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Another Kind of Eden

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An intriguing approach to multiple genres at once: the western, the war novel, the Southern gothic, the whodunit, the bildungsroman. James Lee Burke's prose is as elaborate as ever, his observations of human nature as astute as they've always been. Fans will love it, but unlike the (magnificent) Robicheaux series, those looking for an outside the box thriller will be easily able to enter this world as first time Burke readers.
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A book that takes place in Colorado...and in the 60's? So fun!

I have never read a book by James Lee Burke, and I am now a fan.  This book is not the usual kind of book I would pick up and read. Plus, I had no idea it was part of a family sage, but it can definitely stand alone.

Aaron Holland Broussard, the main character, is a veteran who decided to jump off of the boxcar in Denver in the 60s. He ends up working on a farm, and meets a college student/artist that makes him see the beauty in life again.  There is a lot of evil going on in this town; Broussard experiences a drug-induced cult, mysticism, and other sinister characters.

The author, Burke, has a beautiful way of writing.  It was almost poetic in his descriptions, and the characters kept my interest. He definitely made me want to read his other books.

I gave this book four out of five stars.  The ending was intense, but it also confused me in a way.  That being said, it is definitely a book I recommend.

I was given this book for my honest review.
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Published by Simon & Schuster on August 17, 2021

Another Kind of Eden takes place when Aaron Holland Broussard is 26. Aaron has been to war, earned a degree, and written a novel. He describes himself as “a failed English instructor.” Aaron was a teenager when he appeared in The Jealous Kind, one of my favorite James Lee Burke novels.

As a post-war drifter, Aaron “learned quickly that the Other America was a complex culture held together by the poetry of Walt Whitman, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the prose of Jack Kerouac.” Aaron spends the spring and summer of 1962 working on a dairy and produce farm in Colorado. The owner, Jude Lowry, is a decent man. Aaron is sufficiently decent to resist the advances made by Lowry’s wife.

Aaron works with Spud Caudill and Cotton Williams, two men who have his back when he’s attacked for driving a truck that has a union sticker. The Sheriff, Wade Benbow, briefly locks up Aaron despite his correct suspicion that the fight was started by Darrel Vickers, whose father Rueben is a well-connected rancher. Darrel is suspected of killing a little girl by locking her in a refrigerator when he was still a child.

Aaron learns the identity of his attacker from Jo Anne McGuffy, a waitress who paints macabre scenes in her spare time. Her paintings are based on the Ludlow Massacre, a mass killing of striking workers perpetrated by anti-labor militia members in 1914. Over the course of the novel, Aaron falls in love with Jo Anne, although she’s sleeping with her professor, Henri Devos, and if Darrel is worthy of belief, has been his lover, as well.

The plot involves threats to various people, mostly women, including Jo Anne and some women on a hippie bus who are being pimped out. They hippies “were the detritus of a Puritan culture, one that made mincemeat of its children and left them marked from head to foot with every violation of the body that can be imposed on a human being: state homes, sexual molestation, sodomy, gang bangs, reformatory tats, fundamentalist churches . . . . Their hallmark was the solemnity, anger, and pain in their eyes.” Spud is a suspect when a hooker turns up dead (because Spud works so that he can afford to visit hookers), but Aaron has seen no evil in Spud’s heart. Another woman, one of the hippies on the bus, is hospitalized for reasons that nobody wants to discuss.

Aaron saw more than his share of evil during the Korean War; he blames himself for a loss of an MIA friend. Benbow saw his share when he liberated a subcamp of Dachau. The notion of evil as a force is a popular theme among thriller writers who try to understand and explain the human condition. Burke has turned to that theme again and again, sometimes envisioning evil as the offspring of the supernatural. There are supernatural elements in Another Kind of Eden, including a war buddy who appears from the dead and creates a miracle at a delicate moment. Apparent demons and glimpses of ghosts, perhaps real and perhaps not, pop up near the story’s end. While I could have done without the supernatural, I always appreciate Burke’s effort to comprehend the absence of compassion and decency in human behavior.

Aaron learns something about himself as he struggles against evil men. He comes to accept that “the Holland legacy of violence and mayhem had always lived inside me,” but the acceptance of his inner demons gives him peace without encouraging him to embrace the violence. He instead embraces the inevitability of death: “As Stephen Crane wrote at the close of The Red Badge of Courage, the great death was only the great death, not to be sought, not to be feared, but treated as an inconsequential player in the human comedy.”

