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Woe to Live On

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  1,079 Ratings  ·  110 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.
Paperback, 214 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Gallery (first published 1987)
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May 30, 2017 Zoeytron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
It's the mid-1860's in Missouri where the Bushwhackers are riding roughshod over Union sympathizers, fence sitters, and Jayhawkers. These miscreants and thugs are burning and plundering, their rebel yells ringing out, leaving a trail of blood and misery in their wake.

Harsh and unforgiving, this tale still manages to carry a cadence in the text that is mesmerizing. Weather that is apt to turn surly, 'sadness on the flourish'. 'It was way down there past terrible.' See the porcine woman whose 'chi
Nov 04, 2015 LeAnne rated it it was amazing
Just awesome. Civil war fiction with an authenticity of voice, the deep desolation of war, and the loss of comrades in arms that make this one powerful work of art. Woodrell is lyrical, violent in scenes that are historically accurate and inspires us with hope for a teenage boy who has taken more lives than years he has even yet lived.

When the boy attempts to tie a tourniquet to save the life of his best friend, Jack Bull - someone he considers his brother, we read: "The knot on the rope was no
A powerful coming of age story that dances between the bloody chaos of guerilla war and lively, resilient spirit of a young man with true grit. The scene is rural southern Missouri in the American Civil War, which experienced a terrible anarchy as a slave-holding state unable to commit as a state to either side. The pro-Confederacy guerillas known as Bushwackers try to outdo the terrorist campaigns of the Jayhawkers marauding from their bases in Kansas. Every outrage perpetrated by one side moti ...more
James Thane
Apr 04, 2013 James Thane rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Oct 02, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 05, 2008 Jack rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 18, 2016 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is mostly ugly boring war in the woods. Our hero is part of a band of vigilantes (Bushwhackers) who raid homes and kill people. They're outlaws, not soldiers.....but I still learned a bit about the Civil War in Missouri and Kansas. There is no logic to the Rebel loyalties of the group (lots of personal honor involved) but you have to like Jake, Holt and Jack Bull. Daniel Woodrell creates complex characters I always love.

I hope to see Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil while this brilliant book i
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
Jan 27, 2013 Ctgt rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
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
Jul 23, 2012 Jake rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2014 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Anne Sanow
Feb 08, 2008 Anne Sanow rated it it was amazing
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.

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
Aug 21, 2009 Mohammed rated it liked it
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.
Mar 16, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing
Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell
New York: Little, Brown and Company
$14.99 - 225 pages

It took me almost a year to read this book. I kept losing it, leaving it in restaurants and other people’s cars. However, the major reason for the delay was, I didn’t want to finish it. I kept going back to the beginning
and becoming enamored again and again of a young Jake Roedel’s surreal journey through the killing fields of “Bloody Kansas” and Missouri during the final years of the Civil War.

I have always
May 04, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 02, 2014 RK-ique rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Feb 22, 2016 Justcynthia rated it it was amazing
War is a grim business, grimmer still when you find yourself on the wrong side of history -- a little late in the game.

That is where the protagonist finds himself in this novel set in the Civil War. In the beginning, he seemed sure of his cause, willing to go the extra mile on the outskirts of the war being fought guerrilla style in the Kansas territory.

While looking at fabric at the Millstone in Mechanicsville, VA, a store that specializes in "reproduction prints", I asked the clerk about one
Feb 03, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it
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
Judy Vasseur
Jun 11, 2010 Judy Vasseur rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Justin Richardson
Feb 02, 2015 Justin Richardson rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 15, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it
So if Daniel Woodrell is selling it, I am buying it. I have read very few war novels in my life. The ones that I completed were for school or book club. "Woe to Live On" is a Civil War novel that I read without provocation and devoured vigorously. Masterful dialogue, charismatic first person narration, lucid settings and clever metaphors. Beautiful from start to finish.
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.
Kevin Beck
Jun 29, 2016 Kevin Beck rated it liked it
A disturbing but excellent story. The violence and destruction in the story are hard to imagine.
May 27, 2017 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've rarely seen a film based on a novel that stayed so true to the original. "Ride with the devil" is one of my favorite movies and when I finally noticed that it was based on this novel, I decided to give it a try. It is a testament to a great director like Ang Lee that he would make his film practically word for word from a book. Not much more to the story relayed in the film is to be gleaned from this short novel, but it's worth the read anyway as it is a wonderful story. It relays a differe ...more
Rex McCulloch
Mar 06, 2017 Rex McCulloch rated it liked it
I've missed out on the whole Winter's Bone thing so far, not having seen the movie much less read the book. But that'll be remedied soon, as I've heard so much about Woodrell. Meanwhile, I'm starting with his earliest novel (available to me), because I'm perverse that way.

And I'm sure it would be much more impressive to me if I'd come to it earlier, before reading James Carlos Blake's Wildwood Boys or any of Cormac McCarthy. As it is, this is a ripping yarn set in a fascinating and still somewha
Oct 18, 2012 Pam rated it liked it
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
Sep 17, 2012 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: woodrell
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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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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