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The Clearing

Tim Gautreaux

1,356 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0340828900 / ISBN 13: 9780340828908
Published by Sceptre, 2004
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Clearing

Publisher: Sceptre

Publication Date: 2004

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Good

About this title


Byron Aldridge, heir to a timber empire, returns from the First World War a changed man and finds refuge as a company policeman in a backwoods Louisiana sawmill. Soon his younger brother Randolph tracks him down, assuming charge of the mill in the hope of rescuing his former idol. But as the brothers try to understand each other and their wives contend with their own hopes and fears, it is Randolph who starts a feud with the Sicilians who control the whisky and girls, and the future grows fearsome for them all.


In Tim Gautreaux's first novel, The Next Step in the Dance, the author staked a literary claim to Louisiana bayou country. In his second novel, The Clearing, he colonizes that claim. The atmosphere of the novel is humid and snake-infested, a swamp alive with mosquitoes and hungry alligators, stinkbugs and stench, flooding and freezing alternately. The setting provides a fitting backdrop for the bare subsistence lives of the people who live there.

The time is 1923, the place a family-owned mill, and the people a motley collection made up of a manager from Pennsylvania, his brother the constable, poor white and black loggers, three women, Sicilians, and polyglot Cajuns. Byron, the constable, a golden boy before the war, eldest son and heir apparent to a timber fortune, returned from France a damaged man, no longer interested in family or future. He drifted away from home and lost contact. When the novel begins, he has been found in this Louisiana backwater and his brother, Randolph, is dispatched to manage the family mill until the cypress forest is cleared and to bring Byron home. What happens to them in this hermetically sealed redoubt is a story of intense and forgiving brotherly love, as Randolph struggles to reclaim Byron and to maintain decency against formidable odds. They must deal with the Sicilians who own the gambling, liquor and women and will do anything to hang onto this franchise; the loggers who work and fight in equal part; and each other, not as the boys they were, but as the men they are.

You might learn more about old-time logging than you ever wanted to know, but the story is as compelling as Cold Mountain or All the Pretty Horses and just as well written. --Valerie Ryan

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