The supernatural elements put me off a bit, making me rank Another Kind of Eden below Burke’s best work. But novels that are not Burke’s best are better novels than most crime writers can compose. Burke’s prose style and the depth of his thought make him one of my three favorite writers of crime fiction and one of the best writers of American fiction in or outside of any genre.

RECOMMENDED
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James Lee Burke is a living legend, a novelist who’s won just about every prize there is, and whose published work has spanned more than fifty years.  My thanks go to Net Galley and Simon and Schuster for the invitation to read and review. This book is for sale now. 

Another Kind of Eden is a prequel to Burke’s Holland family trilogy. The time is the 1960s, and protagonist Aaron Holland Broussard is in Colorado working a summer job. He falls in love with a waitress named JoAnne, but there are obstacles to their happiness everywhere he looks. There’s a charismatic professor that won’t leave her alone, a bus full of drugged-out young people that have fallen under his influence, and of course, there’s corruption among the local wealthy residents, which is a signature feature in Burke’s work. Aaron is a Vietnam veteran, and he has residual guilt and grief that get in his way as well. He’s got some sort of an associative disorder, though I am not sure that’s the term used; at any rate, he blacks out parts of his life and cannot remember them. He also has anger issues, and he melts down from time to time; there’s an incident involving a gun that he forces a man to point at him that I will never get entirely out of my head, and kind of wish I hadn’t read. 

I had a hard time rating this novel. If I stack it up against the author’s other titles, it is a disappointment; a lot of the plot elements and other devices feel recycled from his other work, dressed up a bit differently. But if I pretend that this is written by some unknown author, then I have to admit it’s not badly written at all. By the standards of Burke’s other work, it’s a three star book; compared to most other writers, it’s somewhere on the continuum between four and five. Since I have to come up with something, I decided to call it four stars. 

All that being said, if you have never read anything by this luminary, I advise you to start with one of his earlier books--almost any of them, actually.
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Aaron Holland Broussard is a 26 year old drifter with a lot of baggage. He has guilt over his wartime experiences, he has periodic blackouts and both psychological and alcohol-related problems and he hasn’t been able to get his book published. After he meets Jo Anne, a 20 year old artist/student/ waitress, he becomes completely besotted with her. Frankly, his reverence for her was kind of creepy and patronizing. The book also features a menacing father/son team, a dying sheriff, a bus load of hippies, murdered prostitutes, illegal drugs, a seductive employer and (maybe) ghosts. I had to read the last chapter twice, and I’m still not sure how all of this was wound up. 

I love this author’s writing style. It’s full of unique descriptions and images (“Spud was a good soul, as homely as mud, as socially sophisticated as a dirty sock floating in a punch bowl.”) I listened to the audiobook narrated by Will Patton, and he is the perfect narrator for Burke’s books. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of my favorite books by him. It became increasingly melodramatic and I didn’t really care for the supernatural touches. Burke has written about members of the Holland family in other books, but it is not necessary to read any of those books before reading this one. However, I don’t think this should be your first experience with this author. Try “Wayfaring Stranger” or one of the Dave Robicheaux books instead. 3.5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous books in the Holland family series. While they provide background, this reads as a standalone. And don’t be dismayed that this is not about the New Orleans detective, Dave Robicheaux, Burke’s more familiar character. Having grown up in Colorado, I always thought of Trinidad, as a place on a map, probably not worthy of a novel. I was wrong. Aaron Holland served in Korea. He has blackouts during which he can remember nothing he does and these episodes often involve violence on his part. This and his PTSD have led him to the life of the vagrant. Riding the rails, he ended up in Denver and eventually in Trinidad. Burke’s sparse language suits this character and his description of the mountains surrounding Trinidad create a visual in the reader’s mind. “The mountains around Trinidad were the deep metallic blue of a razor blade and seemed to rise straight and flat-sided into the clouds.” Aaron ends up working for a  labor-union farmer. As a result, Holland suffers at the hands of a well-to-do Trinidad family. Much of the story centers involves the Ludlow Massacre in which John D. Rockefeller’s hired thugs and the Colorado National Guard killed striking miner’s and their families in 1914. Holland’s friendship and romance with talented artist, Anne McDuffy, reflects how the Massacre impacted families. Her father was one of the men killed and her artwork recreates the visual of children trapped in the fire. Like a number of Burke’s works this incorporates the supernatural into the real and it’s an important part of this book. I always struggle with books like this, and I’m still not sure what was real and what was part of the supernatural at the end of the book.
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The American West in the early 1960s appears to be a pastoral paradise.  Aspiring novelist Aaron Holland Broussard has observed it from the open door of a boxcar, riding the rails for both inspiration and odd jobs.
Jumping off in Denver, he finds work on a farm and meets Joanne McDuffy, an articulate and fierce college student and gifted painter. Their connection is immediate, but their romance is complicated by Joanne’s involvement with a shady professor who is mixed up with a drug-addled cult. When a sinister businessman and his son who wield their influence through vicious cruelty set their sights on Aaron, drawing him into an investigation of grotesque murders, it is clear that this idyllic landscape harbors tremendous power—and evil. Followed by a mysterious shrouded figure who might not be human, Aaron will have to face down all these foes to save the life of the woman he loves and his own.  

