Cover Image: The Line That Held Us

The Line That Held Us

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"The Line That Held Us" is a beautifully written Southern tale of what lengths people will go to in order to protect the ones they love. It jumps into action immediately by describing how a nighttime hunting trip goes wrong (shocking, right?) and how multiple members of a tight-knit Appalachian community are dragged into one man's quest for revenge. Joy's writing is inherently brutal - there are many scenes of graphic violence and grotesque descriptions that are not for the faint of heart. But I was impressed by how gorgeous his writing still feels. There is so much emotion and also a beautiful wondering of the human condition that I wasn't expecting to find in a noir novel. The only thing that was really a downside was the ending. It felt sort of abrupt and left too many loose ends - so I was left with an unsatisfied feeling instead of total appreciation for Joy's talents.
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THE LINE THAT HELD US by David Joy, author of both “Where All Light Tends to Go” and “The Weight of This World” (both excellent books in my opinion), is another rural small town story like the aforementioned novels, and doesn’t hold back in the less pretty aspects of life by those who’ve been raised in the area; especially someone who’s been damaged as result of the environment he’s been raised in his formative years.

Dwayne Brewer is a violent man, well known as is the rest of his family in the community, who is searching for his missing brother Carol, also known as Sissy, after poaching ginseng from a patch on a man’s property who is out of town at the time.

Daryl Moody is the best friend of Calvin Hooper, and both are hard working “salt of the earth” types with the main difference being that Daryl is single, while Calvin is all but married to a beautiful and intelligent woman that he keeps being reminded that he should make an “honest woman”.

Evidence comes up in Dwayne’s search for his brother that leads him to suspect Daryl and possibly Calvin of being involved in Carol’s disappearance, which puts the fear of God into both of them knowing Dwayne’s reputation for violence.

Will Dwayne exact revenge for what he believes to be their involvement in his brother’s disappearance and possible death, or will they be able to avoid his wrath, possibly including revenge somehow? 

Suspenseful and riveting tale that makes it seem unlikely that either of the two friends can hope to escape from the situation they’ve found themselves in, bringing into question wrong decisions made and their repercussions, as well as the threat to losing everything; including those close to them and all that they love, as well as their own lives.

David Joy has written another fine novel in a style that fits the surroundings present in his stories, and I’ll be looking forward to the next book he writes.

5 stars.
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I just love how my bookie horizons are expanding!

This has been described as hick lit/grit lit and that seems to be pretty accurate.

Joy's writing elevates this to something more for me.
The amazing juxtaposition of grit and home town, past and present, soul crushing loss and all that you have to lose. 
Just wow.

I thought for sure I had the end aaaalll figured out and, while it wasn't a twist (and damn if I am not completely fine with that), it didn't have exactly the ending I was expecting. 

Don't let my post book feel goods lead you wrong. 
This is definitely gritty and dark. It is graphic and will make you have aaaaalllll the feels.

Despite his dark roll Dwayne Brewer was my favorite character.
It takes talent to write a 'villain' that you feel for. Joy was successful with this.

This book was given to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Because I am, sometimes, the worst I didn't get to it before release.
However, I was able to listen to the audio version of this and I can tell you it was excellent!
And yes, I would buy this for a friend!

check out my review on Goodreads!
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I just loved the overall mood and tone of the book. It’s quaint because it’s set in a small town. Everyone knows each other since childhood, certain family names stand out and are prominent due to reputation or how long they’ve been in town. It’s a great setting and the characters are realistic. Although each had their own ghosts and secrets, it provided more realism to them and they’re not so perfect and they’re all pretty much flawed. This is what made the book so good. 

The plot was good and provided easy reading. You’d want to know what happens and the ending wasn’t what I expected, it was a great ending however it would have been nice to hear about the outcomes of some of the characters featured. Definitely recommend this book. I enjoyed it absolutely from start to finish.
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I adore David Joy; he never fails to entertain me. With not a wasted word, Joy is off and running from the start in The Line That Held Us. When a tragic mistake breeds devastating consequences, Joy weaves a vicious, dark, and gritty tale of revenge and terror. The intensity and elegance of his writing punches you right in the gut - which is just what I expect from truly good "grit-lit" - and suspends the reader in time from the first page to the last. 
I've read that many people are underwhelmed by the less than definitive ending of this novel. I thought it was fitting - sad and beautiful and torturous, however lackluster others may think it. David Joy remains one of my go-to authors and I can't wait to see what he does next.
Much thanks to NetGalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons for an early copy of this novel for review.
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I read this a couple weeks ago and haven't had the chance to leave a review.
It's a brutal but feasible story that I can see happening in a small southern town. It's dark, brutal, terrifying. The story is told very well. It's gripping at times and the ending is quite explosive. I almost held my breath in the last chapter...... Very well told story.
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"The only reason we're here is because of the ones we loved.  That's the line that held us."
David Joy, The Line that Held Us

I am going to preface this review by saying.  I will not do this book justice.  I am not a master storyteller...David Joy, however, unequivocally is.  I picked up this book for one reason.  David Joy is a North Carolina author that writes stories based in Western North Carolina.  Y'all this book.  It is so atmospheric it literally made me nauseous in parts.  It is a hard read.  A short read, but so very soul crushing.  I will not be ok for a while.  

