Cover Image: The Line That Held Us

The Line That Held Us

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One of the bleakest books that I've ever read. I have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to violence, but at times the gruesome descriptions made me feel squeamish. Joy's writing is quite good, occasionally verging on poetic, and he has a clear love of nature on full display. I appreciate how so many weighty topics are covered through this complex story and its characters who are painted in shades of grey. That being said, I did not care for how one character holds the cards at all times with little to no deviation and seems invincible. Joy wants readers to sympathize with Dwayne, which I did to an extent, but his fits of rage and self-righteous beliefs make that challenging. I wish that there had been more to Calvin, who is mostly a cipher; the only character who I rooted for was Angie, a true innocent caught in the middle of everything. I also did not particularly care for the ending, which I found frustrating given all that happened preceding it.
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This book exceeded my expectations.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  The description sounded intriguing so I’m really glad I read this one.  

Set in the Appalachians, Darl Moody goes hunting (actually poaching) on another man’s land.  He is out to get a buck he’s had his eye on.  He ends up accidentally killing another man which sets off a number of bad choices and sequences ending in acts of torment and revenge.  It will make your heart race and your stomach churn a little.  It’s about family and those you love and just how far you would go for those people.  Highly recommended!

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC!  I can’t wait to read more from David Joy!
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"In that moment, he knew that he was standing in the midst of something that would never be forgotten, something he would carry from this place and bear the rest of his life.  There was no turning back. That single certainty consumed him."

Darl Moody makes a series of bad decisions. He decides to hunt out of season on another man's land.  He is hunting for many reasons: he loves hunting, he helps put food on his sister's table, and he desperately wants to get that back which has eluded him for years.  But he makes a horribly tragic mistake- he shoots a man.  He knows the man he has shot, Carol "Sissy" Brewer, who was attempting to steal some ginseng at the time he was shot.  Brewer comes from a violent family, and Darl, desperate and worried about the consequences of his actions, calls his best friend, Calvin Hooper to help him.  Darl and Calvin have been best friends their entire lives, Calvin cannot say no when his friend needs him the most.

"The only reason we're here is because of the ones we loved. That's the line that held us."

Dwayne Brewer goes looking for his brother, Carol, when he fails to show up.  Dwayne is not one to let things lie and will not back down until he knows what happened to his brother. Eventually, he learns the truth and goes on a collision course of vengeance and revenge.  His brother was the one good thing in his life, the one person he loved.  Dwayne will not stop until he makes everyone involved pay for what was taken from him.  Dwayne is a mountain of a man who reads the bible, quotes bible verses and firmly believes in "an eye for an eye."

"Things had a way of never leaving these mountains. Stories took root like everything else.  He was a part of one now, part of a story that would never be forgotten, and that made bearing the truth all the more heavy."

An accidental shooting in the woods and the deadly aftermath could be a very sad yet simple tale - but not in the hands of David Joy. In the pages of "The Line that held us", Joy has created a beautifully written gritty novel set in Appalachia.  This book is violent, heart breaking and gut wrenching. The characters in this book are struggling - struggling with the consequences of their actions, struggling with poverty, struggling with loss, struggling with grief, struggling with keeping secrets, struggling with doing the right thing and struggling to survive.  Love, loyalty, friendship, rage, loss, despair, and revenge are all combined and laid bare.

"...that some people were born too soft to bear the teeth of this world.  There was no place for weakness in a world like this. Survival was so often a matter of meanness."

I was glued to the pages and found myself highlighting large portions of this book as the writing was eloquent and beautiful. The characters in this book are fully developed. Love them or hate them, we know as a reader what makes each tick, what motivates them, and what they have to lose (if anything).  This book won’t be for everyone. There are some very disturbing scenes, but if you can stomach the raw and gruesome sections, you might just be amazed at the vivid and beautiful writing.  I had a clear picture in my mind of the characters and the setting the entire time I was reading almost as if I were watching a movie.  One can almost feel the feelings of loss, desperation, rage and fear dripping off the pages. 
This book is heavy. It's full of raw emotion and I wanted to go hug a puppy after reading this book to clear away some of the gloom. This book is beautifully tragic.  The Lien that Held us is beautifully written, well thought out, perfectly paced and hard to put down.  I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Penguin book Putnam and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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This dark read has all of the elements of a good book: suspense, danger, revenge, and a plot and character that keep the reader invested. Brilliantly written!
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......DARK, VERY DARK.     "A man's mind is his own kind of hell."

......A tragic accident and a bad decision lead to violence, despair, and revenge with deadly consequences in the Appalachia as an unbalanced BIG BAD GIANT of a man with a history seeks justice for the only one he has ever loved in the world.

