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The Lost Saints of Tennessee

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,065 Ratings  ·  215 Reviews
"Pitch-perfect . . . In her powerful debut, Franklin-Willis expertly crafts a Southern novel that stands with genre classics like The Prince of Tides and Bastard out of Carolina. . . . A measured, slow-burning book, with complex, compelling characters and secrets. A beautiful novel from a talented new author, The Lost Saints of Tennessee proves that in great literature, as ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Grove Press (first published February 7th 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust
Jan 14, 2015 JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust rated it it was amazing
I was debating between 4 or 5 stars until I spoke with Carla. ( poor woman deserves a metal)

In my humble opinion, when an author leaves me wishing their novel was longer, they deserve my higher rating.

Full review to come .
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
When the word gets out, this book is going to find an enthusiastic following among fans of Southern domestic fiction. It follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the Cooper family from the 1940s through 1985. The 1985 sections are told in the present tense.

The story opens in 1985 with Zeke Cooper, age 42, leaving his Tennessee hometown with the intention of committing suicide. He blames himself for the death of his twin brother Carter 10 years ago, and for the subsequent divorce from his wife Ja
Amber at Fall Into Books
I won this book through's First Reads giveaways, and chose to give this book an honest review.

I entered to win this book because I was born and raised in Tennessee and because I thought the premise sounded interesting. I'm aware that it's not my normal Paranormal fare, but sometimes different is good, and overall, different was good in this book. The plot, though predictable, was emotional. I felt sympathy for each of the characters. The idea of switching between the 1940s and 1980
Jo (Bloomin'Chick)
I finished reading this on July 11th and seven days later, I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on this wonderful novel into something cohesive and that which resembles a review! In a nutshell: I love it. I simply loved it. In a word: Transportive. Amy's writing captured my interest right from the get-go and transported me into the world of her novel, where, despite loneliness and grief, there is also hope. I couldn't put it down and when I did, I couldn't wait to get back to it. A perfect Sum ...more
3.5 of 5 stars. This Southern lit is a story of sad and desperate people making sad and desperate decisions. There is lots of family drama, lots of mistakes and regrets, there is hope and heart. Some of the writing is lovely.

The readers are told on the first page that Zeke, now an adult, lost his brother to a drowning incident ten years ago. We aren't told the circumstances, but learn that Carter was Zeke's twin, special in ways that mean learning is hard for him, he has a gentle soul, and he re
Nancy Houston Fields
Publication date: 02/01/2012 ISBN: 9780802120052

Every once in a while I come across a book that has such an endearing quality to it that I have to rave a little about it. Amy Franklin-Willis made this book one, that to me, is unforgettable. I'm only sorry I can't give it more than five stars.

Ezekiel (Zeke) loads a few things into his pick-up truck, lifts his late brother's dog, Tucker, onto the front seat and begins his one-way trip. Grief over his twin brother's death nearly ten years earlier,
Erin Cashman
Feb 27, 2012 Erin Cashman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lost Saints of Tennessee is one of those rare, remarkable books that draws you in on the very first page, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and simultaneously breaks your heart and fills you with hope. At its core it’s a story of a family, told by two characters, Zeke and his mother, Lillian, who are both hungry for more than what life has in store for them in their small town in Tennessee. The reader learns the hopes, dreams, tragedies and failings of the family members through these two differen ...more
I loved this book! It was just an amazing read - sad, funny, and all in all an absolute pleasure to read. I am so happy that I read this book! I read it in literally one sitting - I just couldn't put it down. The characters leaped off the page and I just became more and more invested in them as the story continued to unfold. But, you should probably keep the tissues handy, because this book goes through the whole spectrum of emotions! I really enjoyed reading it! Since Sweet Valley, I have alway ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 27, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an extremely bittersweet but memorable book. I became emotionally involved with this family, felt like I lived in this small town in Tennessee, suffered with them through their sorrows, and cheered for them when things went well. Felt so bad for Zeke, Carter and their mom, the choices they had to make, wished they could forgive each other and was happy when Zeke could finally forgive himself and learn to love again. Wonderfully written, heartfelt southern novel. Zeke and Carter are two ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Family relationships can be complicated and painful and people don't always make the right choices in life. The characters seemed so real to me and reminded me that forgiveness and compassion can take us a long way on this journey in life.
Wow, justfinished this debut novel and am blown away. Will write a longer review tomorrow, but if you see it on the new book shelf, grab it. And I'm not just saying that because I was raised in Tennessee.
Nov 11, 2014 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in one day...haven't done that much since becoming an adult, but Zeke was interesting enough for me to give up my day off. Great story about family and the troubles they encounter.
Marty Seaney
This is a Southern novel from its honeysuckle cake to its 33 year old mentally challenged character, tapping into icons like Boo Radley and Benjy Compson and Paula Deen with one fell swoop. Oh, and there's a stinky hound dog to boot.

