So Long, See You Tomorrow
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So Long, See You Tomorrow

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  3,197 ratings  ·  492 reviews
On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William Maxwell delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past.
Paperback, 135 pages
Published 1998 by Harvill (first published 1979)
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41st out of 101 books — 101 voters
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Pulitzer Prize Finalists
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Melanie
Speechless... That was extraordinary.

(24 hours later)

I knew I was in for something special when I heard Richard Ford saying that this was one of his all-time favourite books but I didn't expect this level of amazement and mastery as I zipped through these 150 pages on a rainy October Sunday. How did someone manage to pack so much humanity in such a tiny work of art? The last time I felt such mind blowing concision was when I read "The Great Gatsby" for the first time. Every single sentence conta...more
William
This is a little masterpiece of narrative compression. Though only 135 pages long, it can seem at times that whole paragraphs of unwritten backstory are suggested by every line, every image. A rundown of the plot will not give you a sense of the high level of mastery involved here, but here it is anyway. In the early 1920s one married farmer befriends another married farmer then steals his wife. Both marriages break up. The adulterous wife--Fern Smith--sues her husband for divorce and wins on gr...more
Teresa
May 21, 2012 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Mikki
I've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fact, the end reflects back to the beginning, another of my favorite things. And as I approached the end, I lingered over the sentences, rereading them: slight though they may seem, they are so worth it.

This slim novel is a perfect example of why a writer writes, how an incident can linger and fester until he works it out of his thoughts and memories...more
Mikki
Rarely do I find myself re-reading books since there are just way too many on my bucket list and time is steadily counting down. However, the other day, when my feed showed TWO people adding William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow, I figured that it must be a sign, so pushing my other reading aside, I grabbed my copy of the book and asked Anne if I could read along. She said "Yes!". It was the best decision I'd made in a while.

You see, I first read this book in early 2009. It was my introduc...more
Douglas Feil
“Love, even of the most ardent and soul-destroying kind, is never caught by the lens of the camera.”

Oh, man. What have I stepped into with this book? There’s no way a single read is sufficient for me to review this burning revelation of the soul.

“How was it that she didn’t realize it was going to last such a short time.”

If anyone should ever ask me to recommend a work of fiction that sums up the human condition, passing this book along, I’ll reply, “Sit down. Read this. And don’t get up until y...more
Maria Headley
I don't know how I'd never read this before. It's particularly silly, because I've read possibly three entire books about William Maxwell, and certainly plenty of his New Yorker stuff, just in the way one reads randomly bits of things over the years, and they accrue, and one day, you realize, Hello, I haven't read any books by this writer that EVERYONE ADORES. Maxwell was an incredible person by all accounts - I read MY MENTOR, the Alec Wilkinson book about him, as well as a straight bio, and an...more
Jimmy
4.5 stars. I listened to a story on NPR the other day about how the police can often tell if a suspect is lying because the lies are elaborated fully with so much detail, as if to make up for the fabrication, whereas the truth is often very simple.

This book reminded me of that because it is elaborate and full of detail, from the history of the town to the history of each character to the description of one thing or another that strikes the reader as something nobody would just make up, so that t...more
Cynthia
The depth of the emotional insight is what makes this book important. It's sad, it's tragic, it's nostalgic.

When he veers into the dog's perspective of the loss of her family you'll cry your eyes out. And I know this pet perspective has been overdone lately but in "So Long, See you Tomorrow" it's something you won't want to miss imo. Such a small book, what a large impact.
Edan
I should have read this in a single sitting, but I couldn't--or wouldn't--point is, I didn't, and I regret it. This novel is not only beautiful and heartbreaking in the way that STONER by John Williams is beautiful and heartbreaking, it's also quite surprising in its use of point of view. It reminded me a little of SPEAK, MEMORY, Nabokov's memoir that plays a lot with memory and fiddling with images and moments from the past. Maxwell does something similar here, with the narrator's imagined vers...more
Diane
This is one of the best novellas I have read in years. I sought it out after learning that Ann Patchett lists it as one of her favorite books.

