Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wolf Whistle” as Want to Read:
Wolf Whistle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wolf Whistle

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  697 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
ALA Notable Book; 1994 Mississippi Writers Award for Fiction; 1994 Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. In WOLF WHISTLE, Lewis Nordan unleashes the hellhounds of his prodigious imagination on one of the most notorious racial killings of the century, the Emmett Till murder. Soon we're on a magical mystery tour of the Southern psyche of the mid-1950s and the dawni ...more
Published January 10th 1993 by Algonquin Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wolf Whistle, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wolf Whistle

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,364)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 04, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Lawyer
Shelves: southern

***4.5 stars out of 5***

“The Mississippi Delta is not always dark with rain. Some autumn mornings, the sun rises over Moon Lake, or Eagle, or Choctaw, or Blue, or Roebuck, all the wide, deep waters of the state, and when it does, its dawn is as rosy with promise and hope as any other.”

 photo Wolf20Whistle_zpsc0gxb0xu.jpg
Scene of the original Wolf Whistle that inspired this novel.

It is sometimes hard to comprehend such racism, such hate existing in a place capable of so much beauty. I would like to think that the allure of the na
Lewis Nordan shows us a 1955 rural Mississippi Delta town, and how its inhabitants have been impacted by the lynching of Bobo, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago. The real murder of Emmett Till, who allegedly wolf whistled or flirted with a white woman, was the inspiration for this book.

The book weaves a story about the people living in Arrow Catcher, mostly poor whites and even poorer blacks. There is a culture of racism, violence, and alcoholism. A bit of the Southern Gothic comes through wi
Diane Barnes
Feb 26, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Horrible, haunting and hilarious, those three adjectives are not usually used together to describe a book, but Wolf Whistle is certainlly all of those, and more. To say this is a fictionalized version of the death of Emmet Till in Mississippi does not come close to conveying the truth. When the facts of the murder are carried around in the mind and heart of Lewis Nordan for many years and then brought forth again in a novel, the result is mind-blowing. The fourth grade field trips led by Miss Al ...more
May 07, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing about this should work, nothing, but God Almighty, so help me, it does. The white-trash telling of Emmett Till’s murder. The fantastical, twisty what-if of 1950’s Mississippi. It’s a lightning storm in the swamp. It’s electricity and madness and hilarity/horror and the boiled-down heart and soul of love and hate. It’s fiction, but it’s fact, and it’s history, and it’s history and fact and the heart of the matter in the way that takes fiction to get there. Larger than life. Magic even whe ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern, group-reads
I ended up really really liking this book. However, in the first part of the book I kind of lost focus and got a little bored with characters and story. I'm so glad I snapped out of it because it really was worth the read. Funny and heartbreaking with glimpses of hope.
Randall Luce
Mar 11, 2015 Randall Luce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What do you do when you come from a place that's beautiful, friendly, and magical, and evil to its core?

What do you do when you can't winnow the bad from the good? What do you do when the place that made you is the best and worst place you can imagine?

You write that murdered boys are redemptive mermaids, that love roams without a rhyme or reason, and that all your dreams and hopes profit you nothing against the reality of who you are. You write absurdity into tragedy.

You write about how much yo
If I were to choose three words to describe Nordan's work, it would be haunting, hilarious, and tragic. Usually such elements are a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a digressive narrative train wreck , but Nordan seamlessly weaves together elements of humor and tragedy, the grotesque and absurd with verdant beauty. Wolf Whistle is a novel whose images will linger with you long after the reading has ended.

Wolf Whistle is based on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, whose life was taken becau
Mar 29, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wanted to like it but it was hard going.

The caricature and satire is obvious and, given the positive reception this book has garnered, most people must feel it works really well. It didn't for me; it was mostly wearisome. The dashes of magical realism were no more successful.
Wow. This is truly one of the most amazing books I have ever read in my life. The combination of magical realism, history, and (yes, eventually) some humor reminded me of City of Thieves, if it could remind me of anything. And of course the trial scene briefly brings to mind To Kill a Mockingbird, only because it is a racially-based crime in the South. But this book is absolutely one-of-a-kind.

