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Woe to Live On

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  752 ratings  ·  78 reviews
From Publishers Weekly
Narrator Jake Roedel is in his mid-teens when he joins the First Kansas Irregulars in 1861. During the next few years he sees, and commits, more than his share of Civil War atrocities. Most of the action takes place in Kansas and Missouri between the rebel Irregulars (bushwhackers) and the Union Jayhawkers, with some civilians caught in the crossfire.
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Paperback, 214 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Gallery (first published 1987)
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Gone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraCold Mountain by Charles FrazierTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
American Civil War Books
35th out of 209 books — 148 voters
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyLonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles Portis
Literary Westerns
49th out of 107 books — 176 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,675)
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James Thane
This is another very good novel from Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone, set on the contentious border between Kansas and Missouri during the American Civil War. While Union and Confederate armies fight traditional battles farther east, in this no-man's land, "Bushwhackers" and "Jayhawkers" fight a dirty guerilla war where there are no rules and in which little quarter is asked and none given.

The main protagonist is the narrator, German-American Jake Roedel, who's riding with a loose coali
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Steve
Huck Finn in Hell. The influence of both Twain and Cormac McCarthy are fairly clear to see in Daniel Woodrell's Ride with Devil (or Woe to Live on). The sheer carnage reminds one of McCarthy's Outer Dark and Blood Meridian. But there's more. Ride With the Devil is also a coming of age novel telling the story of Jake Roedel, a young Bushwhacker (and immigrant's son), who has not known a woman, but who has killed 15 men.

In Woodrell's hands, Jake is a complex mix of child and killer. He has been
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Jack
Dec 05, 2008 Jack rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those with a heartbeat: males perhaps in particular
Recommended to Jack by: Seeing the film version "Ride with the Devil"
Shelves: reallygoodstuff
I have wanted to read this book from the moment I saw Ang Lee’s film version, Ride with the Devil. And last winter I read Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, the first Woodrell book that I have read, and it had me hot, once again to read Woe. I finally checked it out of the library as it is now ‘out of print, and I read it over Thanksgiving. Loved it.

Ang Lee and his screenwriter very carefully followed Woe, and much of the movie’s dialoge comes directly from its pages.

My review:

Thousands of authors have
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Adam
My first taste of Woodrell He seems to mainly write in his own invented genre of “country noir” This book also deals with crime and violence but is a coming of age story and a war story dealing with the conflicts on the border of the Civil War. Thankfully this coming of age story (something I really don’t seek out) is more in the lines of Mark Twain and especially Cormac McCarthy of Blood Meridian and Outer Dark. The superbly realized voice of Jake Roedell the narrator tells the tale. He excuses ...more
Ctgt
What a brutal yet beautiful book. The story of a young recruit among the rebels, bushwackers, who specialize in guerrilla warfare battling the bands of Jayhawkers from Kansas. Jake joined Black John Ambrose's band of the First Missouri irregulars with his "near" brother Jack Chiles.
The obvious comparison is to The Outlaw Josie Wales, but this book seems much more brutal or primal, if you will. There are no punches pulled in this story and death is a constant companion. Jake sits on the periphery
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Matt Brady
Jake Roedel is already a seasoned veteran at 17, a blooded and bloodied soldier in the ugly guerilla war being waged along the Kansas/Missouri border during the American Civil War. German born Jake has to work extra hard to keep his place amongst his Confederate companions. He’s a ruthless young man in a ruthless time, when Confederate Bushwhackers and Union Jayhawkers turned eastern Kansas and western Missouri into a bloody battleground hundreds of miles wide.

There is no romanticism about the w
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Anne Sanow
Ang Lee made "Ride With the Devil" from this amazing book--and here's a happy case where both book and movie knock it out of the park. This is full-on wartime immersion, and what you can't get out of your mind is that these rough-riding, murdering rebels are practically children. Spot-on and fully believable narrator in period voice that's still easy enough to read, and precise, deft descriptive prose. One of the best Civil War novels out there.


William
What an interesting novel. What is so impressive is the author's ability to maintain the voice of the narrator from the title to the last sentence. The book delicately balances humor, horror, and hope. There is a sense that this book could have been written by a Vietnam veteran but set in the Civil War, or maybe all wars are somewhat the same in the end. I once read or heard that you never have to explain war to a veteran and you can never explain war to someone not involved. I don't know Woodre ...more
John
This has to be one of the most well written books I have ever read. Woodrell tells the story of a group of Civil War raiders who terrorize Union sympathizers while trying to avoid the army. It is very much hit and run tactics. The story also includes Capt. William Quantrill's infamous raid on Lawrence Kansas. Having said that, the majority of the book concerns the camp life of the raiders and their interactions with Rebel sympathizers who help hide them out.

