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The Blood of Heaven

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  298 ratings  ·  76 reviews
One of the most powerful and impressive debuts Grove/Atlantic has ever published, The Blood of Heaven is an epic novel about the American frontier in the early days of the nineteenth century. Its twenty-six-year-old author, Kent Wascom, was awarded the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for fiction, and this first novel shows the kind of talent rarely s ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Grove Press
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Community Reviews

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Ugly people, Ugly story

When I first started reading "The Blood of Heaven" I thought of Faulkner. Wascom writes with a Southern cadence. He also borrows some of Faulkner's themes such as greed justified in order to become or stay one of the haves. As in Faulkner religion is used to justify heinous crimes such as slavery, robbery, and murder. There are damaged children and physically as well as emotionally and spiritually deformed adults. The heroes are hookers and criminals. This is an ugly story
Patrice Hoffman
The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom is an historical fiction novel set in the time when America was young. Our narrator Angel Woolsack flees his home after having an altercation with his jouneying Preacher-father. This life-changing moment sets him on a journey at finding himself and place during the same time America is doing the same. We journey with Angel and his band of brothers as they fight to carve out their own piece of the pie in territory occupied by the Spaniards, French, Native Americ ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Jul 31, 2013 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of graphic stories of the early frontier.
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Grove Atlantic and Netgalley
Kent Wascom's aptly named debut novel, The Blood of Heaven comes with a ton on accolades from the publishing world, as well as large numbers of reviews singing it's praises. It has been called "a startling debut" and Kent Wascom an author with "the kind of talent rarely seen in any novelist". The amount of positive press surrounding this novel, the fact that it is historical fiction, and that it is set in the American South before it WAS the American South, all peaked my interest. When I began t ...more
Jaime Boler
If you are looking for a substantial read, I highly recommend two historical epic novels that may, at first glance, seem very dissimilar yet share many characteristics.

In elegant, lucid prose, fiction newcomer Kent Wascom brings the frontier, in all its violence and disorder, to stunning life in The Blood of Heaven. Wascom follows Angel Woolsack, from his early life as the son of an itinerant preacher to the bordellos of Natchez and the barrooms of New Orleans to the bayous of Louisiana where An
Jo Butler
The son of a fire-eating Baptist preaching his way across the post-Revolutionary backwoods, Angel Woolsack has learned his father’s trade well. In fact, his father has literally put fire in the boy’s mouth: Angel’s punishment for wayward word or deed is chewing a live coal from the campfire. The lad frees himself from his father’s grasp with a shovel across the deranged man’s head, tries the perilous life of a highwayman, and then tumbles to western Florida. That blood-soaked land is already a b ...more
Paul Lunger
Kent Wascom's "The Blood of Heaven" is the complex story of Angel Woolsack which is set in what eventually becomes the state Louisiana from roughly the end of the Revolutionary War through just beyond the Louisiana Purchase. Through careful storytelling, Wascom recreates fictional events regarding not only religion, but also life in general in this region with a love story mixed in. The story is at times graphic in it's religious aspects of things & even more dead on with the practical aspec ...more
I will read pretty much any novel in which that homicidal, racist, crazypants megalomaniac, Aaron Burr, makes a cameo. Especially if said novel is set in similarly crazypants 19th century Florida. I hoped this book would be slightly zany, picaresque historical highbrow pulp, but instead it was really more like what the Guy in Your MFA would write if he were really, really into Cormac McCarthy. Kent Wascom is clearly a smart guy, but boy howdy is this novel ever turgid. We're talking thick as Del ...more
I thought the first half was amazing, while the second half was filled with uncompelling minutiae. Wascom took a fascinating part of American history and filled it with interesting fictional and actual characters. If the second half was as vibrant, moody and atmospheric as the first, this would have been an easy 5 stars for me.
Chris Craddock
The Woolsack of Angels

