"The magnificence of Hold It 'Til It Hurts is not only in the prose and the story but also in the book's great big beating heart. These complex and compelling characters and the wizardry of Johnson's storytelling will dazzle and move you from first page to last.Read more...
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"The magnificence of Hold It 'Til It Hurts is not only in the prose and the story but also in the book's great big beating heart. These complex and compelling characters and the wizardry of Johnson's storytelling will dazzle and move you from first page to last. Novels don't teach us how to live but Hold It 'Til It Hurts will make you hush and wonder."--Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
"This rich and sophisticated first novel brings together pleasures rarely found in one book: Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a novel about war that goes in search of passionate love, a dreamy thriller, a sprawling mystery, a classical quest for a lost brother in which the shadowy quarry is clearly the seeker's own self, and a meditation on family and racial identity that makes its forerunners in American fiction look innocent by comparison."--Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award winner for Lord of Misrule
When Achilles Conroy and his brother Troy return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their white mother presents them with the key to their past: envelopes containing details about their respective birth parents. After Troy disappears, Achilles--always his brother's keeper--embarks on a harrowing journey in search of Troy, an experience that will change him forever.Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.
T. Geronimo Johnson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Best New American Voices, Indiana Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Illuminations, among others. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Johnson teaches writing at the University of California-Berkeley. Hold It 'Til It Hurts is his first book.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-06-18
- Reviewer: Staff
This powerful, stylish debut novel from New Orleans native and former Stegner fellow Johnson concerns a 22-year-old black man adopted and raised by a white couple who is trying to make sense and order of his life after three years of serving two Army tours in Afghanistan. Achilles and his younger brother Troy Conroy return to Hagerstown, Md., as their father’s wake is in progress. News of his death had failed to reach them at Bagram AFB, and soon after their return, Anna, their mother, divulges information about their birth parents. Both brothers are transracial adoptees with different biological parents, but “easygoing” Achilles only cares about taking care of the “reckless” Troy, who slips away to New Orleans, presumably on a quest to locate his biological parents. Achilles follows Troy to New Orleans where his trail mysteriously vanishes. In the course of his dogged search for Troy, Achilles sparks a romance with the “classic rich hippy” Ines Delesseppes, from whom he keeps secrets (such as his adoption). Hurricane Katrina forms and begins its march to New Orleans as Achilles, after getting a lead on his brother’s whereabouts from an old Army pal, leaves to track down the errant Troy in Atlanta where disturbing news awaits. The stark backstory fleshing out Achilles and Troy’s arduous combat duty over in “Goddamnistan” smartly plays off the thorough exploration of modern American attitudes on race, war, and family in this richly textured debut. (Sept.)