A gothic plot arcs its way throughout lives of well-meaning, doomed types that find both predictable solace and sadness in Johnny Cash and Dolly, Lucky Strikes, and teen pregnancies. Despite all of this the novel works for the most part because you care about the cha
PacaLipstick Gramma
May 12, 2013 PacaLipstick Gramma rated it it was amazing
I would rather have rated this a 4.5, but thought 4 stars was too low. With that being said . . .

I thought it was ironic that I should finish it on Mother's Day, as a lot of the book focused on the relationship of Zeke and his mother. Zeke had a lot of issues with his mother, and they were not unfounded. He felt ambivalence towards her, but refused to even speak with her to try to resolve it. His entire adult life was spent shutting her out.

Zeke also had a few other relationship issues, and I en
Jaime Boler
Feb 01, 2012 Jaime Boler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lost Saints of Tennessee is the debut novel of Amy Franklin-Willis, an eighth-generation Southerner born in Birmingham, Alabama. She was "raised on the tall tales" of her father's "Huck Finn-like boyhood" growing up in Pocahontas, Tennessee, and those recollections inspired her multi-generational family saga. Although her story is set in the fictional town of Clayton, it serves as a "love letter" to her father's hometown. The Lost Saints of Tennessee also "pays homage" to her grandmother, w ...more
Mar 12, 2012 Jinky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I really liked this read. The unfolding of Zeke's struggles with life after the death of his twin brother was interesting. Added spice was brought from the background told from his mother Lillian's point of view. The author did a great job at making the see-sawing between the past (1940s) to the current (1980s) work. On occasions this type of see-saw writing confuses me but it wasn't the case for this book. In fact, it added richness to the story. This was so in that the story was sad but throug ...more
Feb 12, 2012 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James R
May 23, 2012 James R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Lost Saints of Tennessee rings true and honest. It was believable and engaging start to finish. Ezekiel, whose life this story is about, is a person crippled by grief and quilt who keeps trying to emerge from under the weight of burdens he grasps but often doesn't understand. A highlight for me was Franklin-Willis' decision to let Ezekiel's mother pick up the narration for a section of the book. It reminded me that we are all characters in other people's narratives and that compassion and f
Mar 11, 2016 Lauretta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a reader, I really connect with setting, and Ms. Franklin-Willis did a beautiful job of describing southwest Tennessee and Virginia and how living in these areas affects its natives. As a Tennessean who went to college in Virginia, these places, though according to the author, imaginary, seemed very real and familiar. The bond between twins was also beautifully described and developed. Anyone who has ever lost a sibling unexpectedly can understand Ezekiel's guilt and pain. Other complicated r ...more
Kristin Walcott Figueroa
I loved this book. Right from the beginning I was drawn in and held captive. I could hear Zeke's voice in my head. And something about him made me want to lean in and hear his whole story from beginning to end. I wanted to know what got him to where he was and where he would go from there. When I turned the last page, I expected another chapter. Instead, I saw the acknowledgements. I was surprised and then sad. I was not ready to leave the Coopers. I wanted to read on about the next chapter of t ...more
Laurel Wicke
I picked this book up off the shelf at Barnes and Noble during Spring Break. It was the Pat Conroy quote on the front cover that got me. I like his work and he described this one as, "A riveting, harscrabble book on the rough, hardscrabble south, which has rarely been written about with such grace and compaasion." Yeah...I get that a little...but upon reflection I give it just 3 stars. I liked it okay; it just didn't really change me or stay with me. The writing wasn't bad, but would I put it up ...more
Jacquelynn Fritz
Feb 07, 2013 Jacquelynn Fritz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ezekiel Cooper has lost his identity. He's a divorced father who doesn't see his daughters as often as he should. His twin brother, Carter, is dead. He is working at a lowly job so didn't live up to his potenial when he went away to college. He can't get over his grief for his brother who he has felt responsible since they had measles together and Carter developed febrile encephalitis. Zeke goes back to Virginia and his mother's cousins who think of him as a son. He meets someone who teaches to ...more
