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The Clearing
By Tim Gautreaux
Knopf, 2003
Hardcover, $23.00 (305 pages)
ISBN: 0-375-41474-6

 

 
  Brothers Byron and Randolph Aldridge have a complicated and unspoken love for one another. Their father Noah, the wealthy and powerful owner of a Pennsylvania timber company, imposed his own goals on each of his sons at birth.

As the eldest, Byron was expected to fulfill his duty to his country before returning to manage the family business. Before World War I, his life was effortless. He returned from France changed in ways unimaginable to his father and younger brother. Restless, he's moved from place to place, finally settling in the swamps of Louisiana where he earns his living as a sheriff in a mill town full of men who like to drink, fight, and partake in the Sicilian-controlled entertainments of whiskey, card games, and women.  At his father's insistence, Randolph moves South, ostensibly to take care of the family interest in the mill. Noah, who inherited the business from his father, believes heat and labor will toughen up his younger son with the added bonus of finding his older son and returning him to the fold. Knowing his absence will be hard on his wife Lillian, Randolph leaves Pittsburgh with the intention of spending four to six weeks at Nimbus Mill in Poachum Station.

Byron and Randolph struggle to understand and trust one another. Each struggles with secret disappointment and each sacrifices for the other as they attempt to impose order on the mill village.

The Clearing is a memorable novel of place and time.

Gautreaux's first novel, The Next Step in the Dance, won the 1999 Southeastern Booksellers Award. Born and reared in Louisiana, the author is Writer-in-Residence at Southeastern Louisiana. His work has appeared in the O. Henry and Best American short story annuals as well as Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, and Zoetrope.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

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