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That Old Ace in the Hole
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That Old Ace in the Hole

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  4,001 Ratings  ·  433 Reviews
Folks in the Texas panhandle do not like hog farms. But Bob Dollar is determined to see his new job as hog site scout for Global Pork Rind through to the end. However he is forced to face the idiosyncratic inhabitants of Woolybucket and to question his own notions of loyalty and home.
Published October 1st 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published 2002)
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Nov 29, 2008 Garen rated it really liked it
Based on having read this book and The Shipping News, it is clear to me that Annie Proulx is an author as concerned with place as with plot. Both books are as much, or perhaps even more, about the settings in which they take place, as the characters who inhabit them. Proulx has a fondness for remote areas - rough, bleak and harsh and it perhaps the special bonds of community that form in such places that draws her interest so. That Old Ace in the Hole takes place in the Texas panhandle and for a ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Wolfman rated it really liked it
Before reading That Old Ace in the Hole, one should read the first sentence. “In late March Bob Dollar, a young, curly-headed man of twenty-five with the broad face of a cat, pale innocent eyes fringed with sooty lashes, drove east along Texas State Highway 15 in the panhandle, down from Denver the day before, over the Raton Pass and through the dead volcano country of northeast New Mexico to the Oklahoma pistol barrel, then a wrong turn north and wasted hours before he regained the way,” it rea ...more
Jul 26, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I am not a stranger to Annie Proulx’s fiction; back in 1996 I read The Shipping News, her 1993 novel that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1994 (back when she was E. Annie Proulx). Deep into this book, I had the feeling that in some ways the plot of this book was in many ways the same as that of The Shipping News, , which is not a bad thing at all, except this book is set in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle country instead of in Newfoundland. And this is a book that I very much enjoyed read ...more
Feb 22, 2010 Shane rated it really liked it
I am new to 'goodreads' but thought that I would contribute by adding the books that I have read over the past year. It's a bit difficult to write a review months later. I remember enough about all of these books. They were 'good reads' or 'worthwhile reads' in my humble opinion. I am attempting to discuss what stood out for me.

As a school teacher, I came across a wonderful donation option. A book for a dollar - any book, so I filled up a box for my students. For some odd reason, I held onto 'Th
I resent myself a little for not liking Annie Proulx more than I do. I WANT to like her. I read the descriptions of her books and I want to read them. I buy her books. I start reading.

And that's it.

I just can't get into them.

Her use of language is brilliant, her ideas interest me - and yet, I'm unable to relate emotionally to anything she writes. This is the third of her books that felt like that to me. I found myself enjoying her short stories quite a lot, but her novels just can't hold my int
Anna Savage
Sep 29, 2012 Anna Savage rated it liked it
At first, this book feels so slight and inconsequential, the language aloof and noncommittal about its own plot and setting and characters, that it's physically hard to keep reading. You pick it up, a few hundred well-crafted words about places and people wash over you, not unpleasantly, and then you put it down and forget about it immediately. The characters have bizarre, colorful names (one of my least favorite elements of this novel; the name choices are over the top to the point of distracti ...more
Jun 20, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it
There's plenty that's low-down & dirty here, but the sheer lack of misanthropy surprised me. Is Proulx getting soft? I LIKE it. There's some clunky backstory & stilted exposition, esp at the beginning, but I never much cared because it all engaged me.

I picked up this book just after flying over some unusual buildings in the middle of nowhere & found her descriptions of industrial hog farms matched what I'd seen exactly. A nice young man gets hired to scout for hog farms in the Oklaho
Dec 30, 2011 Sooz rated it really liked it
Annie Proulx is a patient writer. the plot set up may be Bob Dollar's quest to seek out suitable land for a huge hog-raising corporation but once this purpose is established, we are well into the novel before Proulx settles down to fulfill this quest. the two-thirds of the book have little to do with the job Bob has been hired to do. she's not in a rush, but takes her time, asking us to savour this literary visit to the Texan town of Woolybucket.

Annie Proulx is a generous writer. every character
Feb 15, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can just picture Annie Proulx writing this stuff in her place in Wyoming, and sort of smiling to herself, thinking "wait 'til they get a load of this one" Her characters and the towns in the Texas panhandle where this novel is set have the most bizarre/weird/interesting names. The main character, Bob Dollar probably has the most "normal " name of anyone. He is trying to find property to buy for a hog farm. People don't want hog farms near them, or at least they do not want to be downwind of on ...more
Judy Vasseur
Jan 14, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I want to move to Woolybucket and have Brother Mesquite teach me how to ride. Woolybucket doesn't really exist in the Texas panhandle. But in the book, a woman living there 16 years is still considered a new-comer. Residents know each other's business and tragedies...not like here in Brooklyn where I don't know the names of my neighbors after living here 10 years.

