Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Read more...
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Publisher: Algonquin Books$15.95Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Library Binding)
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Publisher: HighBridge Audio$34.99
Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears.
Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn t forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he s getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families. After a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, Rocky and his family must reckon with the past and find out how much forgiveness their hearts can hold.
A heartrending, music-filled debut
A reader need not be a disciple of rock legend Neil Young to find that Only Love Can Break Your Heart strikes a nostalgic chord.
But for those of us who appreciate Young’s immense musical gifts, Ed Tarkington’s debut novel will likely prove twice as harmonious. In many ways a classic coming-of-age story, the novel also digs deep into the loamy depths of the modern Southern Gothic genre, circa 1970s.
Tarkington’s novel unfolds from the perspective of its young narrator, Rocky, whose older brother and hero, Paul, is the quintessential teenage bad boy. When Paul’s bitterness toward the boys’ father leads to a reckless act of defiance that places Rocky in peril, the brothers become geographically estranged, but never divided at heart. Years later, a crime divides their hometown but brings them back together.
The small Virginia town of Spencerville is filled with an eclectic cast of characters that keeps the tale moving at a brisk pace, even after Paul’s early departure from the narrative scene. This is a dark story of a dysfunctional crew, from the cantankerous family patriarch and his young wife, the religious and submissive Mrs. Askew, to the horsey debutante and seductress Patricia Culver and Paul’s fragile soul mate, Leigh.
Without spoiling the ending of this compelling page-turner, it can be said that Tarkington’s impressive first novel achieves every author’s goal: Once you start reading, you can’t stop. And as an added bonus for Neil Young fans, Tarkington’s riveting tale provides plenty of classic rock riffs, too.