The Great Leader
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The Great Leader

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  639 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Author Jim Harrison has won international acclaim for his masterful body of work, including Returning to Earth, Legends of the Fall and over thirty books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In his most original work to date, Harrison delivers an enthralling, witty and expertly-crafted novel following one man’s hunt for an elusive cult leader, dubbed “The Great Leader.”

On t...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published September 1st 2011)
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Lori (Hellian)
I admit I'm a Jim Harrison junkie. Every time I lie down with one of his books, I am transported in link with a mind that works like my own. The wistful looking back at life-changing mistakes made, reflecting on them, making the same mistakes over again this time with humor so maybe the lesson will stick. All the stupid things we do as we flit about in obeyance to our self involved emotions, but but find release from self into the universal by nature. Because he is male, I can mock his being led...more
Jack Rochester

Jim Harrison is either an acquired or an inherent taste. If acquired, it's because the reader wishes to glimpse into the soul and life of people who are stranger, who do riskier, more exciting things than they. If an inherent taste, it's because the reader shares, or at least empathizes with, certain traits of the author or has come into a profound appreciation of the nature and genre of the author's work. This is not just true of Harrison but Hemingway, Willa Cather, Faulkner, Pynchon, and sure...more
Webster Bull
“There’s a reason Shakespeare kills off his characters at the end of his tragedies,” I told my daughter this morning. “What’s that, Dad?” she asked. I couldn’t rightly say. I only know that I was irritated, having reached the final chapters of Jim Harrison’s new novel, The Great Leader, and hoping that someone would kill someone, please.