I had only read the first of the Dave Robicheaux novels by Burke but was so enthralled by his writing the when I was offered an ARC by NetGalley and the publisher of the newest in his Holland Family series, I had to request it and was not disappointed.  His writing is marvelous in his descriptions of his characters and their surroundings, and this one had a little paranormal thrown in which just added to the background of the story.  Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for granting my request for this wonderful book.
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This was a quick read about a young man who is an author who works as a foreman for landowners. He encounters love and evil. The good guys are a little bit bad and/or bad ass and the bad guys are bad beyond imagination. It's not always easy telling them apart. Great prose and a touch of the supernatural make this a worthy read.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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A unique cast of characters set in a unique town - conveyed by Burke's almost lyrical prose, read it in a day.   Not a happy book, but definitely a good read.
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Burke is obviously an extremely talented and successful writer.  His descriptions are excellent and he develops his characters well.  That said, I just didn't care for this book.  I couldn't relate to any of the characters and - as someone who was around in the 60's - the story felt like something from the 30's, not the 60's.  I'm sure I'll be in the minority but not every book is for every reader.
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I enjoyed this suspenseful story.  This is a well written story that takes place in the 1960's.  The author's use of details added to the story which kept it engaging.  I enjoyed being pulled in to the story by the characters and what they brought to the story.  I found this book to be fast paced and the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat.  This is a great story about justice and love.  There is alot going on in this story but the author did a great job of not getting me lost and kept my interest.  I enjoyed the growth throughout the story.  This is a faster paced story that I really enjoyed.  I highly recommend this book.
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I received a free electronic copy of this book, an ARC, from Netgalley, James Lee Burke, and the publisher Simon & Schuster. I have read Another Kind of Eden of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I love everything James Lee Burke blesses us with. And though I can't wait to read his southern novels, His Holland Family sagas are all exceptional.

This book is more true-to-life than anything else I have read about this period of time in the Southwest. It is obviously based on personal experience, and from the heart. Taking place in the early 1960s, we are in southern Colorado, a small town called Trinidad 21 miles north of Raton, New Mexico. Trinidad was a mining town back in the early 20th century, and with a population now of about 8,000 and still dwindling in 2021, it continues to be economically dependent on tourism and truck gardens, still small, down-home, insular, and isolated. This is pretty much a template of small western towns, then and now.

This is a first-person tale told by Aaron Holland Broussard, a young man of 26, trained as an English teacher but working his way across the west by hopping trains and making a living as a farmworker while he waits for a publisher to want his first novel. The western lifestyle of the early 1960s is portrayed as it probably was. I was 12 or 13 in southern New Mexico and didn't see much off of the farm but from what I remember the times were rather bleak. Money was tight - is always tight in farm country - and immigrants and hippies were often traveling through on their way to anywhere else. Veterans of WWII and Korea were also traveling through our west, looking for something. They would find a place to land, but the road would call them before long, and they would be on their way to somewhere else. Aaron lets us see it through his eyes, and it is so sad it might bring you to tears, but you will have a much better understanding of both that time frame in America and the woes of veterans of our country's 20th-century wars. Another Kind of Eden is a book I would like everyone I know to read. It is a wake-up call for all of us to take to heart.
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This is one of my husband's favorite author's so I decided to give his work a try. This is the first book I've read by this author.
The book absolutely is not for me! Is it because I didn't start the series at the beginning?
I'm not sure. I did not make a connection with any of the characters.
The story is disjointed and all over the place with a bunch of little side stories.
One thing I will give him credit for is very descriptive writing, such as I've never seen before.
It seemed he put more effort into his descriptions than he did into the story line itself.
One thing I noticed about his writing is the words the characters speak to each other are very graphic and vulgar. I don't know if this is his regular writing style but it is not what I am looking for in a book.
Though the book is not for me I know his writing is very popular so don't let my review hold you back from trying this book. My husband has read all of them besides this one and enjoys them.