The story is very simple: It's a man trying to make sense of a murder that happened in his small town in Illinois in the 1920s. The narrator, who himself had a rough childhood because his mother died when he was young, was once friends with a boy whose father was the accused murderer. The narrator now feels guilty that he didn't try to help the boy back th...more
Stephen P
Never fully engaged. It might have something to do with reading it as a break from Beckett. Now I fully understand the rumor that Sam does not like company. I'll have to reread Maxwell later to give this book a fair shot.
Carol
This is miniature tour de force…powerful, moving and beautifully written in a spare writing style that evokes a profound sense of place. It’s no secret that this novella is an old man’s recollection of a tragic episode from his childhood…a love triangle and murder in a small, Illinois farm town in the early 1920s. Yet, it reveals more than an account of a crime of passion. This slender novel is about childhood memories, nostalgia and dealing with loss, guilt and haunting regrets.

Almost everyone...more
Tom
Dec 30, 2008 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
The most heart-breaking novel I've ever read (with John Williams' Stoner a close second). I've read it several times, taught it twice, and the ending never fails to put a lump in my throat.
Vale
So long, see you tomorrow

Il breve romanzo di William Maxwell, finalista Pulitzer nel 1981, ha coloriture del sud che richiamano i temi cari al primo Capote e ad Eudora Welty e Harper Lee. La storia è semplice: due adolescenti si salutano alla fine di una qualsiasi giornata di giochi, ma non si vedranno più perché la tragedia irromperà nella vita di uno dei due. La voce narrante è uno dei due ragazzi, ormai uomo, che in un lungo flashback ci porta a rivivere i tormenti e le incomprensioni di quan...more
Julie
A gunshot cracks the crystalline stillness of an Illinois winter morning. It is a crime of passion that cracks the facade of uprightness and innocence of a simple country town. Friendships and marriages have crumbled and childhoods withered away in the face of adult guilt, disappointment and anger.

Decades later an old man gathers the threads of his memory and reconstructs the turning point of his youth, as if by acknowledging the details of the murder, he will atone for a friendship abandoned....more
Tony
Maxwell, William. SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW. (1980). *****. This novel by Maxwell was included in the Library of America’s “Later Novels and Stories,” but is available separately in several editions. I feel that it is a masterpiece of fine writing and story telling. Of all of his works – all of which are outstanding – this is probably his best achievement. It is the story of two neighbors who live out on the Illinois prairie, working the land to eke out a living. At first, they are the best of f...more
Jenny
So Long, See You Tomorrow is about the recollection of the murder of a man who cheats on his friend's wife. The story is told from the point of view of the now grown-up friend of the son of the murderer.

It was really difficult to rate this book...I would have given as little as a 1 and as high as a 3 (maybe even 3.5 or 4), so...I guess 2 is about right. In the end, I kinda feel like I must not have understood this book. I mean, you can probably read that from my inability to really write a brie...more
Jenny
"So Long, See You Tomorrow" is one of those books that makes me want to leave my job and hide myself away somewhere and do nothing but write until I can produce something as good as this. I agree with these reviewers:

"This is one of the great books of our age. It is the subtlest of miniatures that contains our deepest sorrows and truths and love -- all caught in a clear, simple style in perfect brushstrokes." -- Michael Ondaatje

"A small, perfect novel." -- Washington Post Book World

"What a lovel...more
Jamie
What a small, lovely little book. That said, it was quite small indeed, so I'm not sure if I can give it more than three stars.

Mix 4 parts "My Antonia," three parts "In Cold Blood," and one part "Gilead" and you get this book. The interesting thing, and the reason why I believe it was recommended to me, is that this is a bit of a memoir but it's also mostly fictionalized - my total M.O. Maxwell takes his childhood memory of a town murder and recreates the facts of the murder by fictionalizing th...more
Sarah Sandfort Schultz
A fabulous book! Echoes of Kent Haruf. Narrated by a young boy and his older self; beautifully lyrical and real. Takes the simple truths of lost opportunity and spins them into a tale I wish would have gone on longer than a short story.

Surely I am feeling sentimental about my own children growing-up, but I think this passage is amazing:

"Without the heavyset aristocratic man snoring away on his side of the bed, without the fresh-eyed child whose hair ribbon needed retying; without the conversat...more
Winston
One cannot readily comprehend why the narrator embarked on this 'autobiographical' account of a tragic episode in his childhood; his personal connection to the gruesome murder was a remote friendship with Cletus, the killer's son, of whose semblance the narrator could not remember, and the only significant memory of their relationship was Cletus's indifferent willingness to play with the awkward school geek at the latter's yet-to-be completed new home. The narrative's dichotomous structure, one...more
Alicia
Beautiful book, exquisitely written.

