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Remember Ben Clayton

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  389 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
From the author of the acclaimed best seller The Gates of the Alamo, a new novel that confirms and enlarges Stephen Harrigan’s reputation as a major voice in American fiction.

Francis “Gil” Gilheaney is a sculptor of boundless ambition. But bad fortune and his own prideful spirit have driven him from New York into artistic exile in Texas just after World War I. His adult da
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Candace What about The Son by Phillip Meyer? (Mayer?) I liked it a great deal. Gates of the ALamo is good, too.
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Sep 11, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was, by far, the best novel I have read in years! If I could give is six stars I would. All of the charcters were fully developed, each with their hidden backstories and emotional secrets. The story envelops you into the time and place and inserts you into the storyline as if you were really there. Stephen Harrigan is a very talented writer and this novel is worthy of consideration for one of the major book awards. I recommend it very highly.
Oct 04, 2014 Bruce rated it it was amazing
In the aftermath of the Great War, sculptor Francis "Gil" Gilheaney, receives a request from an unusual quarter. A rancher in central Texas wants a sculpture of his son who was killed in action in France. So Gil and his partner Maureen, who is also his daughter, travel from their home in San Antonio north to Abilene to meet Lamar Clayton. When they arrive the taciturn Clayton takes them to his ranch. There they discover he wants an equestrian statue, and he wants it placed on a small hill in a r ...more
Oct 10, 2011 Connie rated it it was amazing
A friend, who is an avid reader, encouraged me to read Stephen Harrigan's latest book. I had read none of his earlier works. Since she and I have very similar interests, I decided to check it out at my library and read it.

This was a wonderful historical fiction work that dealt with Texas immediately after WWI. I live in Texas and am quite familiar with Texas history, but the information was entirely new to me even though I live in the same area. I was also completely unfamiliar with the work of
Aug 05, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
This was a really intriguing novel about families, war, loss, and art. Harrigan succeeds in getting us involved in a dual story about Ben Clayton and the artist who will capture him for all time in the Texas wild country, Gil Gilheaney. One of the more interesting characters is Gilheaney's daughter, who comes into her own as an artist and sculptor after failing to help her father in his quest. It is fascinating to see how art is stymied by arthritis (a nice pun for those who are looking for it) ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Sandy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!! Yes, it's a Texas "western," and yes, it's a war story, and yes, it's a book about fathers' secrets, and yes, it's much much more. These characters and their stories really grabbed me, which is interesting because they weren't especially likeable people. But they were powerful characters that I could see and hear and feel. And the landscape was just as powerful in its own right.

The story frame involves a Texas rancher whose son is killed in the trenches of World War I. He hir
Oct 25, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
I loved this book and it may be a five star book. I listened to it as it won the Audie award for Literary Fiction. Ben Clayton, a young man from Texas, dies in WWI and his father, one of favorite characters, ever, commissions a statue of him to remember his son. The sculptor and his daughter are the other two main characters. They each have their own stories that they bring to the table and when these three get together, it is easy to listen intently at their interactions. Another character, Ben ...more
Jan 24, 2012 Jan rated it it was amazing
This book was a rare find. I read it with trepidation as it did not seem like a story line that would be interesting. My book club is reading it and the author is coming to the meeting so I gave it a try. It is about a rancher who hires a sculptor to erect a statue of his son who died in France fighting in World War I. There are several subplots involving the son's friend in the war and the sculptors daughter. The development of the characters was extraordinary especially that of the dead boy's ...more
Oct 18, 2014 Neyly rated it it was amazing
Gulf Coast Reads 2014

Somewhat slow in that the narrative takes its time to unfold. You become privy to secrets but not before you know the men who guard those secrets.

I give Lamar Clayton more of a pass on his flaws as a father than I do Gil the sculptor. Lamar survives more than one harrowing experience - ones which many men couldn't - and later manages to make a life for himself with wife and child. No - he's not a warm talkative man but he loves his wife and child. I don't think he needs to s
Jun 04, 2016 Glady rated it it was amazing
Remember Ben Clayton stands as one of my favorite books this year although I am having difficulty writing a review. This novel is one that requires contemplation on the part of the reader.