......In THE LINE THAT HELD US, there's really not a whole lot to the storyline nor are there many characters, but, oh my, the intensity of the writing does put the fear of what's to come in your bones and pulls the reader right into the tough life with visually deep descriptive prose.

......There is a bit of animal cruelty, but what REALLY makes this DARK read VERY DARK happens to be an (ICK!) morbid fascination......and then there is the ending, that I'm still processing.

......Many thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Putnam via NetGalley for the arc AVAILABLE TODAY in exchange for review.  Am pleased to have been able to sample the work of David Joy!
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By David Joy

This excellent writer David Joy is an author of exceptional writing talent. This came along at exactly the perfect time for me as I was afraid I was becoming apathetic in my love of reading. I love beautiful prose and I have to say I am so grateful for expanding my horizon's in choice of genre. I thought this was going to be a quiet story and had gone into it completely blind. That enhanced my reading pleasure. I am definitely going to read his first book next which my wonderful Good Read's friend had recommended it to me in March of 2017. I went to purchase it and discovered that I already owned it. I highly recommend that if you have not read David Joy to please consider reading him sooner and not put it aside like I have. 

This book "The Line That Held Us," is easily one of my favorite top five books in a few years. For all the fans of Ron Rash and his setting in Appalachia I have to say that this book is better in my opinion. David Joy is well versed in describing the beautiful tangerine sunrises and describes the landscape as sparking jewels as well as the local flora and fauna to this region. It brought back nostalgic memories of my father teaching me as a child the first blooming of the protected flower the Lady slipper and how I must not pick them when I was five years old.

This storytelling is first rate and the character development is superb. From the first page I was spell bound in I lost all track of time and kept turning the pages until I sadly reached the acknowledgements. There is an accident that I couldn't help feeling sympathy for Darl. It could happen to anybody and my heart went out to Darl and the unfortunate victim. What Darl does in response to his mistake is what sets this collision course of events being set up like a whole tunnel of dominoes that once the first one is knocked into the one behind it and they tumble one by one until the whole set falls one by one.

Darl recruits his best friend Calvin who the accomplice after the fact cover up Darl's tragic mistake. I could feel the love of friendship so palpable and evident. In a Shakespeare like tragedy revenge is a major theme but even in it's darkness I felt sorry for every character. I really feel like the less details I provide the better not to spoil it for other readers because I was thrilled to be surprised by knowing nothing ahead of time. Brotherly love, love for friend's, a bad judgement decision will cause rippling effects like a stone thrown in a still lake. I love this novel and I will never forget it in say the next five years it will be always remembered as one of my best reading experiences. I highly recommend this masterpiece to all book lovers of all genres. It is that good!

Thank you to Net Galley, David Joy and G. P. Putnam's for generously providing me with my digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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The last David Joy book I read, Where All Light Tends to Go, was one of my favorites of the year in which I read it. So, of course, I had high expectations for this one and I have to say that they fell a bit . . . flat.  Don't get me wrong - the writing was great and I think the character development was better than most but it almost was too over the top.  The stereotypes, the reactions, the story - it almost felt like a parody.  Whereas the last book I read by this author felt unique, authentic and deeply personal and real, this one just felt cobbled together and almost written by an outsider looking in.  It was a fast read but it left my heart with a bit of a hole because it could have been so much more.

The Line That Held Us comes out tomorrow on August 14, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  

All his life there'd been a thoughtlessness that came on before the kill. It was something hard to explain to anyone else, but that feeling was on him now as he braced the rifle against the trunk of the oak and tried to steady his aim, a mind whittled back to instinct.
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4.5 stars
<i>For whom are you willing to lay down your life?</i>

I actually came across David Joy when I stumbled upon his review for Taylor Brown’s novel [book:Gods of Howl Mountain|34964885].  I liked his writing style and was touched by his taking the time to critically read other authors' works.  This is why I was so very glad to have received this ARC.  As with <b>Gods of Howl Mountain</b>, <b>The Line That Held Us</b> is very dark, bleak and gritty.  Joy’s descriptions are poetic and lush; so full of meaning but unassuming.  If I could use his own words against him <i>"These pages sing with authenticity down to the details of cold spring water in enameled tin cups."</i>  Joy has a real talent for capturing the human essence.   In the dark world painted by <b>The Line That Held Us</b>, the gray areas where the conflicts of our conscience reside are exposed.  Questions like <i>What happens when good people do bad things?</i> and <i>Are we ever justified in our actions when we commit acts of violence?</i> are brought to the fore.  As a reader you feel strongly for all of the characters.  Joy is such a wonderful writer that you are able to relate to Dwayne in his sorrow and his need for retribution.  You hurt for him because he has lost his only family even though you don’t want any harm to come to Darl and Calvin.  Yet you know disaster is coming.  A current of foreboding seeps through the pages as the inhumanity of humanity is revealed.   Be warned, David Joy does not white-wash anything.  The imagery is so gruesome and raw it evokes a visceral response.  As a reader you can’t help but to <i>feel</i> the story unfold.  <b>The Line That Held Us</b> by David Joy may be my first David Joy but it most certainly won’t be my last.

