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But Not for Long

2.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  181 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Hard-shelled, career-minded Greta is the newest and least likely member of a sustainable foods cooperative house in Madison, Wisconsin. Shortly after she joins Karin and Hal in their stately residence near campus, the husband Greta left appears on their porch, drunk, and the reason for her sudden appearance becomes clear. Yet the house members already have plenty to occupy ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books
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May 31, 2010 Lorileinart rated it it was amazing
I am always awestruck when somebody is able to write a book about absolutely NOTHING and it's still a very good rarely happens anymore.
This is one of those books though.
With very few words Wildgen shares a story about the lives of four people over the span of a few days. The entire book takes place during an extended black out, which even intensifies the languid tone of the book.
Sounds boring. And actually, it is boring.
Yet, I came to know the characters and wanted to know what became
Jul 16, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it
A curious book about liberal do-gooders on the edge of the apocalypse. As a liberal do-gooder who is worried about being on the edge of the apocalypse, this is right up my alley. The best part of this book is the way it represents disaster in our lives: something we notice around the edges of our everyday existence, worry about when we get a spare minute, but ultimately am less concerned with then our own personal issues. Wildgen poses a question here that we need to consider: can all of our goo ...more
Apr 28, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this quirky book about a group of people that live in a coop on Madison's near east side. It could go along and be a perfectly good book about interesting people, but an added plot twist is a power outage that lasts for three days. In that time period you get to know the people that live in the coop and follow them to work. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the characters and how they dealt with perversity and people around them. Michelle Wildgen is the presenting author at ...more
Apr 15, 2010 Laura rated it did not like it
The story takes place in Madison again, there's been gasoline shortages, power failures...sounds like it could be a pretty modern day story. The power goes out again and instead of it coming back on in a few hours, it's out for 3 days+ in the story.

After reading You're Not You, I was expecting a lot more. I didn't really care about any of the characters and their problems. There's too many unanswered questions when the book ends and it seems unfinished. I didn't like it.
Anne Marie
Dec 07, 2009 Anne Marie rated it did not like it
This book was pleasant until the last page. The ending BLOWS. It was one of those abrupt endings that makes you feel as if a few pages were torn out of the back of the book. I think the author was trying to carry some symbolism through the book and have it culminate with a realization at the end. It did not work. At. All.
Aug 08, 2015 Connie rated it it was amazing
The way a city works stops working. The way relationships work within this malfunctioning city is why I rated this book amazing. Place and people mirror each other. They patch up as similarly as they fall apart. Something strong holds it together, basic necessities and unspoken essentials of human spirit.
Nov 13, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-09
I was a little distracted by the fact that this book is set in Madison since I live in Madison, but that's not Michelle Wildgen's fault -- she lives in Madison, too. Distraction aside, I thought the characters were well drawn and the writing is VERY good. I'm looking forward to reading her other novel.
Jul 01, 2010 Darielle rated it it was ok
This book was ok. It took me a long time to get into it and then after I did, the book ended and I felt like I was exactly where I was when I started. It appears that they are making a movie out of this book and I'm very confused how that will work. Not something that I'd recommend.
Dec 20, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it

Life Goes On As Society Falls Apart

I review Michelle Wildgen's "But Not For Long" today, Sunday, December 20th, in The News & Observer.

Aug 13, 2009 Jen rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this one and I'm not sure why. As a Madison native, I really wanted to like it. I think I had a hard time getting to know the characters.
Oct 19, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing
I loved her first book You're Not You, and so far this one is just as wonderful.
Mar 16, 2016 Claire rated it it was ok
It took me ever so long to finish this book. It's set in Madison, WI, which is annoying to me for it's unexplained Madtown nicknames. I am annoyed that I don't have to have them explained to me because I am familiar with Madison--it's provincialism, and it's self-importance. But it's otherwise a book that I would want to read because an energy crisis occurs and several human crises occur, but they feel slow and plodding, adult. Not a permanent library candidate, but worth reading, otherwise I wo ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Marcia rated it liked it

Michelle Wildgen is a Madison author. The book has all the familiar streets, lakes and places. This brought more interest to the book for me. The story also brings in the long standing Eastside vs. Westside living debate that has long been a subject of conversation in Madison. The storyline follows three people living in a co-op during a prolonged power outage. Karin is the youngest in the house. She write for a dairy journal. Greta recently moved in the co-op after leaving her alcoholic husband
Mar 26, 2011 Marvin rated it it was ok
Shelves: midwest
This is one of those books that's probably better than my rating indicates. I admired it but it didn't really work for me. It's set in Madison, Wisconsin, over a period of just two days, with what seems to be a very promising premise. There are lots of apocalyptic novels that start after some vague event has resulted in primitive conditions for the novel's characters. This is a more likely premise. After a vaguely ominous opening scene that hovers in the background of the novel, the power goes o ...more
Jan 02, 2010 Pumpkinbear rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2010 Kat rated it liked it
The main characters of the book are the members of a housing co-op focused on sustainable food. This is the sort of person I frequently meet in life (I live in Berkeley), but rarely in literature, so I liked that. Characterization is Wildgen's strong point: Hal, Greta and Karin are complex and convincing, and there are some keen insights into relationships. There's also some gorgeous prose, together with a few clunky patches. Plot is less skillfully handled; there are some very slow sections, es ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Skyler rated it really liked it
On page 44, the book rocketed to a five star rating Slipped just a little at the end. 4.8. I just wanted a little more somehow.

I stopped part way through to read about co op life in Madison, Wisconsin. It still exists much as is described herein and that greatly pleased me.

It is rare to read such a perfect description of life with an alcoholic (that's just part of the story).

Not as culinary as her other two novels.
Jan 13, 2010 Jill rated it liked it
The writing is very strong.