The sculptor, Francis Gilheaney, is hired by the sullen and secretive cowboy father of a deceased WWI soldier, Ben Clayton. Lamar, the father, wants a physical reminder of his son although he openly admits that few will ever see it and its existence will not lessen his pain. Secrets, unexpressed emotions, and
Kem White
Aug 02, 2011 Kem White rated it it was amazing
"Remember Ben Clayton" is simply an outstanding novel. The book tells the story of how a sculpture of Ben Clayton, killed in World War I, is created for his bereaved father, Lamar. Sounds kind of dull, right? Trust me on this, it is anything but boring. The story moves forward with a momentum and vibrancy I've seldom encountered in fiction. At times humorous, at times historical, and some times, ineffably sad. Harrigan is in top form. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Linda Minton
Jul 28, 2015 Linda Minton rated it it was amazing
This was recommended to me by two different well-read friends. After putting it off for several months, I finally dived in, and then ended up rationing my reading time over more nights than usual, wanting to stretch out the enjoyment.

Each of the main characters and two important "side" characters were carefully, even lovingly teased out of their shells, to reveal the kinds of inner lives that most of us never reveal to the outside world. Some are the every-day joys and pains that we nevertheless
Virginia Myers
May 08, 2014 Virginia Myers rated it it was amazing
I read this book for my book club. We had an excellent facilitator and an interesting discussion. I liked the book before I went to the meeting – I really liked the book after the discussion because the discussion brought out things I had failed to notice. So much for my ability to do a good review!

To me, the book is essentially a study of two men. Both men have kept secrets from their families and in the book we find out these secrets and the harm it has done. One man is a sculptor. He is hopin
Jennifer Franz
Sep 05, 2011 Jennifer Franz rated it it was amazing
One of the better books I've ever read. Seriously. Beautiful and haunting. I can't possibly recommend it enough.
Jul 07, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it
The fact that this took me so long to start reading--I've had it on my shelf for years--then so long to get through, does not speak to its impact. This is a beautiful book, even (especially?) in its deep sadness. I've been a fan of Stephen Harrigan's since I tore through "The Gates of the Alamo" years ago. His clean, conversational writing lends itself perfectly to the kind of epic-journey plots of his novels, and in this book especially his language and lovely use of description were allowed to ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Candace rated it it was amazing
If it were possible to give Stephen Harrigan’s novel six stars, I would. I have not been able to stop thinking about “Remember Ben Clayton” since putting it down a final time. It is so moving, with a kind of West Texas majesty that reminds us of what the west was like not that long ago.

And it is readable—compulsively so. I was a huge fan of Harrigan’s earlier “Gates of the Alamo” so I was aware of his writer’s skill. “Ben Clayton” is even more nuanced and complex. The story is this: noted San An
Feb 14, 2013 DR rated it it was amazing
This is a magnificent novel! It’s old-fashioned in the sense that it’s not fancy or “meta” or framed in a way that makes 1920 feel like it’s inhabited by Generation Y. The writing is compelling and honest--as are the characterizations in the way they naturally evolve from the complexities of human relationships and the effects of individual histories. The descriptive language is especially skillful in convincing us of the “chromatic dead zone” that equally applies to both West Texas and the dorm ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Glenn rated it liked it
This is a 1920s novel by Stephen Harrigan about a NYC sculptor commissioned by a Texas rancher to create a memorial statue of his son, who died in WWI. Sculptor and rancher are both deeply flawed fathers, and their relationships with their children is a major theme. Folks, keeping secrets from your children is selfish and destructive. I'm not usually a big fan of fiction, and the plot in "Remember Ben Clayton" was sometimes less than believable. But the characters (and their respective dialogs) ...more
Suzanne Freeman
Jul 29, 2013 Suzanne Freeman rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I actually listened to it and George Guidall, who read it for Audible, was AMAZING! He has read over 900 books and I'm now looking for something I might be interested in among his list just to hear his voice again.

