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Whiskey

9780374716387 fc
Hardcover, MCD × FSG, 2018
Bruceholbert bw

Bruce Holbert

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Whiskey burns pleasantly as it goes down, but has a lasting, powerful effect.

Brothers Andre and Smoker were raised in a cauldron of their parents’ failed marriage and appetite for destruction, and find themselves in the same straits as adults—navigating not only their own marriages, but also their parents’ frequent collision with the law and one another. The family lives in Electric City, Washington, just a few miles south of the Colville Indian Reservation. Fiercely loyal and just plain fierce, they’re bound by a series of darkly comedic and hauntingly violent events: domestic trouble; religious fanaticism; benders punctuated with pauses to dry out that never stick.

When a religious zealot takes off with Smoker’s daughter, there’s no question that his brother—who continues doggedly to try and put his life in order—will join him in attempt to return her. Maybe the venture will break them both beyond repair or maybe it will redeem them. Or perhaps both.

Whiskey is the story of two brothers, their parents, and three wrecked marriages, a searching audiobook about family life at its most distressed—about kinship, failure, enough liquor to get through it all, and ultimately a dark and hard-earned grace. With the gruff humor of Cormac McCarthy and a dash of the madcap irony of Charles Portis, and a strong, authentic literary voice all his own, Bruce Holbert traverses the harsh landscape of America’s northwestern border and finds a family unlike any you’ve met before.

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  • "In the masterful and rueful Whiskey, the sentences and dialogue burn like 100 proof shots of the novel’s namesake: smoky, sharp, and chased with black humor."

    Whitney Terrell, author of The Good Lieutenant

  • "Bruce Holbert’s Whiskey exists at the astonishing intersection of merciful and merciless, true to life and hallucinatory, philosophical and thrilling. It’s as deeply haunting a book as I’ve read in years, dark but lit on the edges with tenderness and even hilarity. Bruce Holbert’s sentences are like nobody else’s, and his characters will break your heart. He is one of my favorite writers. This book is why."

    Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories

  • "With an eye for the downtrodden, every day is a risk with misfortune on the horizon for the characters in Bruce Holbert’s quirky but offbeat novel of the West, where the volume roars off the page with an Americana rhythm similar to a Hayes Carll album. Bound by humor and bad decisions reminiscent of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son and Angels, this is a lawless, moody masterpiece."

    Frank Bill, author of The Savage

  • "Boldly written and fiercely imagined, Whiskey is a book that will drag you into territory both strange and familiar, where western romance meets the harsh realism of contemporary survival. If Holbert’s characters are questing for some semblance of grace, they are lucky to find one moment of mercy, their rage at one another a projection of their fight to escape their own destinies. What emerges is a poignant and riveting tale of endurance and lament that comes straight from the broken heart of the West."

    Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men

  • "In his new novel Whiskey, Bruce Holbert presents a sharp picture of life in the contemporary West. It’s a story of brothers and the bonds that stick for better or worse, and it’s tragic and compelling, wicked in parts, nearly noble in others, expertly rendered. Holbert is a potent and convincing writer, sure in his descriptions of his world and characters." 

    Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid’s Version  

  • "[An] impressive novel . . . Like Cormac McCarthy, another bard of the modern West’s brutality, Holbert finds beauty and cruelty in the land, in the tease and punch of eloquently elliptical dialogue, and in the way humans struggle for love, self-knowledge, and a grip on life . . . He writes terse prose whittled to essentials and grained with vernacular . . . His characters may well brand a reader’s memory. A gut-punch of a bleak family saga that satisfies on many levels."

    Kirkus Reviews