David brings questions to your mind where you somewhat start to question your stand on humanity.  He brings thoughts of fear.  Of love.  Desperation.  All tightly wrapped in a genre of Appalachian Noir.  The grittiness of the novel was in every word.  At the end of the book, I sat back, looked around as I was tucked away in my Piedmont NC home and thought....David Joy...where have you been all my life?

This book is not for everyone.  It has gruesome parts.  It brings a realness that could be very hard to digest.  For me it is hands down one of my favorites this year.  The writing alone is worth the read.  The story...brings excellent questions to mind.

This was a buddy read for me and it really brought lots of questions.

If you enjoy atmospheric, gritty, thought provoking novels...this one is for you.  If you want sunshine and, just no ;-)
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Eagerly anticipated, since first whisper of its impending release—no pressure or anything Mr. Joy—THE LINE THAT HELD US turned out to be one of those elusive novels, capable of stealing the words from my mouth. Fiddling with my feelings. Consuming my cortex. Drying up the drivel that flows easily from brain to restless fingers, following that final page. It’s taken darn near two months and one read through, followed by a second, only a few weeks later, to get to here—a place where I feel like I can piece together some semblance of thought. 

Why? Before you read further into things than you should, it’s not from the cloying and often weighty feeling of disappointment. No, nothing close to that. Indecisiveness might be the better descriptor. Or more pointedly, the sheer inability on my part to surrender to that ending for fear I somehow got it wrong. More on that later though; let me step back and start from the beginning.

A relatively simple story in retrospect, although told with an immense amount of grit and Joy’s own brand of beauty (yes, you read that right; there’s almost an elegance to the way he strings words together), THE LINE THAT HELD US is a wholly immersive experience. A chance to live life in a small backwoods town where everyone knows everyone. Where a person like Dwayne Brewer lets blinding rage and the need for revenge drive his misdeeds.

David Joy doesn’t waste any time, he delves right in—dropping his reader in the woods to be the sole witness of an accidental shooting. When Darl Moody sets his sights and pulls that trigger, it isn’t a wild pig that loses his life, it’s none other than Dwayne’s younger brother, Sissy Brewer. Crawling around the woods in low-light probably isn’t a smart idea in hindsight, but if you’re thieving ginseng off private property, you want to be stealthy about it.

It’s a tug of war. A back and forth struggle. A moral dilemma to ponder—is the right thing to stand up and admit your wrongdoings, damn the repercussions, or attempt to bury that stifling guilt down somewhere deep, along with the body? Any guesses what decision Darl makes? 

The heart of the story is the exploration of that imaginary line found due north on our moral compass and the very things that might inspire a person to toe or even take a mighty step over it: those we love.

You would think by now—three books deep—I wouldn’t still be this taken with the author’s style, but nevertheless, I’m smitten. The flow of his words juxtaposed with the grit and grime of his plotting, has made for yet another memorable read. But, before jumping in with the expectation of stellar writing, and a rag to wipe the dirt off your face, prepare yourself. The level of gore found within these pages just might be enough to rattle a queasy stomach. From the perspective of a reader who frequently dabbles in dark reads, the violence doesn't feel like it's done for shock value, nor the aftermath, which—strangely enough—worked in some ways to humanize the devious. Don't get me wrong, it's incredibly morbid and almost beyond words, but there's some weird level of nurturing there. 

And now that ending. A few days taken to mull over the meaning of those final pages became a few weeks—a reread ending the standoff. At this moment, I find myself waffling somewhere between a finale that’s much too simple and above my philosophical pay grade. While my love-obsessed heart found satisfaction in how things played out for two of the pivotal characters, I can’t shy away from the fact that the culmination felt a tad weak in comparison to the bulk of the novel. 

My takeaway: every so often mercy is granted at the most unexpected times, by the least likely people—sometimes even without our knowledge.
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The Line That Held Us is less of a mystery than it is a present day Aeschylean revenge saga set in Appalachia, which explores the gruesome ramifications of a hunter accidentally shooting and killing the brother of one of the town’s most notorious and violent men. The premise was really fantastic, but David Joy didn’t exactly sell me on its execution.