Remember Ben Clayton is written by Stephen Harrigan, who wrote Gates of the Alamo. He's a Texas writer who captures the flavor of the state like few can. No caricatures here! This story takes place in 1920-21, just after World War II. A New York sculptor and his agi
Aug 06, 2014 Megan rated it liked it
I was over half way through with this book before I really got invested in the story. Once I was hooked, finishing the book was easy. This is a book about family relationships, secrets, and grief. I enjoyed reading about the process of sculpting a statue. The descriptions of battle in World War 1 were harder for me to get through. Overall, a great historical fiction novel.
I had to read this one for work, and I have to admit that it is not a book I would have ever chosen to read on my own, but I enjoyed it more than I expected. One of the things I found most enjoyable is that part of the book is set in early 19th century northwest Texas, where my mom is from. I have spent a lot of time in this area, so I'm familiar with how the terrain looks, which helped me to visualize those areas. Also, being a genealogy nerd I've done a lot of research on the branches of my fa ...more
The good - This book is really well written and researched. The author loves Texas, and it shows. The characters are really well developed and even when they were keeping secrets from each other, the author did not keep secrets from the reader. The bad - Like driving in Texas, I felt like this book went on, and on and on. A lot happened after the secrets were revealed, but like driving in Texas, we were nowhere near our destination in spite of already spending hours (and hours, and hours) on the ...more
Oct 07, 2014 Grace rated it it was amazing
An excellent novel on the effects of war as well as a look at how a sculptor works. I started out not particularly liking the book, but it quickly grew on me. I read it in conjunction with Gulf Coast Reads and for my Book Club. I found the characters of Maureen and Arthur particularly sympathetic. I have also known so many men like Lamar Clayton - quiet and reserved and unable to show grief. A beautifully told novel of art, remembrance and World War I.
West Hartford Public Library
Feb 11, 2016 West Hartford Public Library rated it it was amazing
Shelves: martha
Great historical fiction! Two fathers, both with secrets they've kept from their children for years, must come to terms with the past. Set in Texas, World War I France, and New York, this novel is filled with strong characters and universal themes.
Dec 08, 2014 Compusword rated it it was amazing
Decided to give it a try cause it was the Texas Gulf Coast Book Club Read of the Year in 2014.
Glad I did. The book is set at the very end of WWI and includes some of the art world.
Touching story.
Oct 07, 2014 Winifred rated it really liked it
Shelves: grief
The characters are so well written I felt I had met each of them. They were complete complex people as we all are.
Feb 11, 2012 librarianh20 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I won't write too much about the plot because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it was just so good. An unraveling...

Francis Gilheany--sculptor, transplant from NYC to San Antonio, looking for his sculptural legacy
Maureen--daughter of Gil, sculptor in her own right, struggling to find her place in a world dominated by her father and his work
Lamar Clayton-- TX cattleman, taciturn, hard-headed, filled with secrets
Ben Clayton--Lamar's only son, died in the war
George's Mary
Ms. S...........
Apr 30, 2012 Ms. S........... rated it liked it
Since I have been going through some grief presently, I very much related to the depth of feeling in the characters. each had his/her own mourning to work through and secrets from the past to face. one charcater compared her own secrets to her father's and found that "her secrets were not gravely held, but simply her own business" (p. 320). another character comissions a statue of his son who died in The War knowing that the statue won't bring his son back, but wanting it anyway. That statue, st ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it
Harrigan's novel lets the characters develop and take shape slowly, much as the process of sculpting the commissioned statue of a Texas rancher's dead son does. Unlikely elements and people braid together in this fine story. It's a heart-breaking tale about the devastating power of secrets and the relationships between fathers and their children. I loved the setting of San Antonio and west Texas. Harrigan's meticulous research makes every detail ring true, whether it's about sculpting, restoring ...more
Elizabeth Sowa
Aug 19, 2014 Elizabeth Sowa rated it it was amazing
Great book set in San Antonio and west Texas during the 1920's.
I give a lot of 5 star reviews and this book makes me wish I didn't. It makes all of my other 5 stars seem more like 4.5. It's a special story, and I highly recommend it. Great suggestion for a book club; lots to discuss. The artist and his daughter, the lonely rancher and his grief, the broken and badly damaged young surviving friend exiled in France after the Great War- all have their stories to tell and somehow everything comes to a head during the creation of a statue of Ben Clayton, who was ...more
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Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi.He is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American History ...more
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