In the years before World War I, Byron Aldridge led a charmed life as the charismatic heir apparent to a Pennsylvania timber empire; and to his younger brother, Randolph, he was both guide and idol. But he returned from France a different man and was not home long before those festering memories sent him drifting from one settlement to another, working as a lawman, and then disappearing altogether.
Finally his family discovers him in a remote Louisiana mill town, promptly buys the property, and puts Randolph in charge of this place unlike any he has ever seen, where men are surrounded by cypress swamps and menace, leading lives of ceaseless, backbreaking toil punctuated only by the brutal entertainments provided by the Sicilians who control the whiskey and card games and girls, and by the rough justice meted out by the still-tormented Byron. Randolph struggles to understand him, and to regain his trust, even as their wives presently contend with their own hopes and disappointments and while the future grows uncertain yet fearsome all around them.
This is a story about family, about marriage, about what sustains people through loss; it is a reckoning of the sacrifices they must make in order to establish a community in the deepest wilderness, and to defend what is most precious to them. Palpably atmospheric, with a remarkable range of characters and emotions, The Clearing displays more powerfully than ever before Tim Gautreaux's masterful understanding of time, place, and human nature.
The Los Angeles Times - Bernadette Murphy
Reading ...The Clearing, is like immersing yourself in a film during daylight hours, losing complete track of time ... you're unwilling and unready to resume your normal life. You don't want the story to end.
USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer
There's a terrible beauty to the novel ...Gautreaux writes beautifully about terrible things, about war and life and death in a backwater timber mill in 1923.
The New Yorker
... Gautreaux, like some Bayou Conrad, manages to combine verbal luxuriance and swift, brutal action to devastating effect.
Publishers Weekly - Peter Matson
Gautreaux's prose is gorgeous ... adroitly evokes the murky miasma and shadowy half-light of the treacherous Louisiana swamps.
Library Journal - Lawrence Rungren
Set in a harsh landscape that engenders raw emotions, this gritty tale is by turns wise, violent, and compassionate ... a darkly atmospheric novel that explores the evil done unto men and the evil they in turn do to others.
Almost overripe with swampy menace, but compelling and original.
As a reader passes through the contagion of violence within this story, what is remembered are the tendrils of compassion and tenderness, small but enduring ... a unique and fascinating story.
... presents the reader with an interesting dilemma do you give in to the stifling suspense and read quickly ... or do you go slow, savoring each delicious sentence, and thereby risking, by the climax, a nervous breakdown?
Howard Frank Mosher
Out of this heart of darkness comes a beautifully crafted story of two brothers and their incredible violent battle to preserve family love and human decency in a place gone haywire.
What makes this novel a modern masterpiece is ... the reader begins to comprehend the layers upon layers of American fable, myth, and parable contained within the pages.
Robert Olen Butler
I came to a rare and notable state of mind as a reader. Hereafter, ... when I think of Louisiana, I will hear the voice of Tim Gautreaux.
This dark story, told in the clearest prose, compels you forward like a handcar on a downhill slope, until the final escape.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by john willis
This is an outstanding book.The sense of place is compelling.The actions is fast paced and very realistic,but the part i liked the best was the relationship between the 2 brothers.This was very touching and its hard to find a thriller like this... Read More
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