This was my first encounter with Harrison, who has been compared with Faulkner, Hemingway, and Willa Cather. “Though famous for fiction,” his Wiki entry notes, “...more
Jeb Harrison
Another wonderful read! Jim Harrison never fails to entertain, educate and enthrall. I have read almost everything he has written, including the poems and essays, and I am consistently inspired by his monumental respect for nature and all her creatures(save humans of course who try as they might to "be good" are usually best relegated to long walks). The Great Leader has everything I love in a Harrison novel: bawdy humor, frisky athletic sex either real or imagined, plentiful worship of the fema...more
Kay
I have no idea why this author gets such great reviews, but then I haven't read any of his other works. To me, this was a wandering, nonsensical tale of a recently retired police officer in the Upper Peninsula who is ineffectively pursuing a cult leader suspected of sex with underage girls. Ironically, the protagonist also plays the role of peeping Tom to spy on his next-door neighbor's teenage daughter. When not getting drunk or falling flat on his face, he is engaged in meaningless sex with a...more
David Guy
As I believe I've said before, I read everything Jim Harrison writes as soon as I can get my hands on it. He calls this book a mystery, but it's actually just one more novel about a guy who eats and drinks too much and lusts after women, at least one of them inappropriately young. He's supposedly (in the mystery part) pursuing a child molester who is the head of a religious cult, but I didn't find that part of the book convincing or interesting. What is always interesting in a Harrison novel is...more
Tony
The premise is shallow and unrealistic: a Michigan State trooper retires at 65 and decides to track down a pedophillic cult leader, all the way in Arizona. The protagonist, Sunderson, will be familiar to any reader of Harrison. He's divorced, a functional alcoholic, with strong opinions on nature, cuisine, literature and politics. He manages to have sex, often, without much effort. He's a failure in his most important relationships, but, at his core, a good man. Harrison's favorite adjectives -...more
Shane
I wondered why Harrison decided to write this novel as a detective story, when that part of it was quite farcical. The better story was that about the just-retired detective coming to terms with a divorce from his lifelong partner, his partiality to alcohol, his flagging libido that is transforming him into a dirty old man, and the prospect of retirement itself. His retirement party ends up in a sexual incident that sets Sunderson off as no better than the sexual predators he had pursued as a co...more
Tony
THE GREAT LEADER. (2011). Jim Harrison. ****.
Jim Harrison is another one of my favorite authors who has delivered consistently high-quality fiction, non-fiction and poetry over the years. According to the book flap, Harrison has over thirty books to his credit. I have my favorites among them, though this one is not likely to be another one. In spite of that caveat, this is still a fine novel, but one looking for a core reason for being. It’s the tale of Detective Simon Sunderson, a recently ret...more
Susan Ward
The book was very entertaining because it reflected on the plight of an aging man who feels sexual angst, and urges for young women. I was very entertained by the method of writing, and the dismissive way Harrison talked about the character’s bad habits, drinking and otherwise. But as the story unfolds, I become more filled with compassion for the character, Sunderson , and his loneliness and deep regret over the failure of his marriage. The story begins at the timeright before his retirement wh...more
Jenna
Let me start by saying, I love Jim Harrison. He's one of my favorite writers. But increasingly his work has meandered into unfathomable instrospection. While this novel has an actual plot, a crisis, and resolution, Harrison's loose associations rival many unmedicated schizophrenics. His retired UP Michigan detective character Sunderson is another variation of the Browndog/Michael persona from previous novels and novellas. While I'm happy to spend more time with this 'guy', I'd rather he reprise...more
Jesse
harrison is a wonderful writer who is equally adept at poetry and prose. in the novel he brilliantly balances themes of law, teenage sexuality, parenting, and self-restraint. the characters are drawn with beautiful strokes (with mona being a sort of randy lisbeth salander), and the protaganist a sturdy harrison male with his fingers in different areas of knowledge, whose mind constantly pops out insightful little nuggets of wisdom. the plot is satisfying with the requisite turns (inculding a sto...more
Sarah
Couldn't finish this one. It was too disgusting and full of stereotypes. By chapter 2, there was no actual plot having to do with the cult or cult leader that is being investigated. The 65 year old alcoholic protagonist P.I. has however, had sex with or been propositioned by every female so far mentioned in the book, with the exception of his next door neighbor. His neighbor, however, is a 16 year old goth girl hacker who lives on her own and whose bedroom window he peeps in each morning. She is...more
Chris
Rambling was philosophical, politically confused and mostly plotless, having little to do with the title character other than a bit of gruesomeness near the end. I never came to understand the protagonist's obsession with the case, nor did I get a sense of the villain's crimes or his victims. The protagonist's obsession with T&A I followed, but why did every woman he met (aged 16 to 55, abandoned, upper class or sexually mature) want to bend over and offer him her ass, when as he himself lik...more
Isabelle
"This is what happens when Jim Harrison writes a detective story", says she grinning from ear to ear.
What could I possibly say about Jim Harrison that I have not already said? How much more can I gush about him whose new books I wait for like one waits for a feast?
I could say that he makes no excuse for human folly or cruelty but embraces frailty and imperfection so fully that I know for certain they are god-given blessings. Only as imperfect creatures can we believe that we can fight evil, walk...more
Peggy
Not the overly-literary soporific prose I was expecting. Instead, it's a hard-boiled detective story in which the detective pulls himself out of his slough and ends up pretty much OK. Excellent understanding of Michigan's upper peninsula. Layer upon layer of meaning, description, character, plot, and though much of the story is grim and unsavory, Harrison leads us out of that world gently, and takes us into sublime nature. It's never dull. It's not my usual type of book (retired male detective d...more
Tyler
Sunderson is alone. Professionally, he is a heavy-drinking has been, if ever was one.

A detective, Sunderson is certainly no dummy. He is well-read, quick-of-mind, and hip to the ways of the world. But his intelligence often coils inward, and feeds upon itself. It is more ready to take a dark, cynical, and self-destructive path. So much so, it can be exhausting to follow Sunderson’s thread of thinking through the normal routines of his every day.