Woodrell captures his characters PERFE
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Jake
Ho. Lee. Shit. I am a big asshole for never reading Daniel Woodrell before. This is hands-down the best novel I've absorbed in years. Imagine Wells Tower rewriting Cormac McCarthy and you kinda know what Woe to Live On is like. C-Mac without the intentional obtuseness, with the added bonus of at least one amazing turn-of-phrase per paragraph? Oh, my stars and garters.

And what's this? It was turned into a movie-film? EXCITING! Directed by Ang Lee? Interesting. Starring Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulr
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Nick
Woe to Live By
Daniel Woodrell has had quite a run of it of late, especially for someone preoccupied with the Ozarks. “Woe to Live By” was filmed as a novel by Ang Lee, although it was not one of his hits, and the movie of Woodrell’s novel “Winter’s Bone” was the first to make a squirrel hunter of Jennifer Lawrence. Woodrell’s prose is fluid and unfussy, told in first person by what seems like a plausible replica, with a few lapses, of an inarticulate, young, rural nineteenth century voice. The n
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Mohammed
A bleak,brutal story about the American Civil War from the POV of a Southern Militia. An issue,war time period i have no real interst in but Woodrell made you really care with his realer than real characters. His authentic dialouge was very good too.

A new author to me who showed alot of potential with this book.
Justin Richardson
This book is the first of Woodrell's that I have read and it won't be the last. I was hooked into the story from the first violent, bloody pages. The book progresses in a way that makes you feel as if you a watching a gritty black and white film. The characters are interesting and offer insights to the real struggles of being forced to grow up too fast in an era of violence and grisly symbolism. One other reviewer dubbed this "country noir" and I think the description is spot on. This novel skyr ...more
Nicola Mansfield
I hadn't planned on reading any Civil War books this year but I am reading all of Woodrell's works and have had this on order with my library for close to a year now. So it was a welcome surprise when it showed up with my library holds! While this is an historical fiction Civil War book it is like none I've ever read before, nor expect to ever read again. Not so much a story of the war itself as it is of a small group of southern men fighting independently as raiders, most are from southern stat ...more
Kevin
On the backdrop of the Kansas/Missouri border war, Woodrell gives us the story of Jake, a Dutch immigrant so stolid in his devotion to the American south that he, and his band of proud Southern outliers are willing to murder the menfolk of every cessation town they run across.
Jake's tale is buttressed by his own hero-worship of his "brother", Jack Bull, a freer spirit, a brother in arms, one that gives him anchor until Jake finds a confusing brotherhood with a freed black slave named Holt.
I fo
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Judy Vasseur
For many months I avoided this quasi-historical novel after I was sickened by its opening scene.

Against the armature of The War Between the States a moral epic unfolds among the Bushwacker Secessionists who are young men (teenage boys actually) enacting grotesque deeds against the Jayhawk Federalists. These are guerrilla fighters, not inclined to join up and follow the rules of the regular armies. Strangely, an enigmatic figure is a black man fighting along side the "secesh".

How much violence
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Melody
Never knew that the border states played a part in the Civil War. You evidently had to choose sides. And no matter what you did you had the big chance that someone would show up at your house demanding food and your horses and then shoot you in the head. So these regular boys formed these rag-tag haphazardly formed platoons with self-appointed leaders and their own code of honor. They starved and bled and expected death. They chose a fighting side without knowing why sometimes and they slipped f ...more
David
"Woe to Live On" is a gripping dense book that is difficult to put down. I will not give away the opening scene but it has the effect of grabbing the reader by the throat and dragging them into the plot of the book. The setting is the Civil War, or, from what I have read, an extension of the "Bleeding Kansas" dispute that pitted Missouri against Kansas and the "Jayhawkers". There is not much that has to do with the Civil War in this book.

The plot follows the main character, Jake and his best fri
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RK-ique
3 stars. I liked it.