The Blood of Heaven is a novel of historical fiction, blending real historical figures and events with fictional characters in order to dramatize an historical era. It is the debut novel of Kent Wascom from New Orleans, and it is quite an impressive debut. The prologue begins in 1861, at the start of the Civil War, then plunges back to the turn of the century, 1799. The fictional protagonist is Angel Woolsack, the son of an itinerant preacher. The setting is the South--Flor
Schuyler Wallace
I usually don’t pay much attention to reviews before I write mine. In the case of THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN, I was perplexed by my reaction to the book and wondered if I was alone on my island of confusion. There’s no question in my mind about Kent Wascom’s talent. He’s an amazing writer with all the skills to produce a blockbuster. I’m of the opinion that this book isn’t it. So, to get a grip, I read what other people thought. I’m still lost.

My first negative thought is about the characterizations. I
THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN by Kent Wascom is historical fiction for those who like it adventurous, manly and raw. The characters are vividly drawn, the story is full of twists and turns and there is a new adventure on every page. While there is a lot of history included in the story, the author makes a point of saying it is not historically accurate and that he took liberties in his storytelling. Several famous people populate the pages and it is interesting to see how they are portrayed from the persp ...more
William Koon
The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom is at turns enthralling and vastly disappointing. When Wascom stays with his main character's actions and persona, the book zings and propels. But when he pauses for the ponderous plot of the revolution in West Florida at the turn of the Nineteenth Century, the book flails and gasps for its literary life. The novel is about America's extension, love, slavery, Aaron Burr, our violence, sex, brotherhood and a dozen more things. The dude needs to focus.
Certainly h
Taylor Brown
THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN is a raging storm of a novel, crackling with hellfire and the thunder of hooves, written by a man swelled with the (un)holy power of the Word. We're given the bloody testament of a nation that nearly was, and I'm simply staggered by the ferocious talent of its author. Wascom is nothing short of a blessing for the rest of us--we believers in Faulkner and McCarthy and Gay--and I can’t wait for what’s to come.
Gary Sedivy
Starting sound old and crotchety: darn, darny, darn darn - another book I don't want to waste my time finish... Mixed review in that the writing was pretty well done, but I couldn't like the writing enough to overlook the main characters.
Who basically are evil Elmer Gantry-types - not necessarily a redundancy. Two boys, of two itinerant preachers in the early 1800's and not related are hellions. Between 'evangelizing' and robbing and killing and whoring - there's no there there in their spiritu
Theresa DePaepe
While this book was difficult to read because of the depictions of extreme poverty, violence, religious fundamentalism, and often casual descriptions of the treatment of slaves, the slave trade, and life from the point of view of characters on the front lines of frontier life and the politics of the making of our nation, it was well written (much of it in the vernacular) and compelling in often the most disturbing ways.

The author does an outstanding job getting us to feel the full range of emoti
I liked the characters, but the story seemed to drag.
Classics notwithstanding, I rarely give a book five stars. The Blood of Heaven is indeed a five star read.

It was written so eloquently that there were times when I stopped and re-read a sentence or paragraph and simply enjoyed it. The story itself though is not pretty. It is of a damaged man living in a rough and tumble time-early 19th century Louisiana and West Florida, which then extended much farther west than it does now.

If a reader is expecting a Hallmark Hall of Fame “Colonel, fix me anoth
Blogged at River City Reading:
Kent Wascom's debut novel traces the life of Angel Woolsack, who leaves his preacher father and the plains of Missouri to create a new life with his adopted brother, Samuel Kemper, in the early 1800's. The pair navigates their way through the South, loosening their morals and discovering breaking points on their journey toward settlement in West Florida. Through love, death, murder and marriage, Angel and his companions map out the harsh history behind the creation
Victoria Hess
This book is hard to read. The characters are not particularly nice. The story is pretty horrific. The language and its phrasing is reminiscent of a 19th century tented revival meeting. Constantly. For more than 300 pages. The movie analog of this book is No Country For Old Men. And like that movie, it is worthwhile to finish this. Not fun, though.