I keep wondering what Cy might be serving today at the Old Dog. Something with pineapple? Twice baked potatoes? Onion pie?

Dec 08, 2008 Carol rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Laura Gerrity
Well, I finished it! Mostly out of respect for the person who sent it to me, who usually recommends good books. So some people like this book, maybe it was just poor timing for me... Anyway, it is about the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle country. I think I would have preferred to read non-fiction about the panhandle. The characters were characatures, treated with a kind of distain. Even the main character was 2-dimensional, there was not much empathy for any of the characters. The plot was weak, altho ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
I would be in heaven if every book was at least as good as this one. This story of a young man with no direction who takes the odious job of seeking out properties to buy for an international pig farm corporation is so full of compelling characters that you wish some of them could have been borrowed by less interesting books to perk them up. This book is rich in its sense of place despite the fact that the place is as flat, colorless and seemingly uninteresting as the Texas/Oklahoma panhandles. ...more
Jan Rice
Sep 09, 2013 Jan Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Read before 2005 and sometime after it came out in paperback.

Harder to penetrate than her perfect The Shipping News and requires persistence, but worthwhile, and there are some unforgettable aspects.
Jul 07, 2009 Kandice rated it really liked it
Even when I don't love the story she is telling, Proulx's writing is so familiar and true that I love to read it. It nver fails that I will read a phrase, pause, read it over and over and be amazed that she has stumbled on a such a simply worded truth.

Proulx is a writer I will always read. No matter what the story, her words are compelling.
Jul 30, 2016 Debra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodie-reads
“You know how far Texas stretches here….it ain’t nothing but yonder.”

I loved this rambling book of panhandle history and panhandle characters.

Although the tale is set in Woolybucket in the Texas panhandle, some of this saga meanders into the Oklahoma panhandle. I am sure that Texans (and some Okies) would disagree, but both geographic areas look alike to me.

My mother grew up in the Oklahoma panhandle (well, almost—it was the county due east of the actual handle–Harper County, to be exact), but a
Proulx, Annie. THAT OLD ACE IN THE HOLE. (2002). ***. A young man, Bob Dollar, is just out from college, but still doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life – other than the fact that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and work as a watchmaker. After taking a series of dull jobs, Bob decides that he wants a job with opportunities; one that will give him a chance to grab the brass ring, even if it starts him out at some lowly position. With risk-taking now as an option, he t ...more
Sarah Goodwin
Jun 22, 2014 Sarah Goodwin rated it liked it
Comparisons with The Shipping News are inevitable, as it is the only other Proulx novel that I've read. I also really enjoyed it, especially the use of language and the community that she brought to life, and perhaps this is why I was slighly underwhelmed by this novel.

That Old Ace in the Hole starts off with an engaging premise and character, but for me the first half of the novel lacked landmarks and focus. I had trouble telling the characters apart, and the dips back and forward in time were
Jun 27, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
I didn't know much about this author or this book going in. I certainly wasn't grabbed by the title. But when I saw in the blurb that That Old Ace in the Hole was about hog farms, I thought it was going to do damage to the pork industry...and that did get my attention. The clincher was that Annie Peroulx won the Pulitzer once, and so I bought the Audible edition.

I was wrong in one way. This book is not about hog farms. I doubt its publication back in 2002 did any damage. But Peroulx writes like
Jun 11, 2016 Kora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"That Old Ace in the Hole" centers mostly around the character of Bob Dollar, a young site scout who moves to the Texas panhandle in search of places to build hog farms. Even more than that, it centers around the fictional town of Woolybucket.