First of all, the writing is just out of this world. The images are gorgeous and magical and very evoca
Dec 17, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book. Raw truth about the disparities between class and race in the American South. On the surface, Nordan brings out the historical racial segregation and injustice towards blacks many readers are aware of. Yet, this book also deals with the injustice towards poor whites, or the "white trash." In a small town in Mississippi, society is so suppressed and oppressed in such a segregated stated altogether, that it is hard to notice how disadvantaged many groups in the USA, including whites, ...more
Rita Reinhardt
Jun 04, 2012 Rita Reinhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, I am reminded of my own unawareness. Guess what? I am not the only person in the literally; sometimes I have to be reminded about the world not revolving around me. Did you know that other people actually live here, with me? Breathing the same air. Making the same assumptions. Living the same life. On Earth. With me. And they have an opinion about the horrid events that take place, and sometimes...on rare occasions...their opinions may or may not influence my empathy levels ...more
Jeri Massi
Whew! What a book! I've never read anything like this before. Loosely based on the lynching of 14 year old Emmet Till in 1955 (for whistling at a white woman), Nordan's novel is as far away from a crime novel as you can get. A grim and bizarre comedy of callous, drunk, and stupid people, the telling of this tale took me to new destinations in odd but often hilarious ways of telling a story. From the fourth grade teacher who takes her students on a field trip to a mortuary to watch an embalming, ...more
Larry Bassett
This book is not for me!

I have just today found a book that I don't want to put down. It is not this one! Many people have enjoyed reading this book even to the extent of giving it five stars. But this book is not for me. I am going to try to stop reading books where I think "maybe it will be better in the next chapter"! There are too many books on my shelf to be spending time with ones that aren't grabbing me in some way! Why should I feel bad that I don't like this book? I just don't get it. A
Aug 22, 2014 Jas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You must read this book, just as you must read Jujitsu for Christ.

I hardly knew Buddy Nordan when we shared a college, but I feel honored to have met him, as I do to know Jack Butler, another Mis-sippi writer, better. It is uncanny how Nordan manages to draw humor out of horror (and vice-versa) and pity for atrocious characters. I'm sure he does the humor for the same reason Butler has told me parts of his novel are humorous: in order to defeat these monstrous things, we have to be able to laug
Jul 12, 2009 Phaedra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ostensibly about Emmitt Till, this book rather explores the effects of race on a segregated southern town. At its heart lies the fictionalized murder of Till, but while that pivotal event is the central theme, it's not really what the book is about at all.

Initially I was distracted by the style of writing: to me, so much modern fiction is self-conscious. "Look at me, I'm a creative writer; see how creative I am?" But somehow, Nordan pulls it off, and indeed, pulled me into his half-fantasy worl
U. Teresa
Jan 13, 2014 U. Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was supposed to read this book in graduate school, but I could not bring myself to read a comic book on the death of Emmett Till. I'm glad my friend convinced me finally to read the book because it not only help me rethink/reimagine the community in which Till was killed, but it also help me understand that white people, even "white-trash" had a visceral, emotional response to Till's murder. The comic elements are just southerners being the southerners Nordan encountered; Coach and Runt's fina ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Jaclyn rated it it was ok
I made it a little past half way, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I love civil rights-era books, but this author seemed so caught up in the writing and being clever that the story became secondary. I found myself getting lost and becoming very confused about who was white and who was black. And when the book is about a southern state in the '60s, this is kind of important. Maybe it was supposed to be hard to follow? Maybe it was author commentary that, as MJ said, it don't matter if you're bl ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A black boy dared to wolf whistle at a white lady. He got murdered for it, and his murderers got acquitted even though everyone knew they did it. This was a turning point for every single person in their town.

The pure beauty in this sad book was heartbreaking. The lyrical writing juxtaposed with depressing subject matter was a blues song in a book. Then after all of that, it was funny. I haven't read a book that engaged me emotionally like this in a very long time.
Oct 09, 2012 Cassie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based off of a true event, but I didn't know that when I started reading it. (Go ahead and think I'm an idiot if you must, because I sure felt idiotic once I realized my mistake.)

The writing style and tone of the book were quite unique. It was both strange and engaging. It told the story of a horrific murder of a black boy in the south and his murders who were set free, but the tone of the book is neither gruesome nor sentimental.
Jun 17, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Isaac; other Southern gothic fans
Recommended to Emily by: Professor Sunny Stalter
"They spoke, finally, from their hearts. Maybe, finally, they did weep together, and maybe held each other tight. Nobody but Bobo knows for sure what happened next, but maybe, behind Alice and Sally Anne, the crystal ball in Swami Don's Elegant Junk shone with the bright blue light of empty interiors and of faraway and friendly stars and all their hopeful planets and golden moons."
Jonathan Hiskes
Nov 12, 2012 Jonathan Hiskes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fictional retelling of the Emmett Till murder from the perspectives of several townsfolk. Nordan's swamp-drenched prose is sensuous, making every page a pleasure to read. His careful rendering of the Mississippi Delta reminded me of Brian Doyle's Oregon Coast in Mink River. Mostly in the scent and texture and music of the place.
Jun 18, 2014 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't all that keen on starting this book, but since the Kindle version was only $1.99, I figured why not.

