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The Watermelon King

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  642 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
An endearing, often outrageous blend of fable, tall tale, and page-turner, The Watermelon King brings readers to Ashland, Alabama -- the fictional town immortalized in Daniel Wallace's Big Fish -- whose reputation is based on the long-ago abundance of watermelons. Thomas Rider knows almost nothing about his parents, only that his mother died the day he was born in Ashland. ...more
Paperback, 226 pages
Published November 14th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published February 26th 2003)
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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. SeussThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee BenderTwilight by Stephenie MeyerThe Cupcake Queen by Heather HeplerMake Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Food on the Cover
143rd out of 729 books — 361 voters
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4th out of 32 books — 10 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,128)
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Jul 07, 2015 Merial rated it it was amazing
Daniel Wallace is hands down one of the most brilliant modern writers of fantasy and fiction. Like his other novels, this read truly like storytelling and orature, which was only aided by the interview and word-of-mouth style of the book's first half. I found myself being continuously amazed by Wallace's originality, wit, and fearlessness.
From the very first page I was captured by the book and was unable to put it down. It simply felt so unique from anything else I have read. Wallace never fai
May 15, 2015 Maria rated it liked it
I'm not really sure where to start with this book. I did like it, overall, but it had some elements I didn't really care for.

For one, there was that magical factor like what you always see in "folksy" movies, but I didn't feel like it really worked for this book. Maybe it was the lack of sparkles and harp music playing in the background, but I just couldn't really suspend my disbelief and get into it like I can in a movie. It's hard to swallow magic in a story that occurs in an otherwise realis
Mar 26, 2015 AndPeggy rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

The first part of the book as told as a series of interviews by a young man looking to find out what happened to his mother in a small town. The second and third sections are then told in a more straight-forward manner as Thomas recounts growing up with his grandfather and going to visit the town his mother died in. Each voice is unique and the characters and town are drawn with vividness. The truth of Thomas's father is forecast, and is a bit of a predictable and unsavory downer. But t
Daniel Wallace undoubtedly has a great imagination. His stories are written like sophisticated fairytales; more complex and therefore more meaningful, engaging, and rewarding.

The Watermelon King takes place in the same city Big Fish was, Wallace’s best known work, mostly due to the phenomenal motion picture version. Ashland, Alabama is best known for its Watermelons. At least historically. Once upon a time. Before our protagonist’s mother, Lucy Rider, came into town, with an open mind. Somethin
Jamie Wallace
Jan 18, 2015 Jamie Wallace rated it liked it
This novel, set in the small, southern town of Ashland, creates an atmosphere of fable and tall-tale that’s very similar to the one that imbues Big Fish with a sense of magic.

Though the beginning was something of a slow burner, I enjoyed the second half of the book very much and found myself shirking other duties in order to read the last few chapters. The cast of characters is both charming and unnerving. The ideas that Wallace plays with are ones that run deep – identify, family, tradition, se
Jun 26, 2010 Snotchocheez rated it liked it
Stylistic indulgences and a really strange, rushed ending almost killed this dreamy fable/fairy tale of life in a small town in Alabama for me. But not quite. I am convinced that Mr. Wallace has got the "chops" to tell an amazing story (although at this time I've still yet to read "Big Fish"). "The Watermelon King" packs in a scant 225 pages quite a punch. Wallace transports us to a surreal fictional Ashland, Alabama in the not too distant past, a town with a ritual Watermelon Festival that doub ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Since I love the movie "Big Fish", I decided to read something by this author. "Watermelon King" starts out five big stars. We learn about Lucy Rider 19 years after her death through a series of interviews by her son, now 18 years old. There are several underlying stories of this twisted small town. Relationships are based sometimes on real feelings, sometimes on fantasy. The middle section of the book shows us the son's childhood, growing up with his mother's friend and his grandfather. The gra ...more
Danielle Raub
Sep 26, 2012 Danielle Raub rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 16, 2009 Courtney rated it liked it
Written by the same author who did Big Fish. I didn't like that movie, as I found it a tad too surreal for my tastes, and thus would probably never have picked this similarly surreal book up without my book club's invitation. Furthermore, there were several times throughout the reading when I wondered if the book warranted my continued attention due to it containing a smattering of objectionable language and a theme of examining sexuality in small town culture. But after finishing the story and ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
My CurledUp review: While the city of Ashland, Alabama, exists in the real world (it is seat of Clay County with a 2000 census population of 1,965), Daniel Wallace has been fictionalizing it and its people since his first novel, Big Fish. Providing as much a sense of place and background as William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Ashland is a small-town suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, where folks either get out or die trying. In Wallace’s third and most recent novel, The Watermelon King, readers ...more
May 11, 2013 Rusty rated it liked it
I remember my mother wondering why the teachers in our small town stayed only a year or two. My response was that they didn't feel part of the community. How often, I asked, have you invited them to your home. She never had.