<i>For whom are you willing to lay down your life?  Till a man knows that, he doesn’t know anything.</i>
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David Joy is now one of my favorite authors.  I first read his Where all the Light Tends to Go which I enjoyed tremendously.  The Line That Held Us has exceeded my expectations.  David Joy is one of the finest writers out there!

Set in Appalachia we meet Darl Moody hunting out of season on another’s property.  He makes the biggest mistake of his life when accidentally shooting Sissy, the younger brother of the meanest and most terrifying giant of a man, Dwayne Brewer.  Darl Moody understands that he has no choice but to cover up the accident and calls his best friend Calvin Hooper to help.  

This book is all about the consequences of Darl’s actions.  Violent, graphically dark, and gruesome, but also filled with beautiful prose.  How David Joy brings violence and beauty together is amazing!  This is also about loyalty and friendship, family and brotherly love.  Joy’s writing has you liking both the good and bad guys in his novel.  That’s hard to do.

This book is also filled with prose about birds and nature.  So much so that I have included some wonderful passages:

“Calvin stood to the side and watched a  MURDER OF CROWS strut through the churchyard below.”

“Across the road, a MURMURATION OF STARLINGS rose like a bruise from yellowed field. The birds twisted into the sky, flashed in blooms of black, then disappeared as quickly as they’d shown. Their path blinked against the mountainside...”

“...WAKES OF BIRDS came circling over the ridgeline in orbits of ten or twelve and lit on every limb there was to be had...”

“...birds appeared like some BLACK-WINGED CRUCIFIXTION roosted in the trees.”

  “...the BROOD OF HENS dashing to the back of the house, his footsteps crunching dead grass.”

It doesn’t matter where you live to enjoy this Southern lit genre.  I’m from Boston and find it’s now one of my favorite go-tos.

Read this book.  You will never forget it beauty.

5 out of 5 stars

Many thanks to NetGalley, PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, and the terrific David Joy for the ARC.

Review posted to GoodReads on August 10, 2018
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I didn't think David Joy could get darker and grittier and more depressing but he did.  This novel starts with a bad decision by Darl which cascades into more and more bad decisions by Darl and Calvin, who he pulls in, and Dwayne, who is filled with rage and despair.  Set in rural Tennessee, it's beautifully written if at times overly graphic.  The violence compounded with the despair these men feel rockets off the page.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  This is one that would make an interesting movie, albeit one that would likely be as hard to watch in spots as this can be to read.
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David Joy's novel The Line That Held Us is a novel about what happens when decent people do something terrible that result in even more reverberating, disastrous events.  

Darl Moody and Calvin Hooper are life-long friends, each that has sworn life and death loyalty to each other, and when one horrible act occurs, the tale details the events that spiral from the accidental to the repercussions of what happens when one can't do the right thing. 

Carol "Sissy" Brewer and Dwayne Brewer are brothers, with "Sissy" being somewhat of a simpleton, while Dwayne is best characterized as an intelligent, violent sociopath. 

When the two parties are pulled together by what starts as a horrible accident, the reader soon realizes the story will end in further carnage. 

As with his other novels, Joy's descriptive nature is visual and lyrical.  One appreciated aspect is how Joy creates a believable story, which includes a plausible reason why good people faced with circumstances that prevent them from doing the right thing.
This novel is highly recommended for those that like novels that are commonly referred as "Southern Noir" or "Southern Grit" fiction.
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The Line That Held Us reminds us the consequences we bare, don’t just affect us on an individual basis, but create a ripple across all of the people in our lives and that every person we encounter plays a purpose in our life. 

This is a tough lesson Calvin Hooper learns the hard way. His friend, Darl Moody finds himself in a tragic situation. When pouching a buck he’s been hunting for dear, he see’s a creature on all fours rooting in ginseng. He takes his aim and fires. Upon closer, this is Carol “Sissy” Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and never quite going with the grain of things. Darl calls upon Calvin to help him cover up this accident. Being a devout friend, Calvin helps bury Sissy. 