The thing that most struck me about this book was a noticeable lack of tension in Joy’s writing. Moments of horror and extreme violence were unable to hit any emotional beats as Joy’s prose was so lifeless and perfunctory. At one point there was a paragraph about how a man parked his car down the street rather than parking it in front of someone’s house, which laid out these reasons in unnecessary detail before concluding helpfully: ‘… and that’s why Calvin had driven past and parked up the road.’ Thanks, I couldn’t have deduced that myself.

The lack of suspense unfortunately extended from the writing to the plot, which unfolded as inevitably as you’d expect from the onset. But I do think some writers can pull this off spectacularly, writing a novel which feels like an inevitable train wreck that you’re unable to interfere with or look away from, and therein lies the tragedy. I think this tried to be one of those novels, but without any sort of momentum or tension to drive it forward, it failed miserably.

And then there’s the treatment of the sole female character, who has no personality whatsoever but that doesn’t matter anyway, because her pregnancy quickly becomes her entire identity. “You’re going to get out of here for this child, she thought, the world having taken on a singular meaning. Nothing mattered outside of what she carried.” (I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m kidnapped: as long as I’m not pregnant, there’s nothing to worry about.) I mean, I understand the sentiment he’s going for, but women having no purpose in their lives until they become mothers is a trope that should have died 50 years ago.

Anyway, for all that, I didn’t hate this book – it was very quick and readable (despite the fact that I prolonged it for over a month, but that says more about my lack of free time than it does about the quality), and I know I’m in the minority in not thinking this was brilliant. But still… this just didn’t do it for me.
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Southern noir, Southern grit, I guess there are several different classifications for this type of book. An accidental shooting, posching outside of the official deer season, leads to untold violence. Sonny is the man accidentally shot to death, mistake for a deer, leading to a cover up, that doesn't stay covered up. Revenge, one of the oldest motives in the Appalachians. 

Okay, I'm going to be honest. I am wimpy and this was so violent in places it was outside my comfort zone. I did admire the writing, Dwayne's mental decline as Sissy's body rotted was genius if cringe worthy. I did not feel sorry for Daryl at all. He lost someone, well the only person he loved, came from a horrible background, true, but that is no excuse for what he does, and to an innocent person . Though he does have some specisl insights and does follow his own moral code, he is definitely a interesting if albeit violent character.

I have given this four stars, mainly for the writing and because I liked Cal, liked how he changed throughout the book. Liked the less than definitive ending.
Despite the violence the book does highlight the importance and loyalty of friends snd family, which I did like. Also liked the less than definitive ending. 

ARC from Netgalley.
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There’s no sunshine in this book. I love a solid Appalachia story but they are certainly not light. Free e-copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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This is an amazing, brutal, heartbreaking Appalachian noir about desperate people doing desperate things, both for the sake of survival and that of revenge. David Joy's prose is dark poetry with a jagged edge and if you haven't read him, you should fix that soon.
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I had higher expectations for this book because the plot and the premise were promising and had a lot to offer.

However, I found the characters underdeveloped, while the plot fell flat. This book had so much potential - all of the descriptive writing was beautiful and well done. But I am a reader that also needs strong characters and a dynamic plot to fully enjoy a story. This was not one of those books - beautiful writing is not enough. 

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review
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While trespassing to poach a deer, Darl Moody accidentally kills the brother of a notoriously vicious man. What transpires is like a tale from an earlier time. Strip the cars and cellphones out of The Line That Held Us and you’re left with a brutal frontier story of rash decisions, revenge and salvation.

This novel by David Joy moves at a rapid pace as the consequences of the shooting reverberate, shaking the lives of an expanding number of people. Joy is masterful at writing about the lives of working class Appalachians, who act out of a need to protect what is important to them.

The Line That Held Us (Digital galley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons) asks the question, “what would you do for love?” It’s not clear until the final pages what the characters will decide and what they are capable of.
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My Highest Recommendation. 5 Stars.

"If you can take readers to the darkest places imaginable and make them feel empathy, make them feel hope, there’s little room left for dehumanization."
This quote was pulled from one of the author's tweets, but used here since this is exactly what the author has accomplished. I loved this book. Nobody is evil in this story, (yet evil deeds are done) and nobody is beyond redemption, (yet that redemption may not be permanent). You can read this for an intricate suspense/thriller, and you'll find it a thrilling page-turner. You can read it as Appalachian Goth, and you'll be satisfied for sure, for the area itself is a major character, where tone and setting collide. You can read it just for the poetic prose, the language, and you will find this book sings, and you won't want that song to end. (I didn't, so have kept reading other titles by the author). Read it for all of these, but also a look into a story of biblical proportions, brother's taking up arms, retribution, paying penance. Reaping what we sow in an unfair universe, where bad freaking luck can change our fortunes, wether that be an accidental shooting, or just being born into a no-win situation. This book is simply beautiful, and it begs for a discussion afterwards.
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Five stars for The Line That Held Us by David Joy. This story was a great read that was interesting and kept me guessing until the view end. Thank you for the opportunity to review.
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Dark, gritty, violent. This story revolves around 3 men who at first glance seem nothing alike. The story captivated me and kept pushing me to turn each disturbing page after page. Original plot, strong message and a look at a man who has nothing to lose. Revenge amplified. Not for the weak of heart but if you stick with it, you’ll glimpse a small light at the end.
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I loved David Joy's first book "Where All Light Tends to Go". I thought nothing would be it. I was so wrong. This latest work does not disappoint! It all starts with a hunting accident. 