The story is fairly simple: an elderly man recollects events from his childhood, the town he grew up in, his parents, his stepmother, the move to a new house and then on to Chicago. The writing in this section is just incredible. So wonderful. But then he also tells the story of two farmers with adjoining farms who were best friends, then one murders the other after discovering that he was having an affair with his wife. His link to this story is his unspoken...more
Dennis
I really wanted to like this novel. A lot. The premise seemed interesting: a small town murder told from the POV of a man who, when he was a young boy, knew one of the alleged killer's child. Based on this premise, I assumed the story was going to be exclusively about the relationship between these two boys around the time of the murder and how they tried to reconcile their conflicted feelings in light of this tragedy.

But no. That's not what this book is about.

It's about the man trying to resol...more
Amy
This book is beautifully written. Straightforward, yet poetic story of loss. Its a slim volume that really packs a punch. The narrator barely intersects in the lives of others, but having experienced his own loss and isolation, finds himself grasping at a handful of facts later on as an adult looking back on his childhood. He tries to make sense of things, maybe to try and make sense of his on life. One of my favorite constructs of the story is in the last quarter of the book, Maxwell writes lit...more
El
William Maxwell is one of those authors who I've thought for a long time I'm familiar with, but then realize upon picking up a book by him that I've never read him before. And then there's the painful discovery that I've clearly been missing out all this time.

This short novel is told by an elderly man reflecting upon his adolescence. The story begins with a farmer being killed, and from there branches out into the narrator's life and friendship with the farmer's son, a friendship that is altered...more
Diane S.
In straightforward and concise prose, seriously not a word is wasted they all have incredible meaning, Maxwell conveys the loss of innocence of two boyhood friends. This book is so short but the words and the story are so tall. One of the four 1920's books I am presently reading, by a Chicago author I had never heard of, and it was very very good. Reminded me a bit of the writing of Kent Hauf, he manages to provoke tension, dread and a bittersweet poignancy all at the same time. The characters,...more
Lee
3.75 stars for me. More interesting in terms of structure than story. Admired and respected the language and insight more than loved it. Felt a little manipulative with Trixie the dog toward the end. Appreciated the bit where the POV shifts to cats at one point. Loved the opening but the speculative story didn't totally cohere into more than potentially false witness (ie, fiction). A novella about writing, really, and for its dramatization of a story's creation, I awarded the fourth star. Will d...more
Ryan
It reminded me of Chronicle of a Death Foretold in the way the narrative seeks to unpack a murder, though this one focuses on the aftermath just as much as the events leading up to it. Maxwell packs a lot into this novella. The porousness of memory, the way we deal with loss, the way we make bad decisions that can haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Maxwell is an odd writer and his style changes throughout as the narrator recalls the past or manufactures fictions and speculations in his attempt t...more
Ana
Mais um pequeno romance de William Maxwell, quase perfeito.
O amor, a perda, a culpa, os erros que cometemos no passado que podem perseguir-nos por toda a vida.
“Depois de seis meses a sentar-me no divã do psicanalista –isto também há muito tempo – revivi aquele passeio noturno, com o braço à volta da cintura do meu pai. (…) Nova Iorque é um sítio onde se pode chorar na rua em perfeita privacidade.
Outros miúdos podiam ter aguentado, podiam ter aguentado. O meu irmão mais velho aguentou, de certo m...more
Lee Razer
I can see why this little novel by the longtime fiction editor of the New Yorker is so highly praised, yet I have to admit that on a personal level I didn't exactly love it.

Told with impressive empathy in a discursive style, it is a sad tale of adultery, murder and the familial dissolution of neighboring tenant farmers in the early twentieth century. Much of the first half of the book is exploration of the family story of the narrator, who was only tangentially connected to the tragic developme...more
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William Keepers Maxwell Jr. was an American novelist, and fiction editor at the New Yorker. He studied at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. Maxwell wrote six highly acclaimed novels, a number of short stories and essays, children's stories, and a memoir, Ancestors (1972).

His award-winning fiction, which is increasingly seen as some of the most important of the 20th Century, has r...more
More about William Maxwell...
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“What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory--meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion--is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.” 28 likes
“His sadness was of the kind that is patient and without hope.” 18 likes
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