When Sissy doesn’t return home as promised, his brother Dwayne sets off to find his brother. He finds his brother’s car on a man’s property. When he knocks on his door, the game camera see’s no sign of Sissy, but what it does reveal is Darl and Calvin carring something out of those woods. 

Leaving no stone unturned, Dwayne pays Darl a visit. Darl spits out a story that seems to buy him time, however when Dwayne leaves, he finds a familiar object in the back of Darl’s truck. Beliving in an eye-for-an-eye, things don’t end well for Darl. Before his passing, he gives the name of Calvin. 

Set to make things right, Calvin’s life changes forever. He’s forced to answer the question, how much are you willing to lose? How much sacrifice is one willing to make. 

This story was marvelous, definitely a fast-paced read and has the reader devouring the pages. David Joy writes the story honestly, not afraid to go to places that isn’t frequently explored in literature. 

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for providing me an advanced reader’s copy of the novel and a special thank you to David Joy for crafting a story so raw and provocative.
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I absolutely loved this book! Easy five star read for me. It’s the second David Joy book for me and I quite enjoy him as an author. I’ve never lived in the south but I enjoy reading about it apparently. These characters were very real and honest and graphic and written just beautifully. The only downfall I think is that the end just didn’t do it for me. I liked the conclusion, but the actual last few pages I think was going for something deep but just didn’t hit for me. But that’s a minor thing as the actual conclusion to the stories and characters was done well.
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Short Summary: Darl Moody knows that he’s poaching when he sets out to go hunting late one night but he’s got many mouths to feed. The bullet he fires intended for an animal turns out to be none other than Carol Brewer who was also poaching on the same land, and instead of owning up to his mistake he buries the body and hopes that his terrifying brother Dwayne doesn’t ever connect the dots.

Thoughts: David Joy’s novels are impressively engaging and invoke the essence of the South in all the best (and terrible) ways

Verdict: The Line That Held Us was a riveting story of the reverberations of vengeance that was poignantly written. In his third novel, David Joy is clearly only getting better.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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This was an absolutely beautiful, bleak as hell, novel. It is the story of a man who is out hunting, and accidentally kills another. The first man calls his best friend to help him bury the body. When the brother of the dead man finds out what has happened, he goes after the two friends to achieve vengeance. It’s a fairly simply plot line, but the characters, the setting and the glimpse into the history that made these people is truly riveting. I found it difficult to put this book down. 

I read an advanced reading copy from Penguin Group Putnam via NetGalley. Thanks!
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Darl Moody and Calvin Hooper have been best friends forever, and so when Darl has the worst kind of accident, he knows who to turn to. You know what they say real friends will help you bury. The body in question is Carol Brewer; Darl was hunting out of season, and when he glimpsed something moving through the woods he thought it was a wild pig. Turned out he was wrong; turned out to be Carol, poaching ginseng on Coon Coward’s land. But you can’t bring the dead back to life, and you sure can’t call the cops for something like this. Carol is Dwayne’s brother, after all. Dwayne is a huge man, half- crazy and rattlesnake mean. There are no bygones in Dwayne Brewer’s world. There is only revenge. 

My thanks go to G.P. Putnam and Net Galley for the galley, which I received free in exchange for this honest review. 

“’I’d be lucky if all he did was come after me,” Darl said, “But knowing him, knowing everything he’s done, you and me both know it wouldn’t end there. I bet he’d come after my mama and my little sister and my niece and nephews and anybody else he could get his hands on. That son of a bitch is crazy enough to dig up my daddy’s bones just to set him on fire.”

“[Calvin tells him] “You’re talking crazy, Darl.’

“’Am I?’”

So Carol disappears…for awhile. But Dwayne won’t be satisfied till he knows what has happened to his brother, who is all the family he has left. Once he finds out, of course all hell breaks loose. 

Joy is a champion at building visceral characters and using setting to develop them further. I know of no living writer better at describing hard core rural poverty to rival anything the Third World can offer:

"The house had been built a room at a time from scrap wood salvaged and stolen. Nothing here was permanent and as each addition rotted away, a new one was hammered together from plywood and bent nails off another side so that slowly through the decades, the five-room shanty shifted around the property like a droplet of water following the path of least resistance. Red Brewer was no carpenter. Chicken coops were built better. So were doghouses. But this place had been the roof over their heads and had kept the rain off the Brewer clan's backs all Dwayne's miserable life."

The murderous rage of Dwayne Brewer contrasts with the tender, poignant love that exists between Calvin and his girlfriend Angie, who has just learned she is pregnant. Calvin understands throughout all of this that he has a lot to lose, and this makes the conflict between Dwayne and Calvin an unequal one. 