So I read this book in basically one sitting (food and bathroom breaks). The writing flowed like butter on a hot knife. What amazed me was the voice of the narrator. It sounded so real. I found myself thinking with a 19th century Missouri accent. (The same voice occasionally occurs in P. Luther Wilson's blog. [GR author] Check it out.) In many ways the book is true to humanity in war. The stupid horror of America's civil war is quite vivid without being gratuitously violent.
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Spencer Seher
I love Daniel Woodrell's stuff, and this didn't disappoint. An action-packed civil war adventure told from the perspective of a Confederate-sympathizing Missouri Dutchman in his late teens whose life has been scarred by the war. He's one of the guerrilla fighters who raided and terrorized Unionists in Kansas and Missouri alongside Quantrill, Thrailkill, Younger, etc. It is a violent and frightening look at the tragedy of war and the bloodthirsty nature of these killers. The compelling aspect of ...more
Juuso
Woodrell's merciless western is accomplished in style that is full of sand as well as beauty of that haunting kind, rarely seen on these paths we have chosen to pass. On every page, he makes us yearn for more. Yes, this has been a novel for my liking, hopefully for others too. No other man of words like mr. Woodrell has there ever been, nor there will be. That has been proven.
Stephen Richter
If you have nor read any Daniel Woodrell and are a fan of Cormac McCarthy, then you are missing out.
This novel is set in the Kansas-Missouri bloodbath, the protagonist a part of Quintrill's rather strange tale of having a Black raider amongst its members. If you are offended by racial epithets, then best to avoid this tale, because the novel successfully provides dialogue that is representative of the time period. Woodrell has written novels that are set in differ time periods & I recommend
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Jeffrey
Daniel Woodrell has mastered his craft. Every word is pitch perfect. I am not sure that I have read any author that chooses his words with more care and precision. This powerful story of Civil War era Missouri rings so true and real that it is startling. I could not get over the beauty of Woodrell's language. His character development is superb. He creates a deeply vivid sense of time and place. The cadence of the narrator's voice thrilled me. In short -- this is one incredible book.

My only comp
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Jim Ainsworth
Woe to Live On was written in 1987 and republished in 2012, capitalizing on the success of Winter’s Bone. I didn’t know this when I bought the book, but that’s my fault.

I read a review that led me to believe that it was a recent book and that Ron Rash co-authored it with Woodrell. I was curious to see what these two outstanding authors would come up with in a collaborative effort, so I was disappointed to learn that Rash just wrote the 2012 introduction to this 1987 novel.

Nothing wrong with an
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wally
so let's see...i've read tomato red, winter bone...or is it winter's bone?...the bayou trilogy...was there another? i dunno. this then, could be the 4th from woodrell unless i've misplaced one. seems possible.

from 1987? need to verify that...could just as easily be the date of an edition printing and not the original printing/publishing.

has a forward from ron rash...says woodrell is an outlier...and rather than run to a dictionary to look that word up--i honestly do not know, for certain, what i
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Pam
Oct 24, 2012 Pam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mostly men
This is the second of this author's books I've read. The first was "Winter's Bone" which I have reviewed and which I gave 4 stars; couldn't give it 5 due to subject matter just as I couldn't this one 4 stars because of the violence. I recently saw the author on tour and this book came up a lot in the discussion so I decided to try it.
It takes place during the Civil War mostly on the Missouri/Kansas border and the author informs in his prologue that it is not a happy book. It is primarily about a
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Meaghan
I've seen Ride with the Devil, the film adaptation of this book, a number of times and I admire it very much. I've been wanting to read this novel ever since I first saw the movie, but it seemed to be out of print for a long time. Then along came Jennifer Lawrence and the film version of one of Daniel Woodrell's other books, Winter's Bone, and suddenly all his work was reissued. Thanks, Jennifer Lawrence!

Woe to Live On tells the story of Jake Roedel, a Missouri boy of German descent who joins a
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Larry
My emotions want to give this book a higher rating than I did. The fact is the story is not "monumental", but it is more than worth absorbing. Many a reader may not chose to pick up this volume because it deals with Missouri bushwackers during the Civil War. Indeed it has its share of violent encounters to turn off the more squeamish. One might compare it in its own way to The Red Badge of Courage. But, folks, I'm here to tell you that this has some of the best written prose I've ever read. The ...more
Mike
Just finished this today. If you like James Garcia Blake or Ron Hansen, chances are you'll love this book as much as I did. Essentially the story of a young man caught up in the guerilla war between the Bushwhackers of Missouri and the Kansas Jayhawkers in the early years of the US Civil War, this is a beautiful, at times poetic, rendition of a man's transformation through violence, comradeship and finally love. Woodrell perfectly captures the vernacular of the times and the locale, and the rhyt ...more
Chris
This is a fabulous book. I don't know anyone else who would write like this. I don't know why this guy isn't better known.

I got to this book after reading Winter's Bone, after seeing the movie.

This one was also made into a movie - which I haven't seen yet.

This book is much like Enemy Women - telling about the Civil War in Missouri - which is so ugly it isn't covered in many of the history books. His style and voice in this book put you into 1864. I've gotta find his other books.
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65135
Growing up in Missouri, seventy miles downriver from Hannibal, Mark Twain was handed to me early on, first or second grade, and captivated me for years, and forever, I reckon. Robert Louis Stevenson had his seasons with me just before my teens and I love him yet. There are too many others to mention, I suppose, but feel compelled to bring up Hemingway, James Agee, Flannery O'Connor, John McGahern, ...more
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“This new spot for life might be but a short journey as a winged creature covers it, that is often said, but, oh, Lord, as you know, I had not the wings, and it is a hot, hard ride by road.” 5 likes
“I was not much used to women except for mothers. Everything I did, they did different.” 2 likes
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