Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022 and Award Winners

Only Love Can Break Your Heart Summary and Reviews

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

by Ed Tarkington

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington X
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

"Love can make people do terrible things."

Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears.

Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn't forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he's getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors' daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families. After a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, Rocky and his family must reckon with the past and find out how much forgiveness their hearts can hold.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Fans of Kathryn Stockett's The Help will embrace debut author Tarkington's depiction of Southern life at a time of changing social mores. Those who liked Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat will also find much to appreciate here. Most of all, readers who can't get enough of Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, and Brian Panowich will delight in discovering this fine new writer." - Library Journal

"From beginning to end, the plotline is intense, never flagging." - Booklist

"Well-written and observed, though the characters and situations are familiar from many, many previous novels." - Kirkus

"Tarkington's people are rakes, rascals, irascible losers, femme fatales, rich buffoons, dunderheads, beautiful loons, and one very cool dude, all balanced by the voice of a narrator you come to love as much as he loves his doomed older brother." - Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives

"Narrated by Rocky, the younger of the two, in a voice that is beguiling and wise, this addictive tale of abandonment and forgiveness will haunt you long after you've turned the last page." - Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

"A wonderful, beauty-haunted piece of work. Tarkington's voice in his hard-to-put-down debut novel has a timeless feel to its cadences, the same bittersweet music we hear in the storytelling of the best of our Southern writers who remind us how hard the world can be for dreamers." - Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

This information about Only Love Can Break Your Heart was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Ed Tarkington

Ed Tarkington received a BA from Furman University, an MA from the University of Virginia, and PhD from the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Florida State. A frequent contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Post Road, the Pittsburgh Quarterly, the Southeast Review, and elsewhere. A native of Central Virginia, he lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Voted 2022 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Geraldine Brooks creates a ...
  • Book Jacket: In Love
    In Love
    by Amy Bloom
    Voted 2022 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. In 2019, author Amy Bloom and her...
  • Book Jacket: Remarkably Bright Creatures
    Remarkably Bright Creatures
    by Shelby Van Pelt
    Voted 2022 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel, ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Scatterlings
    by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

    The debut novel of a gifted storyteller who has become a sensation in her native South Africa.

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.
Who Said...

A book may be compared to your neighbor...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.