Bob is not very passionate about his job. He's much more interested in learning about Woolybucket's history and hearing stories from the townspeople than he is trying to seal deals for the hog farm company. The descriptions of Woolybucket are so vibrant and
Sep 20, 2013 Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
I am sorely tempted to give this five stars as it was such a joy to read but sometimes the details of life in panhandle got me bogged down. The writing is the type you want to wallow in and her characterisation is superb. Yes, there are some ludicrous names but with so many of the characters the names are often the most straightforward thing about them. The central character Bob is an all round decent guy who you root for the entire way through the book and as the book closes are still
Apr 13, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
I avoided reading Ms Proulx because of her books' success in the movie industry... what a snob. And when I started this book I was distracted by the writing style. Shortly thereafter, I became completely engaged in the story - so much so that I nearly missed my train stop. (Usually I can't even read on a moving vehicle.) Characters are unusual. So is the story. But in a way that makes the whole thing more believable. It's good, I like it.
In the end, maybe I liked it more because it was set
Marybeth Parsons
Jan 12, 2015 Marybeth Parsons rated it it was ok interesting look, through a fictional story of the Texas panhandle, at a young man's quest to be successful in a new job, finding properties for the expansion of a hog farming conglomerate. There's lots of local color and personalities, and the dialog reflects TX farm/ranch accents and colloquialisms. 'Fun to read, from that aspect.

On the other hand, the story meanders through multiple characters' lives with no apparent direction or involvement. It took me until about 75% completion to get
Jun 18, 2009 Kristiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I didn't expect to like this, but I quickly fell in love with the characters and the story. The book had the feel of an oral history, everyone having a different take on events, contradicting one another.
I thought the book was going to end of a cheesy yay Old Town America kick, but I don't think it did. It can be interpreted that way, and was, but I think there was a definite feel of idealism and whether that is good or not, do you believe in something and have hope, or do you lose all hope and
Apr 24, 2016 Rob rated it it was amazing
I've read most of her books and I liked this better than The Shipping News, which is a favorite re-read and says a lot. Her writing, research and historical skills are at their peak, and the subject matters are vastly interesting to me. The random threads she weaves into the story (mid-century modern design, 1970's phone phreaking, etc.) are so detailed and factually accurate it's almost painful (in a good way.) Few other authors compare.

Addendum: Proulx's writing is not for everyone and I don't
Lewis Resnick
Apr 20, 2016 Lewis Resnick rated it it was amazing
I have listened to this as an audiobook multiple times. Many modern novels and short stories are mainly about people or slices of life. I like stories. Annie Proulx' That Old Ace... tells a story. While the character are really more caricatures than believable people, I found myself caring a lot for the ones I was supposed to and disliking the villains. Some episodes are uncomfortable or painful like the anecdote in which someone's earring falls into the garbage disposer which throws a piece bac ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Karima rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of the book, masterfully read by Arliss Howard. I don't know if I would heave enjoyed it as much if I had read this in traditional book form. I wouldn't have come close to the depth of the characters as brought to life by Howard in the Texas panhandle drawl. I've never been to Texas, and have a New Yorker's (possibly faulty) opinion of the place. Proulx's open door into life in the panhandle did little to dissuade my opinion BUT, how could you not love a book ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Neb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Proulx's books is like watching a Cohen brothers movie, which is to say utterly unique. As another Goodreads reviewer commented, the setting of the story is as important and vivid as the characters. The characters themselves are strange yet familiar, larger than life yet homey. As in "The Shipping News", we are treated to numerous vignettes from the past which gradually intertwine with present events in a disarming way. It's fine writing. The Cohen-esque quirkiness may be offputting at f ...more
Oct 10, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was my first Annie Proulx experience, and I was definitely impressed. I want to say that she has a great talent of mixing the sacred and the profane in an endearing way, at least in this book. And really, she leaves the assignment of "sacred" or "profane" to you. Do you pick the 300-pound ex-con entrepreneur enamored of trashy horror flicks, the unabashed gossip queen and poisonous arachnid enthusiast, or the cleanly Dutch "mill monkey" oil magnate? Characters are by far this book's strengt ...more
Dec 15, 2007 Janis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd like to give Annie Proulx a better rating -- I enjoyed the way her tale (about a young man whose job as a pork industry land scout takes him to the Texas panhandle and presents him a moral struggle) meandered through the Texas landscape and the lives of offbeat characters. However, Proulx had an axe to grind and, even though I agree with her opinions on hogfarms and agribusiness, her heavy-handedness on this issue distracted me from the story. Also, I felt that several elements of the plot d ...more
Sally Brock
Aug 03, 2016 Sally Brock rated it it was amazing
I found it hugely entertaining. Ms. Proulx, with her amazing grasp of dialect, and her palpable rendering of the Texas panhandle landscape, has once again created a world of terrifically quirky characters and plunked them down into countless wacky but real-life dilemmas. She delivers it all with the most delightfully subtle humor. Oh and she deftly manages to address and challenge some pertinent environmental issues . A++!
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I'll never eat pork again!!! 5 20 Jun 14, 2014 07:43PM  
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Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive c
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