers. If his first comic novel mapped the late nineteenth-century South, Local Souls brings the twisted hilarity of Flannery O'Connor kicking into our new century.

Through memorable language and bawdy humor, Gurganus returns to his mythological Falls, North Carolina, home of Widow. This first work in a decade offers three novellas mirroring today's face-lifted South, a zone revolutionized around freer sexuality, looser family ties, and superior telecommunications, yet it celebrates those locals who have chosen to stay local. In doing so, Local Souls uncovers certain old habits - adultery, incest, obsession - still very much alive in our New South, a "Winesburg, Ohio" with high-speed Internet.

Wells Tower says of Gurganus, "No living writer knows more about how humans matter to each other." Such ties of love produce hilarious, if wrenching, complications: "Fear Not" gives us a banker's daughter seeking the child she was forced to surrender when barely fifteen, only to find an adult rescuer she might have invented. In "Saints Have Mothers," a beloved high school valedictorian disappears during a trip to Africa, granting her ambitious mother a postponed fame that turns against her. And in a dramatic "Decoy," the doctor-patient friendship between two married men breaks toward desire just as a biblical flood shatters their neighborhood and rearranges their fates.

Gurganus finds fresh pathos in ancient tensions: between marriage and Eros, parenthood and personal fulfillment. He writes about erotic hunger and social embarrassment with Twain's knife-edged glee. By loving Falls, Gurganus dramatizes the passing of Hawthorne's small-town nation into those Twitter-nourished lives we now expect and relish.

Four decades ago, John Cheever pronounced Allan Gurganus "the most technically gifted and morally responsive writer of his generation." Local Souls confirms Cheever's prescient faith. It deepens the luster of Gurganus's reputation for compassion and laughter. His black comedy leaves us with lasting affection for his characters and the aching aftermath of human consequences. Here is a universal work about a village.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In these layered, often funny narratives, close reading is rewarded as Gurganus exposes humanity as a strange species." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Vivid language, provocative sentence structure, and metaphors that elevate the reader's consciousness. [Gurganus] shares with his southern cohorts a delight in discovering the quotidian within lives led under extraordinary, even bizarre circumstances." - Booklist

"The architecture of Allan Gurganus's storytelling is flawless...Gurganus makes the preternatural feel natural. Sexual taboos, a parent's worst fears: these emerge in tones comic and horrifying. Each novella delivers an ending of true force." - John Irving

"Allan Gurganus breathes so much life into the town of Falls, North Carolina, his reader is able to walk down the streets and mingle with the local souls. This book underscores what we have long known - Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time." - Ann Patchett

"Allan Gurganus is our verbal magician. He turns factual rabbits into poetic doves. Every sentence contains a surprise, but the brilliant surface doesn't dazzle us from peering into the tender human depths." - Edmund White

"Allan Gurganus has the uncanny ability to make you laugh and shudder at the same time. That rare gift is on full and glorious display here." - T. C. Boyle

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Alan Gurganus's, books include White People and Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Gurganus is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys. A resident of his native North Carolina, he lives in a village of six thousand souls.

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