This story is about a small town so immersed in its own history and folklore that people do not seem important. The festival revolves around the area's greatest crop - watermelon. One man, who has never had a woman, is selected as the watermelon king and rides in the parade w
Jun 10, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
If I were to write one of those cheesy quotes for the front of books, my quote for The Watermelon King would be "Storytelling as storytelling should be!"

I picked up this book thanks to a suggestion on Things Mean A Lot, a book blog I've been checking out lately. The blogger there had nothing but good things to say about Daniel Wallace's writing and storytelling ability. And with such a glowing review how could I resist?

One of the actual cheesy quotes on the back of this book compared Wallace to
Aug 27, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
This started out quite good, I thought. I enjoyed the little snippets of story that the main character was getting from other people, all told in their own voices. I was curious where the story would go, waiting to learn who Thomas's father was. I didn't forsee who it turned out to be (though I usually don't try and guess plots in books as I read them), but for some reason I wasn't really surprised. About halfway through, the story started to lag for me. This isn't a long book, but it felt that ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: everything
I really enjoyed Big Fish so I was very interested in checking out another Daniel Wallace book. The Watermelon King did not disappoint. It had more than a few similarities to Big Fish (at least in tone and in a couple of the characters) and it blended mythology, tall tales and a search for reality and identity in a very engaging way.

The way the author structured the book, first as a series of short interviews reconstructing the events that lead to Thomas' birth, then with his own story of how a
Craig Evans
Oct 03, 2015 Craig Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-novels
"One supon a time." Tradition, civic pride, love, betrayal, loss, death, escape, barrenness, searching, lies, return, rites, retribution, life.
This is a difficult novel to describe. So I won't. As it is, a very interesting read with a few surprising moments in the events of a small southern town from a point 18 years prior to the end up to the fateful conclusion of the saga.
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"An endearing, often outrageous blend of fable, tall tale, and page-turner, The Watermelon King brings readers to Ashland, Alabama -- the fictional town immortalized in Daniel Wallace's Big Fish -- whose reputation is based on the long-ago abundance of watermelons. Thomas Rider knows almost nothing about his parents, only that his mother died the day he was born in Ashland. He travels there in search of his past, learning of the town's bizarre history. Gradually with the help of an offb
Gianna Mosser
Aug 21, 2014 Gianna Mosser rated it liked it
This was a much livelier and darker novel than I expected. It is a wholly original plot about a Southern town's tradition of control and sexual policing, exposure and shame. The character of Lucy, as seen through the town's different inhabitants, brings the conflict to a fervor through her simple kindness toward someone even worse off than she is.
Jan 09, 2008 Tung rated it did not like it
The third of Daniel Wallace’s published works, and I only read it out of a sense of completion since I’d read the other two Wallace works. In this book, Wallace’s desire to be creative is overwhelmed by his lack of talent as a writer. The story is about a man returning to his grandfather’s and mother’s backwoods Southern hometown and trying to unravel the mystery of their past. The watermelon festival is a town tradition integral to the story. The plot is ridiculous, the characters unsympathetic ...more
Mar 10, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it
This is true southern storytelling. It's got a small town filled with crazy characters with bizarre (and disturbing)traditions. It has more twists than a kudzu vine and a twinge of the supernatural. It starts a little slow but eventually the story grabs you.
Janet O
Feb 15, 2016 Janet O rated it liked it
I enjoyed how the author layed out The Watermelon King. This book tells one story in three ways. I think there was southern symbolism that I missed but I'm sure my bookclub will enlighten me.
Dec 19, 2007 Christie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: myth lovers who like bizarre fiction
this is one of the strangest and most unique tales ever. set in the south - told from multiple points of view, as is typical for Wallace - and a host of eccentric characters. in short, it is a tale of a boy searching for the answers about his mother - this journey takes him south to an odd town looking to rejuvenate their ancient harvest/fertility ritual and sagging economy. the mother plays a significant role in the tale - everyone who met her was in love with her. A definite must-read. Tim Bur ...more
Erinn Maine
Jun 11, 2013 Erinn Maine rated it liked it
Big Fish is hands down my favorite movie, so I wanted to read something by the author. I thought reading Big Fish was too obvious a choice, so I went with The Watermelon King. Wallace definitely brought me back into his world quickly and I was entranced. I felt the hazy over-exposed light of Tim Burton. But the twists and turns and plot choices similar to a Lifetime movie or episode of SVU, pulled me out just as quickly. But, overall, I appreciate things where redheads are prominently featured a ...more
Jul 25, 2012 C.E. rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. Ultimately though, I never connected to what I'm sure Wallace wanted me to see as a bunch of quirky, colorful characters and what I think is intended as some sort of magical realism/modern day fairy tale. In the end, although there are moments, I found it dull--not in the "I can't stand to read this book" so much as the "I just finished this book and I'm already forgetting it existed" sense. Well written and original,just not particularly memorable.
Aug 13, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is one effed up little tall tale, right here. It's tricky because it's kind of predictable, except the one thing that is totally not predictable. I gasped out loud when that thing happened, and read the next three pages with my mouth hanging open. (I know, because my sister was sitting beside me and she said, "You gasped out loud and now you're reading with your mouth hanging open.")

