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3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  3,368 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
When Delia Byrd packs up her old Datsun and her daughter Cissy and gets on the Santa Monica Freeway heading south and east, she is leaving everything she has known for ten years: the tinsel glitter of the rock 'n' roll world; her dreams of singing and songwriting; and a life lived on credit cards and whiskey with a man who made promises he couldn't keep. Delia Byrd is goin ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1998)
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Best Southern Literature
200th out of 895 books — 2,254 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 10, 2007 Grace rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
I love and admire Dorothy Allison. Both her non-fiction work (Skin, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure) and her fiction (Trash, Bastard out of Carolina) is extremely impressive on an intellectual level, as well as deeply moving on a gut level. So I expected no less from Cavedweller, her second novel. And I'm sure it is only because I went in to reading it with such very high expectations that it was disappointing.

Cavedweller is a very good book. It's just not as good a book as Allison's other b
Jun 23, 2012 Molly rated it really liked it
This book was difficult to digest, but maybe that was for the same reason that it was so entrancing. Cavedweller is a book about women. Several generations of women who are all tied to a central character who, you realize as the book unfolds, had to make difficult choices. But, I related, or at least sympathized. What would you do if you had children with an abusive husband? What would you do when the next husband was a drug and alcohol addict? The story begins in the turmoil after she had made ...more
Jun 26, 2008 Jenny rated it liked it
I had never heard of Dorothy Allision before, but I am so glad that I know of her now. I think she is a really smart author with important things to say. I started out really loving this book and not being able to put it down. Unfourtunately, towards the end I felt like the plot kind of fell apart and things began to get cheesy and predictable, almost like Allison had run out of creative steam. It is a very epic novel, in that it covers a long period of time, and the characters really go on a jo ...more
Sarah Beth
Ten years before, Delia Byrd left behind her abusive husband Clint and her two baby girls Amanda and Dede to follow the aspiring rockstar Randall. Randall and Delia find fame, alcoholism, and have a baby girl together, Cissy. After Randall drinks himself into an early grave, Delia packs up her youngest daughter and leaves California to return to Georgia to try to make amends for abandoning her two oldest daughters.

After Delia gets her girls back, the thread of the novel seems to split into five
Sep 09, 2016 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the rhythm of this one. I liked the characters.

Overall, it's a bit choppy. Any one of the threads--the drive across the country, caring for Clint, Dede and Nolan, Cissy and the cave--could have been a whole novel. She doesn't dwell too long on any one incident or story (kind of like Delia!). There's a lot of death and despair and mistakes and betrayal, and all of it described really well and carefully. It's not rushed, but she doesn't linger.

Sometimes people aren't perfect. They make mis
Sep 02, 2014 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
Somehow didn't enter this one back when I read it, but I love-love-loved it. This piece, I thought, was how I feel about the ocean:

"Caving for her, Cissy understood, was like sex for most people. Though what other people thought about sex was nothing Cissy really understood. But in the dark she became for the first time fully conscious of her own body and curiously unself-conscious. Unseen, she moved freely. In the dark her body moved precisely, steadily, each foot placed exactly, while her hips
Jun 06, 2009 mia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fic-lit
really probably 2 1/2. and i genuinely thought for awhile about giving it 3 stars, but i just couldn't do it.
where i talk about dorothy allison:
i thought Bastard Out of Carolina was amazing. this last book of hers that i read was NOT. and i don't know if i can gague an author opinion on two books. i obviously have to read another one to make a tie breaker. ugh. the book just flat out annoyed me. it was full of tangent after tangent. and it would be one thing if the book was following a FAMILY w
Apr 13, 2009 Kevin rated it liked it
I loved Bastard Out of Carolina when I read it years ago in college, then really devoured Trash (short stories), Skin (critical theory) and at least loved the title of her poetry book, "The Women Who Hate Me." I bought Cavedweller in 1998, then promptly put it down after two pages.