Daryl Moody accidentally shoots Carol Brewer in the woods, he knows his life is forever changed. Carol, is Dwayne Brewers younger brother. Dwayne is mean, vengeful, and unflinchingly violent. Daryl makes the unfortunate decision to secretly bury the body and enlists the help of his best friend Calvin Hooper. Dwayne however, loves his brother and always protected him. When he doesn't come home, he knows something is wrong. He stops at nothing to find out what happened to his brother and to exact revenge on anyone who may have been involved.

Two men who shouldn't have been where they were set into motion a series of events that puts lives at risk, and makes better men question themselves.  There is the age old question "what would you do for the ones you love?" Dwayne asks Calvin that exact question, "The only reason we're here is because of the ones we loved. That's the line that held us." In Dwayne's twisted, convoluted way, his methods to discover the truth are justified because of how much he loved his brother. 

David Joy is an incredible writer. His attention to detail is astounding. Any other writer spending so much time describing minute details would annoy me, with David Joy it just sucks you in more. I don't generally highlight things in books, with this novel, I found myself highlighting a few gems. I can only describe his work as beautiful. Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC for Review.
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David Joy is a favorite author and when I was given the chance to read his new book I jumped at the chance because he just doesn't disappoint. He writes strong and powerful stories that place you right smack in the middle and makes you feel as if you are truly there along side everyone else. This is a must pick up and prepare to be engrossed by this wonderful book. Happy reading !
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David Joy
Putnam Books
ISBN 978-0-399-57422-1

I set all else aside when a new book by David Joy is published. Joy’s prose, characters, and plotting are nothing more or less than consistently magnificent. THE LINE THAT HELD US, Joy’s third novel (after the much and deservedly acclaimed WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO and the unforgettable THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD), once again returns the reader to the dark, harsh world of the Appalachian mountains and its people which Joy knows intimately and well.

The plot of THE LINE THAT HELD US is complex but not complicated. The reader meets Darl Moody in the first few sentences of the book. Darl is involved in poaching --- hunting deer out of season --- while trespassing on Coon Coward’s land while the owner is absent. He justifies both transgressions based on need, though it is evident that he is taking a shortcut. His actions, however well or poorly intended, end tragically when he accidentally shoots Sissy Brewer, the impoverished scion of a notoriously dangerous Appalachian family who is also trespassing on Coward’s land while hunting for ginseng.  Darl in a panic recruits his best friend Calvin Hooper to hide Sissy’s dead body, a a task to which Calvin, Darl’s best friend, reluctantly but whole-heartedly acquiesces. Dwayne Brewer, Sissy’s brother, goes looking for him when he does not return from his clandestine ginseng harvesting. Dwayne limited resources consist of  an animal cunning, a fearsome temper, and the borrowing of a bit of technology from an unexpected source. Dwayne, as we learn early on in THE LINE THAT HELD US, is a multi-layered soul, one who is not above distributing some appropriate rough justice to a bully in a local Walmart. While not smart in the manner of which such things are usually defined, b he is clever and forcefully manipulative. Dwaine in short order is able to track his brother’s disappearance first to Darl, then to Calvin, and to Calvin’s girlfriend, Angie, who has her own secret which she is keeping close to her heart. Dwayne’s plan is simple enough. He is going to exact a revenge of biblical Old Testament inspiration, one which will turn the lives of those who did his brother wrong, by accident and intent, with a straightforward and terrible finality. Dwayne’s actions as unjustifiable as they might be, are understandable up to a finite point, given that his brother was virtually all that he had. His revenge, however, quickly spirals out of control and reverberates across the small and closely held impoverished community where he has lived all of his life. Calvin, whose greatest crime is his loyalty to a friend, soon finds that his late night action is about to rain down violence upon those whom he cherishes most, even as Dwayne’s actions become more unstable and uncontrollable. 

The enigmatic conclusion to THE LINE THAT HELD US is by turns pre-ordained --- practically from the first page of this remarkable work --- and unexpected. The only thing that is assured from the beginning of the book to the end is that things will become progressively worse for those involved, including a pair of...but that would be telling. This is a tale breathtaking in its violence and beauty, as well as the depth of emotions which it plumbs. Very strongly recommended. 

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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