I really enjoyed this book. But then, I've always had a soft spot for the village idiot.
Aug 09, 2008 Annie rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I thought that this book was going to be really good. I loved "Big Fish" and looked forward to this book with anticipation. I love how Daniel Wallace weaves in and out of the story.

I have to say that I hated this book, after finding out who the father was, and wished I had never read it. I would recommend anyone interested NOT to read it.

This story could have been a beautiful story. Instead it rolled ungracefully downhill into the gutter.
Keith Davis
Nov 26, 2009 Keith Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young man returns to the small Alabama town of his birth and encounters a weird "wicker-man" like fertility ritual revolving around the town's watermelon festival. The revelation of the identity of the young man's father seemed tacked on for shock value, and the magic-realist ending seemed a little much for novel that had been fairly realistic up to that point, but even with those qualms it still a very good novel.
Aug 24, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Apr 01, 2010 Zoidberg rated it liked it
This book started really strong. Having the characters speak to me and tell me little bits of the mystery of the Watermelon King and what happened to the main character's mother made me want to keep reading. The mystery is quite surreal, but The Watermelon King is quite a good story if you enjoy the unexpected, along with rich characters and a good mystery.
Jamie L
Jun 22, 2009 Jamie L rated it it was ok
Wallace also wrote Big Fish. I never read the book, but the movie was certainly quirky. The characters in The Watermelon King are quirky, but the story doesn't get weird until the end. It was a light read. If someone asked me if they should read it, I wouldn't say no, but I probably wouldn't recommend it, either.

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Daniel Wallace is author of five novels, including Big Fish (1998), Ray in Reverse (2000), The Watermelon King (2003), Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (2007), and most recently The Kings and Queens of Roam (2013).

He has written one book for children, Elynora, and in 2008 it was published in Italy, with illustrations by Daniela Tordi. O Great Rosenfeld!, the only book both written and illustra
More about Daniel Wallace...

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“There are those rare people who function like human magnets, who are individually so attractive – or repellent, depending on the situation – that a considerable amount more seems to happen to them, and likewise, their presence in a certain place makes more seem to happen around them. They’re magical people. They have special power.” 11 likes
“Ведь как было раньше: люди брали каждую павшую лошадь, корову или остатки забитого скота, а также дохлых кошек, собак и прочих тварей, вывозили их на поля и закапывали, подобно семенам. Да они и были семенами. Они и есть семена. Даже смерть не прекращает жизнь, если вы знаете способ.” 0 likes
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