Picked it up again last week. It's fine. Crafted like a page-turner, which it is and I know it was a bestseller, but it just left me disappointed. (Don't get me started on fears that if I read Bastard now I'll feel tha
Doriana Bisegna
Feb 27, 2015 Doriana Bisegna rated it liked it
I was really enjoying this book by about pg 300 and then I just felt that it went on and on and on! I had planned to give it a 4 star rating but the length started to grate on my nerves. All in all a very good story about a dysfunctional family but just a tad too long!
Apr 04, 2009 Lfineberg rated it really liked it
I read this book late into the night because I found the characters fascinating (yet frustrating), and wanted to know what was going to happen next. There were parts at the end that kind of dragged, so it took me longer to read than most books, but overall it was a great story about how people cope with various life events. Although it wasn't the central focus, these lives were examples of how a tragedy and/or tragedies in the lives of young people, when not addressed, can recreate themselves in ...more
Amber Morrell
Dec 09, 2015 Amber Morrell rated it liked it
I was, overall, disappointed by this book. The climax for me was around page 200, and for the following 200 pages I felt like I kept reading because I hate putting a book down in the middle. Unlike Bastard out of Carolina, which I thoroughly recommend, Cavedweller did not have one major theme or message. It seemed rather scattered and trying to make a whole bunch of assumptions about life, death, and love all at once. Furthermore, it read like a first draft; there were numerous occasions where C ...more
Stephanie Holcomb
Apr 18, 2015 Stephanie Holcomb rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kat Masek
Nov 23, 2014 Kat Masek rated it liked it
I liked this novel, and I wanted to liked it more than I did. It is ambitious, and the plot line has a strange shape because Allison tries to do so much, I guess. Perhaps I haven't quite figured it out, and maybe I won't because I don't think it's completely successful. Though the title is "Cavedweller" in the singular, only one of the main characters, one of the protagonist Delia's daughters becomes a spelunker. So surely the author must be referring to Delia, as well. And the characters in the ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Gretel rated it it was amazing
I love Dorothy Allison's stories. I love the strong women she brings to life, the contexts she weaves around them, and her writing's descriptive power. I took a long time to finish this book, mostly because I didn't want to say goodbye to Delia and her girls. I found the spelunking passages especially compelling.
Jan 25, 2016 Tabatha rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
There was a little too much religion in this book for my taste. That would have been entirely fine but it's not what I was looking for. There was also too much random information about stuff that just didn't matter. That being said it was just an ok read.
Sep 23, 2007 Nomy rated it really liked it
the thing i really loved about this book is the way she showed the characters going through profound life changes and basically becoming different people. that's something that happens in real life that you don't usually get to see in novels.
Melody Ulrich
Jan 01, 2013 Melody Ulrich rated it it was ok
After being floored and inspired by Bastard out of Carolina, I was seriously disappointed by the contrived mood of this book. Allison is trying too hard and almost forces these characters on the reader.
Mar 11, 2014 Aylen rated it liked it
Bastard Out of Carolina is a book that stole my heart away, and so I have to admit that I had extremely high expectations for Cavedweller. Probably too high, which is totally unfair. So I'll just say: This book felt like two books, not one. The first half is really in-the-moment in a particular place in time and felt like a solid story by itself. The second half just sort of zipped through about 10 years, which felt sort of disorienting to me and like a separate book. I was a little disappointed ...more
Sep 17, 2014 Heather rated it really liked it
The writing was beautiful and the characters were interesting. I liked the way they weren't perfect, how everything didn't work out perfectly in the end, however it did just kind of end in an anticlimactic way, like life just kept trucking along after the last page. Nothing was really resolved and everyone would continue working out their problems. Like a window into the life of the characters rather than a well constructed story. By the second half of the book the author is skipping ahead years ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Anders rated it it was ok
This starts with a compelling idea, but Allison gets lost in the tangential elements of the narrative.
Nancy Doerrer
Apr 23, 2015 Nancy Doerrer rated it really liked it
Delia Byrd leaves CA after her semi-rock star lover Randall is killed in a motorcycle accident. Randall "Saved" Delia from a life of abuse from her former husband, Clint. But Delia left behind her two daughters in GA to become a singer in Randall's rock band. Driving cross-country with nothing to her name but a young rebellious daughter Crissy by Randall, Delia returns to GA to reclaim her two daughters---now teenagers. But the only way she can claim them is to strike a deal with Clint to care f ...more
Jul 27, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Having a hard time putting it his down!
May 31, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
For some reason, I could never get past the opening of this book, until finally I decided that was dumb, and I was bound to enjoy this as much as the author's other books if I would just give it a chance. Happily, that turned out to be true: I am glad that I finally read this. I am embarrassed to admit that the title is part of what kept me from reading it all those years, and having now read it, I still don't like the title, so I am not as embarrassed as I should be. Also, I have a little naggi ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Jen rated it liked it
I should have read Bastard Out Of Carolina first.