The story is about a man name Angel. He was abused as a child by his preacher father. When Angel ran away, he may have killed that father. Angel doesn
I am a sucker for debut novels - I love reading them and when I saw the rave reviews this novel received, it hardly seemed like a gamble at all. Unfortunately, this book has no redeeming qualities. The opening tangle of a prologue is more alienating than engaging and the book continues on in this odd, rambling vein. The author, born in 1986, tries to capture Angel Woolsack looking back on his life with the weight of a lifetime of extraordinary experiences at his back, but it feels disingenuous a ...more
Here's the thing with historical fiction: If you aren't familiar with, and really aren't enthrall we with the history, then the fiction can fall flat. In this case, the writing was brilliant. Loved the voice of Angel and the way he stumbled through the warts-and-all retelling. But the history, admittedly stretched and obscured to fit the purposes of the author, just didn't do it for me. But, again with the writing. Read it for this: "So I came from nothing, from damn-near nowhere, and moved piec ...more
America at the dawn of the 19th century...wild, brutal and bloody. This novel follows Angel Woolsack as he follows his preacher father to the untamed plains of what is not yet part of the U.S. where he eventually meets Samuel Kemper. Angel takes the Kemper name and they travel as brothers down the Mississippi to the contested Gulf Coast and the now forgotten area known as West Florida.

Mr. Wascom is a talented writer and I liked some parts of this book a lot. But I wasn't particularly interested
Kent Wascom’s debut novel “The Blood of Heaven” reads like the slow burn of a Bourbon swallow. The novel crawls the banks of the muddy Mississippi during the early 19th century with a young boy, Angel Woolsack. Wascom tells his tale in a Huckleberry-like fashion, with a slow-drawn language that may not sit well with all readers. Those who have acquired the taste of works like Twain will savor the calescent syntax. The language is that of a young man’s sermon, of a naïve revolutionary, and of the ...more
Outstanding novel! Wascom writes to trigger all five senses in evoking an exotic time and place: Western Florida in the early 19th Century. Feel the swamp sucking at your boots. Taste hot charcoal. Smell the river. See the painful light of restored eyesight. Hear the faint scratch of an enemy on your porch.
These characters are our ancestors, and very much like ourselves when we are brutally honest: self-justifying, vengeful, ambitious, scared, racist, violent, reflective, suffering, idealistic,
The narrator of this historical novel is named Angel but by most any reckoning he is anything but angelic. He initially follows his father's path as a itinerant preacher but very soon becomes a highwayman, scam artist, murderer and eventually slave trader. However to his mind he is the hand of God. Set in the early 1800's in the area along the Gulf Coast then known as West Florida, Angel's story gets tangled up in the border wars of the era, even becoming involved in plots with Aaron Burr. Kent ...more
Tanaz Sutaria
Another historical fiction novel about the American south. I can't say that the hero was admirable, but that was part of the fascination of this story.
Frank Richardson
The first thing I noticed about this excellent novel of the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi around 1800, is the author is 26 years old! The story tells a tale of Angel Woolstack and his family and takes you on a violent journey through the swamps of Louisiana and river valley of Mississippi and briefly journey's to what is now the panhandle of Florida and moves on to New Orleans where we meet up with America's favorite duelist, Aaron Burr and learn about his attempt to break away from th ...more
HB -- this book starts as if a preacher was talking to a congregation about his sins. The book is remarkable and every word is worth reading. The author describes life deuing Jeffersons' Presidency during the time of the Louisina purchase in Western FL which including NEw Orleans by 3 young men who survive by living a Daniel boone sort of life (violent and brutal. The words leave the reader raw and not craving one more word. Generally I do not like Southern authors but this author has a gift. I ...more
Going in the unfinished pile at about 70 pages. Wasn't terrible, just wasn't what I wanted now.
Dale Miller-bouton
Not my cup of tea... Too long, too repetitive, too violent
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Kent Wascom's first novel, THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN, was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and NPR. It was shortlisted for the David J. Langum Sr. Prize for Historical Fiction, and longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan Award for First Fiction. Wascom was awarded the 2012 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for Fiction. SECESSIA, his second novel, will be published Jul ...more
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