The book is very, very dark.

And, there were some plain old weird parts:
"Greta felt the work of her throat in great detail: it's glottal effort, the pulse of muscle, the wet contractions, like a python's, trying to ease the burden along. She felt the ragged edges of the crust against her flesh" (219).

And, that is just two sentences of 9 paragraphs of choking on a piece of bread and gentle receiving the Heimlich maneuver. Perhaps it was a bit too much information for
Anji Beane
Oct 23, 2010 Anji Beane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book as a goodreads first reads. I was excited to read it and I thought I'd really like it. I didn't. I felt like I was waiting for something to happen, and then the book was done and I didn't know what it was about at all. I was disappointed in the lack of a story. Things that seemed like they were part of a story that was supposed to happen never ended up amounting to anything, which was frustrating and confusing, as I felt like it could have been a decent book if any of the loose ...more
Nov 10, 2014 Carly rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Unfortunately mediocre. I had high hopes. I'm always endeared to any of Wildgen's writing because she sets her novels in my city. I recognize the street names, the neighborhood descriptions, and love how the farmer's market is basically a character in each of her novels (accurate, for Madisonians). But this book rang hollow for me. It had its moments, but the characterization was flat. I appreciated the concept - no "real" conflict and resolution, vague sense of apocalyptic foreboding churning t ...more
Dec 31, 2010 Andi rated it liked it
The first thing that stood out to me about this book was the importance of its Madison setting. The name-dropping of streets, bars, and nearby towns might annoy, unless you live (or have lived) in Madison (in which case, you might enjoy it even more!). Set in the near future, it explores the possible implications of an energy crisis. But really it's about the people, most of whom are roommates at a sustainable-foods co-op. Although the plot only covers a few days, you'll learn histories and memo ...more
Mar 18, 2011 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
I received a copy of But Not for Long through’s FirstReads giveaway program. The last book I won through the program was A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes and I wasn't so impressed, so I was hoping for a breath of fresh air with this one.

One-sentence review: After finishing this book five months ago, I realize that I still don't know what the point was and why I was supposed to care about the characters portrayed.
Jacquelynn Fritz
Dec 21, 2010 Jacquelynn Fritz rated it it was ok
This book got good reviews and was the reason I got it from the library, but I don't understand the hype. Its the story of three housemates who live in Madison co-op during a black out. Hal helps run a food pantry. Karin works for a dairy magazine. Gerta, who has left her drunk husband, works as a college fund raiser. The story takes place over a couple of days during the black. The three are in crisis, but there isn't enough there to care about the characters. The book ends without a conclusion ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: wisconsin
Some extremely beautiful passages, and I very much agree with the reviewer who commented on the writer's ability to illuminate the awkward moments and relationships that abound in the world. Overall, for me, there was too much too much. I was able to notice too easily when there was a flow; which meant that for me there often wasn't a flow. Part of it is because it is set in Madison, where I live, so I get too caught up on that and am not able to dive in the way I do, usually, with a setting tha ...more
Cathy Lenahan
But Not for Long is an incredibly interesting story, one that couldn't be more timely. This is a character driven novel--all of them round, layered and believable--but there is also a dark, almost apocalyptic veil over the narrative. This is a world that feels just one click away from our own. To her writerly credit, Wildgen shows great restraint and exactitude in this book, which suits her story. A taut, wonderfully written, satisfying read that will keep you thinking about it long after you pu ...more
Aug 09, 2010 Jessica rated it did not like it
This book sounded so good that even while slogging through the first few chapters I kept hoping it would get better as I went along - but it never did. The book follows three house-mates, Hal, Karin and Greta, over 3 days of an unexplained power outage in Madison, Wisconsin. The writing is stiff and odd and the characters are not relatable or lovable at all. Overall, it was a waste of time and I wish I had quit reading it earlier rather than making myself finish it.
Oct 18, 2012 Avocados rated it did not like it
I could not get through this book. It was so close to home, based in a Madison neighborhood in which I lived for many years. Yet the differences between the book and the real world bothered me. Like the cover art. Since when does Madison have mountains? Or when has Madison had a power outage for days and days? Or why perpetuate the eastside/westside rivalry? Or why should I care about these sad people? I wanted to like this book but just couldn't.
Mar 29, 2015 Wm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, apocalypse
I a reading this a second time. But Not for Long is a strange novel about permanently left wing college graduates living in co-operatives of various sorts dealing with a collapse of the economy and the power grid in Wisconsin. My first pass through this struck me as having good characters but a plodding plot. My second run through it finds it much more interesting, which probably says I wasn't paying enough attention the first time.
Nov 14, 2011 Jane rated it liked it
Odd premise, so fun. I liked it while I was reading it, but really hated the ending.

The writing was awesome though, as illustrated in this quote:

"Hal had lived with Karin for nearly a year, had watched her head out for her run each morning of the week, and somehow had never equated that discipline with practical physical strength. He wanted to get her a brandy and a towel, a giant breakfast, and watch her move furniture."
Apr 23, 2010 Carol added it
Michelle Wildgen will be this year's Book Club Cafe author on May 26. Let me know if you need tickets!

This futuristic and rather unsettling novel is set in Madison, and even mentions Monroe Street several times. The novel's small range of motion is intentional but also somewhat disturbing. Well worth reading for Wildgen's masterful skill at catching the small nuances of character, dialogue and setting.
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Michelle Wildgen is a writer, editor, and teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to being an executive editor at the literary journal Tin House, Michelle is the author of the novels Bread and Butter: A Novel (forthcoming from Doubleday), But Not For Long and You’re Not You (both available in paperback from Picador), and the editor of an anthology, Food & Booze: A Tin House Literary Feast ( ...more
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