Apr 29, 2012 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a good read, and takes you into the lives of a family who try hard to stay close and stay together. Sometimes family has to be apart before they can see what truly matters in life. They see a lot of tragedy through the years (loss of children and grandchildren before their time) and it takes a lifetime to figure out what forgiveness really means. Many seem to be upset with the Christian themes of this book, of which I did not see as overwhelming. A lot of times during difficult sit ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Jillm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the end of page 2, you know this is going to be a book you'll want to settle down with. This novel is about Ezekiel, a frustrated, divorced father of two, who early on decides he's going to Pigeon Forge, TN to end it all. It's not just his failed marriage but also what happens to his brother, Carter; his mother and sisters that brings him to what he thinks is the end of his rope. Ezekiel reconnects with family in Virginia to see if he can deal with his baggage and the folks back in Tennessee. ...more
Pr Latta
This "coming to middle age" (vs. coming of age) family sage moves back and forth in time between the '60's and the '80's. Told in the first person by two characters, Zeke - in his 40's, divorced, depressed, and guilt-ridden ten years after the death of his twin brother whose needs had dictated Zeke's life - and his mother Lucille whose story fleshes out the family history that further shaped Zeke's decisions, Franklin-Willis creates a strong sense of place, time, despair...and a hint of humor. A ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A well written book that shares a lot of mixed emotions and situations that make up the dynamic of many families. Amy Franklin-Willis gives us a tale of coming of age with the struggles of death, disease, divorce, indiscretions, and the way some people can literally abuse those "less fortunate" than the rest of us, mixed in is just the right balance of love and the lengths people will go to keep our families together. The Lost Saints of Tennessee is a novel so well written and believable that yo ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Candace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went to high school with Amy Franklin-Willis and read this book from the unique perspective of having known the author. I can't believe that this is her 'debut' novel and written so well. As I read along paragraph after paragraph, I became so impressed with the author Amy Franklin-Willis has become that I don't know if I teared up in places because of the saddness of the plot or because of the unique grasp of the English language that Franklin-Willis portrayed.

I loved this character-driven novel about Zeke, a middle-aged man whose life has been crumbling. He's divorced, his twin brother died, and he's adrift in life. There's great background stories on the characters and his family, showing how his life ended up the way it is. The novel spans the 1940s to 1980s. Great writing!
Jul 21, 2014 Sharon rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I really enjoyed this book. I loved that the main character was male. The storyline was great and centered on real situations. What had me choose this book to read were two things, Tennessee and twins. I live in Tennessee and I am twin. Great work!
Jul 27, 2015 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poignant, thoughtful, sweet story of family and the many emotions of love. This book had me laughing and crying, sometimes within the same paragraph, with the characters so real and relatable. Highly recommend this book.
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An eighth-generation Southerner, Amy Franklin-Willis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She received an Emerging Writer Grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation in 2007 to complete The Lost Saints of Tennessee, a novel inspired by stories of her father's childhood in Pocahontas, Tennessee.
More about Amy Franklin-Willis...

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“For a long time, I tried to make my ilfe work, to make our family work. I got tired, though. Five children wears you out until the only thing left inside you, the only thing you've got to give, is a memory of what you thought you'd be.” 3 likes
“Moses Washington always says people love the beginning parts of life; it’s the middle and end parts that end up being more work than we bargain for.” 0 likes
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