I would have liked to see Angie better developed, and I blanched a bit at the line where she thinks that the only important thing is what’s growing in her uterus. But the story isn’t really about Angie, and I have seen Joy develop a strong female character in one of his earlier books. I hope to see more of that in his future work. 

Meanwhile, the passage where Dwayne visits Coon Coward—some four or five pages long—just about knocks me over. This is what great writing looks like. 

I struggled a bit with the ending, and this is where the fifth star comes off. The first 96 percent of this tale is flat-out brilliant, but I feel as if Joy pulls the ending a bit, and I can’t see why. None of the rest of the book points us toward this conclusion. 

Last, the reader should know that there is a great deal of truly grisly material here. We have a torture scene; we have numerous encounters with a decaying corpse. If you are a person that does most of your reading during mealtime, this might not be the best choice. 

For those that love excellent literary fiction or Southern fiction, this story is recommended. It will be released August 21, 2018, but you can pre-order it now.
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I do believe this is my new favorite by Mr. Joy. As is his style, there is brutality that is most certainly inhumane, but entirely human. Mr. Joy writes as if he is throwing all caution to the wind, holding back nothing for the sake of taboo nor delicacy. And with most of his characters, no one is all good or bad, which is what gives such heart to his storytelling. 

Dwayne Brewer is a terrifying man on the outside and mostly the inside also. Yet he is still inherently human and a complete product of his environment, just as Darl and Calvin are products of their environment. 

Mr. Joy captures people in their rawest form through his words. It's almost as if he tells all our dirty secrets to the world. And mixed in with those secrets is a setting that is beautiful and open, yet challenging and void of mercy. Growing up in these same mountains, I'm being told of hills and hollows and clearings I've wandered my whole life. David Joy tells the tales of my home and he does it with cruelty and beauty just the same.
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This book had me riveted from the very beginning. The story is dark and melancholic (as one would expect from David Joy), but he has a way of bringing the tiniest things of beauty out into the light. One of my absolute favorite passages is “That night, Dwayne Brewer paddled across the sky. Each stroke dipped into the heavens, the stars vibrating on the water’s surface like the strings of an instrument strummed by his gentle passing.” There are so many examples of this masterful wordcraft. The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that Joy’s stories are like thorns in your heart, but his telling of them allows you to see the dewdrops on the rose petals (even as you’re being impaled). 
     This particular story is about two brothers and two best friends and how their lives intertwine to create a perfect tragedy. It involves murder, rage, mental instability, grief, sacrifice, and the hopelessness of losing everything one loves. It also involves the bonds of brotherhood, lifelong friends, and the fierce love that binds each pair together.  The tale is fast-paced and mesmerizing throughout - like a fatal accident, you can’t look away.
     As usual, Joy brings both the charm and harsh realities of Appalachian life, and has a way of making you wish you knew and loved your own “neck of the woods” the same way. I grew up (and still live) in rural west TN, and many of the same cultural norms exist here. Suddenly, everybody knowing everybody (and their lineage for at least a couple of generations) feels like a blessing instead of a curse, or maybe both. 
     If you read David Joy’s other books and already know what he can do, get this book. It will not disappoint! If you haven’t read any of his books yet and haven’t experienced being slayed by this man’s pen, get this book. It is a heart-wrenching, exquisitely beautiful tale that you will not want to put down.
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This book was wonderfully written. David Joy captures the heart and soul of the people and places of Appalachia. I can't express enough how real these characters felt. This book left me feeling things for the characters, but more importantly it left me pondering things outside of the book. It left me to think about how we treat our environment, our neighbors, and the things we hold dear in life. That was more than I expected and was greatly appreciated.
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Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

I hit pay dirt with this one.  It's as dark, dirty, and gritty as it needs to be for the story it tells.  Caney Fork, Tennessee.  Here is a place where you carry your own, and where you got to pay what you owe, in a manner of speaking. 

Do not trespass.  Do not poach.  And for the sake of all that is holy, do not pull the trigger unless you know for certain sure what you are aiming at. Think about what you have to lose, and weigh it against what is to be gained.  And know that there are some mistakes that are unforgivable.   

Meet the Brewer boys.  Dwayne is a mountain of a man, glowering and formidable, an avid reader of the Bible, slightly insane.  Carol, nickname of Sissy, is the younger brother, dimwitted, born with a purple birthmark that covers half his face.  He never had a chance.

<spoiler>What's that a'rattlin' around in Dwayne's pocket?  Why, that ain't nothin' but Sissy's pearly whites.</spoiler>
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