Well, I’m a rebel. One who listens to the worst reviewed albums of artists, watches the camp classics of actor’s shame, and reads books out of the 'intended' sequence of an author's cache. It’s what I do. Still there is always a 50/50 percent chance that the unsung work is better than the touted one, so I gave Cavedweller a go. I've read some of Dorothy Allison’s work before, like her essays and her short story "I'm Working On My Charm, and I fin
Lisa Gallagher
I remember liking this book a whole lot more when I first read it, 15 years ago.

There's some good stuff here in this story of a rode-hard singer who returns to the small Georgia town where she once abandoned 2 young daughters, along with her youngest child, born when she was in California.

The first half of the book deals with Delia, who has just found sobriety and returns to Cayro, Georgia to finally fight for the daughters she had to leave behind.

The second half of the book is more about her yo
Sondra Wolferman
Sep 24, 2012 Sondra Wolferman rated it it was ok
Delia, the recently widowed wife of a B-list rock star who died in a motorcycle crash, decides to leave sunny California with her eleven-year old daughter and head back east to her roots in rural Georgia, where she abandoned two children from a previous marriage before running away to join the rock band of her late husband. She drives across country in a jalopy with the precocious eleven-year-old, Cissy, hoping to reunite her family and settle down in the small town of her childhood. Upon arriva ...more
Feb 29, 2012 Nelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cavedweller was disappointing because I expected so much from it, but it's a pretty OK book nonetheless. Dorothy Allison is a talented writer and although I don't think it's fair to compare Cavedweller to Bastard Out of Carolina because they are two very different works, as a stand-alone novel this wasn't the best of the best, but just barely acceptable.

My biggest complaint is how slow the story was. It was interesting, just veeeeeerrrryyy slooooooowwwww. There were times I thought about quitti
Aug 14, 2007 Mikol is currently reading it
Mom leaves abusive relationship and leaves children behind. Becomes a hollywood rockstar. Returns to Cayro, GA to see kids again.

This one will get a strong recommendation when I'm done with it.

I picked this up along with one of her other books, "Bastard out of Carolina". This one had personal relevance, so I started it first.

My mom "ran away from home". I would see her next 13 years later. I never asked her, "Why did you do that?". Another question, deeper than that would be, "What went through
Sep 07, 2008 Allison rated it liked it
Cavedweller tells the story of a mother and her three daughters living in Cayro, Georgia. The mother, Delia, ran away from Georgia to escape her abusive husband, which also meant leaving her two daughters, Amanda and Dede, behind. In the 10 years that she as away, Delia built a new life for herself in Los Angeles, which including joining a band, becoming a famous singer/songwriter, and having a third daughter, Cissy. However, even though she saved herself from the abuse, Delia was overwhelmed wi ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Kate rated it liked it
Delia Byrd is a woman running from the past yet the death of her ex partner see's her heading back. Her 10 year old daughter Cissy worshipped her recently deceased father and has no desire to be dragged towards the two sisters she has always known about and never met. Uprooting from California to Cayro (in the deep south)Delia drives a half dead car and uncooperative daughter until she reaches her unemotional Gradnfather Byrds house.
The desertion of their mother, being left with their violent f
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Dorothy Allison is an American writer, speaker, and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Themes in Allison's work include class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family.

Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina, was published in 1992 and was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.

Allison founded The Independe
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