About halfway through, I really, and I mean REALLY wanted to stop reading. I knew what was going to happen, and I didn't want to read about it. But since I had already gotten this far, I hated to give up on it even more than I hated the idea of continuing. Cringing at what was coming, I forged ahead.

"It" happened--but not in the way or with the words I was expecting. The book changed. It
Jul 01, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there were half points here I would give this book 4 1/2 stars. Lewis Nordan`s writing has been compared to a few different author`s but this is my review so here goes...Take one part Confederacy of Dunces, one part To Kill a Mockingbird & add a touch of Coen brothers & mash them up. You will then have Wolf Whistle which is at the same time hilarious & heartbreaking. It is a fictional account of an actual event that happened in Mississippi in the 50`s. A boy named Emmett Till was ...more
Jackson Burnett
Why write a review when someone else has written what you'd say? Jamie provides a perfect review of this book.
Jeff Laughlin
Jul 22, 2007 Jeff Laughlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic and chilling book about some black guy died or something.

Travis Mulhauser
If I had to pick one novel, it's this one...Taught it every semester for 12 years and loved it every time. More than loved it. Religious fervor is probably more accurate. My absolute favorite ending of all time--I think it's actually in the middle of the book--and every line is music.

The parrot, Roy Dale and his Arrows, Solon Gregg. Runt, Alice, Bobo. Uncle and Auntee. Old Coach, drinking out of his canteen. Sweet and Sugar. Swami Don's Elegant Junk. Blue John. Poor little Glenn. The Rider and
Jamie Marfurt
Set in 1950s Mississippi and loosely inspired by a true story. Very unique writing style, and interesting characters. Author tells the story from many different character viewpoints (rich white woman, white trash woman, young black man, … even buzzards?!) and uses ALL the senses when describing scenes and thoughts. It definitely intrigued me, but in the end, I'm still trying to figure out if I liked it or not. It may have been a little too "all over the place" for me….
Nov 06, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm...mmm. I am still not sure how I feel about this book even though I finished it 4 days ago. First everything the reviews say about it being farcical is true. I add irreverent to the list of descriptors I believe the topic too important to be treated in the manner Lewis Nordan chose. At times I was most uncomfortable feeling as though I was laughing at a group of people, certainly not with them. This is probably the author's point and purpose and in that he did well!
Oct 20, 2014 Holly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wanted to like this, but.... Yuck. Every character felt like a caricature--after all, these are people whose favorite sport is catching arrows. The book was so busy being cutesy and clever that it just seemed to trivialize race-based terrorism, murder, and blatant injustice. Like Faulkner (whom I loathe) except not as pompous.
Jul 13, 2014 Vmacd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. So good on so many levels. It's based on an actual racial murder in the South and is told from the perspectives of the townspeople amd wildlife. (Yes, it's magical). The language is musical and filled with jazz rhythms. Like no other book I've read. I loved this book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 45 46 next »
  • Lightning Bug
  • The Gospel Singer
  • High Lonesome
  • The Half-Mammals of Dixie
  • In My Father's House
  • The Watch
  • I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Edisto
  • Fay
  • Follow Me Down
  • Modern Baptists
  • The Old Forest and Other Stories
  • Love Warps the Mind a Little
  • Jujitsu for Christ
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lewis Nordan (August 23, 1939 – April 13, 2012) was an American writer.
Nordan was born to Lemuel and Sara Bayles in Forest, Mississippi, grew up in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He received his B.A. at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, his M.A. from Mississippi State University, and his Ph.D. from Auburn University in Alabama. In 1983, at age forty-five, Nord
More about Lewis Nordan...

Share This Book

“The Mississippi Delta is not always dark with rain. Some autumn mornings, the sun rises over Moon Lake, or Eagle, or Choctaw, or Blue, or Roebuck, all the wide, deep waters of the state, and when it does, its dawn is as rosy with promise and hope as any other.” 4 likes
“In a little while they were kissing. In a little while longer, they made their slow sweet love.

The iron bed sounded like a pine forest in an ice storm, like a switch track in a Memphis trainyard, like the sweet electrical thunder of habitual love and the tragical history of the constant heart. Auntee finished first, and then Uncle soon after, and their lips were touching lightly as they did.

The rain was still falling and the scritch owl was still asleep and the dragonflies were hidden like jewels somewhere in deep brown wet grasses, nobody knew where.

Uncle rolled away from his wife and held onto her hand, never let it go, old friend, old partner, passionate wife.”
More quotes…