Published August 17th 2021
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
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I would like to thank Simon and Shuster and Net Galley for allowing me to read this ARC.
The central character reminded me of the prodigal son story in some ways and Aaron the main character is returning to himself in a lot of ways.  The books prose are beautifully descriptive which makes you want to read more.  I am not from the south or any where close to a farming area but I felt like I was there. With ever so slight magical realism throughout it had me wondering what was real and what wasn't.  You can see the evil head on in this book and even though you know the major climax will have something to do with addressing that evil you still wonder how it will end. This is my first James Burke and I will be reading more of his work.
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What a privilege to read Another Kind of Eden by James Lee Burke, such a legendary author. I haven't read his works in many years, I'd forgotten how talented he is. I also haven't read all the Holland family series and was not familiar with the main character, Aaron Brousard.
It was gritty and dark 1960's Colorado. The atmospheric setting and characters were well described. There is racism and some sexual content. None of that particularly bothered me.
That said and at the risk of being ostracized, I could not get through the book or relate to it. I attempted to read it for almost two months, and it's a short book!
I grew up on small 200 acre farm where my father grew grain & cotton and raised cattle. We vacationed in cheap travel trailers at campsites in Colorado as far back as I can remember, which would include the 60's and 70's. Nothing in this book reminded me of those times or that place. Granted, my memories are those of a child and a teenager. We were not well off, we ate out of a ice chest or on a Coleman grill, no hotels. My father did the combine run through multiple states and I was around the field workers.
I've been an avid reader for far too long to admit. I love reading all types of history, fiction, literary, westerns, and mysteries. This book didn't hold my interest, I couldn't grasp the characters, and I couldn't find anything I gained from reading as much as I did. I'm sorry and I know I will be in a minority.
I will continue to have the utmost respect for the author and his knowledge. My gratitude to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for the digital advance copy. The opinions stated here are mine given voluntarily.
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The novel follows Aaron Holland Broussard to Denver where he finds work as a farmhand but is quickly promoted  when the owner finds him hard-working and loyal. Farm life is not his life goal though. Broussard has written his first novel and hopes to find a publisher soon. If you have read any of Burke's earlier works, you will find the names Holland and Broussard familiar. Though this book has familiar names, the story can be read as a stand-alone. 

I am a big fan of Burke and I loved this novel even more than all the others I've read. This one has all the hallmarks of his earlier works - the brooding, tough, loyal loner, the Western scenery, the archetypal Western bad guy - but adds elements of folklore and mysticism to the mix. It sounds like an odd combination, but Burke really makes it work.

If you have not read anything from this author before, then you are in for a real treat. This isn't your typical western. The prose is simply beautiful. I can't think of another author that compares. I don't even usually like westerns, but these are just so different. The writing style is literary fiction while the plot is edgy western. I can't even describe the experience but I will recommend it to anyone and I will keep on reading every novel this author puts out.

I thank Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I have been reading James Lee Burke novels for many years. He doesn’t disappoint and this was no exception. Full of violence, mysticism and romance, Burke can write a story!  I love how his characters always have a moral compass it do things outside of the box. Aaron and JoAnne are never meant for each other. The Vickers are all sorts of evil. Just an all round good story!
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Three and one half stars for this gem from James Lee Burke.  His prose pulls you into the vortex of his tale, spinning and twisting you until you come out asking yourself, “What just happened?”  I treasured the glimpses into Aaron Holland Broussard’s mind, especially those involving his friend Saber.  He is the knight on the white horse riding into the most evil setting your mind can create.  He is such an anomaly - I avidly read to find out which evil characters were coming his way next.  The twists came in the form of other characters…good or evil, reality or fantasy, friend or foe.  The ending just created more questions in my mind.  So many symbols…evil or part of a play rehearsal?  Loved this race to the finish and my mind working so hard to catch up.  Thanks for the ride James Lee Burke.  Thanks also to Simon Schuster and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this soon to be published gem.
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This is not the typical book by James Lee Burke that I usually read.  I love his New Orleans books. Having said that I am always astounded by burke,'s writing chops. Everything he does has such a lyrical and literary slant to it and this book is no different.  I will look forward to his next book in this series.
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Thank you to Netgalley & the publisher for providing an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for a review.  

The best non-Robicheaux book that Burke has written in a long time!   Another (distant) chapter in the Holland (Holland Broussard)  Family saga.    It is filled with worldly reflections and prose that makes you want to look deep down in yourself.  Would give 4.75 stars if I could, only because  I would have liked about another 25-40 pages of this story!
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