Sunderson has a particular penchant for history b...more
Al
I keep thinking Jim Harrison is the kind of writer I'm going to love, and I keep being disappointed. Frankly, I don't know what to make of this particular book. Viewed from one perspective, it's a rambling, disjointed sort of journal kept by the protagonist, a recently retired Michigan State Policeman who is on a goofy mission to pin a sex-with-minors charge on a cult leader. Harrison lays on the sex and drinking nonstop, even though the poor old guy is 65 and pretty broken down, and tries to l...more
Joy
Suggested by a friend, I was hooked by Michigan setting in the Upper Pen. Then actual towns and locations in the U.P. Reminded me of the old gum shoe type telling of a mystery. A male tale, not too sexy. I found Harrison remembering...and very current.. Reminds me of Uncle Howard.

The Great Leader ....cult man that Sunderson, the retired cop, was seeking

pg 220 The ecstacy of belief. That's what we want from religion. Something we can count on as helpless children in the face of ninety billion ga...more
Bookbeaver
When Harrison decided to put religion, sex, and money in his crosshairs you had to know he, more than any other author today, would hit the bull's eye. Humor, insight, and a good deal of attention toward the female derriere. There is simply no other experience in current american literature like reading a Jim Harrison novel. The only thing better? Reading his poetry and a new collection is due out any day, if not already. There should be a t-shirt with that skinny cartoon character reading a Har...more
Aaron
A retired trout-fishing alcoholic autodidact detective going to seed travels from Marquette to Arizona in a meandering quest of a pedophile leader of a huckster religious cult. Munising, Ojibwa Indians, Fort Huachuca, the Verling, the Landmark Inn, drunken Yoopers, Mexican cartel leaders, Presque Isle, cudighi, MSHS, Tucson, Michigan State, Snowbound Books, Nogales, and NMU either precipitate or are settings for the book’s various funny and unsettling incidents. And whiskey. Lots of whiskey.
Lynn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joel McNally
Anyone fond of Harrison will recognize the familiar themes. Wandering the natural world. Harrison's fantasies about young women being sexually attracted to an old coot much like him. But the best of his books are always his observations on life around him. This time, because he is pursuing a predatory cult leader, much of the hard-bitten wisdom is about the appeal of religion, even in its most transparently fraudulent forms.
Sue Jacob
I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- it's not one of Harrison's most profound but it is totally engaging and for anyone who's beginning to think about aging -- and if you're over 40 it's everyone, this is a cheerful look at all the anxieties that crop up at 4 AM. The scenes of "peeping Tom" lustfulness are both hilarious and pathetic.
Steve Fiffer
Harrison may not be everyone's cup of tea. In fact, if you drink tea you might find the wonderfully drawn bawdy, brainy, bereaved "hero" Sunderson a little over the top. But this is a book that makes you laugh, puzzle, miss nature, ponder religion and history, and think a lot about what it means to grow old and grow up.
Joe Drape
Admittedly, he is among my favorite authors, and once more Harrison doesn't disappoint. This is a detective novel in the loosest sense of the genre and while the mystery isn't that mysterious the journey is great fun. Sex, food, random thoughts and laughter pop from every page.
Clare
Traveling in the mind of a 65-year old male with lust issues would seem not my cup of tea, but Harrison is such an intelligent observer of life and nature that it was impossible not to turn the next page. And surprisingly I found a lot in common with this common man who is dealing with a divorce, retirement and the issues of what comes next. His pursuit of a dastardly cult leader as his last "case" is a foil for his rumination on religion, sex and money (life) and if you're looking for a cop thr...more
Heather
Started reading this book, and it went pretty fast. Initally I was intrigued by the premise of the retired detective chasing a cult leader. But this novel isn't really about that. It really is not super plot driven, and much more of a study of the headspace and philosophical musings of old men - which is ok, but not what I was looking for. Harrison's prose is solid, as it has been for decades, and that alone drew me on though most of the book. However I lost interest due to lack of action and en...more
Courtney Oliver
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corey Preston
Sort of a lukewarm mess.
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants...more
More about Jim Harrison...
Legends of the Fall Dalva The English Major Returning to Earth The Woman Lit By Fireflies

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