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Joe Turner's Come and Gone (The Century Cycle #2)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  1,596 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
When Herald Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years' impressed labor on Joe Turner's chain gang, he is a free man-in body.
But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. Loomi
Paperback, 94 pages
Published October 30th 1988 by Plume (first published 1988)
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A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Crucible by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
121st out of 198 books — 295 voters
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9th out of 58 books — 46 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nov 21, 2007 Theresa rated it liked it
The play was well written and filled with imagery and allusions to religion, politics, slavery, and cultural identity. I feel that reading and analyzing it enabled me to get some insight into the African-American Man. But that was about it. As a woman (of Caucasian origin at that)I did find it difficult to relate to any of the characters. The women were merely there as objects, lacking any sort of depth or contribution to the story itself.

I suppose that in itself, that isn't so bad as the author
Izetta Autumn
Apr 07, 2008 Izetta Autumn rated it it was amazing
I saw Joe Turner's Come and Gone in March at the Kennedy Center with Russell Hornsby as the lead. Aside from Hornsby being an absolutely phenomenal actor (catch him in Lincoln Heights this fall), Wilson's script is powerful.

For those unfamiliar with Wilson's ten-play cycle, here's some background: Wilson, an extremely prolific playwright, made a commitment to write ten plays over a decade, each play corresponding to a decade in the lives and history of Black America - from Reconstruction to the
Oct 12, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
As I read Wilson's work it is becoming clear that the supernatural moments in some of the plays act as the peak of the plot. When it works really well, it will haunt a reader or a play goer for days on end. Such is the case with this play. He is known for his plays FENCES, which has no supernatural incident, and for THE PIANO LESSON, which did not really work for me in it's climax. JOE TURNER on the other hand left me anxious to see it performed live. It is the second play in the Ten play cycle ...more
Ryan Mishap
Dec 25, 2008 Ryan Mishap rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
An excellent play that I read in literature class back my freshman year of high school. Lucky us being in Ashland, Oregon where the Oregon Shakespeare festival was putting this on, so we got to read it than see it.
At a boarding house, a collection of characters reside, chiefly a man who was once caught by Joe Turner's mercenary gang who caught newly freed slaves and forced them back into labor (he's looking for his daughter) and Bynum, the magical old man who helps people come together. Sure,
This is something different that i ought to try. Rather than reading novels, i decided to read a play. This play is about how the main character, Herald Loomis was captured by Joe Turner 10 years ago so he was seperated with his wife. Loomis finally escaped and was trying to look for his wife. People that try to support him told him to "find his song". I think by this they meant to find out what he really wants to do in his life.
ASide from that, this book, i felt, included many imagery to it. I
Jul 07, 2009 Sandra rated it it was amazing
Set in a black boardinghouse in Pittsburgh in 1911, this play tells the varied story of blacks at the start of the great migration and self-identification. Touching on heavy topics like life, death and resurrection this short but poignant play goes beyond he traditional black/white story following the civil war into something more personal yet universal.

A really wonderful play and I'm sorry I did not see it when it was in NYC.
Aug 31, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
I quite enjoyed this one and can't wait to see it performed at the first possible opportunity. The fluid relationships and sense of uncertainty running throughout the book were intriguing, and the language was powerful. I enjoyed the cycling through as we saw Jeremy, Seth, Bynum, and Loomis all deal with the uncertainty in different ways, and the ending is quite powerful. I also like the way Wilson hints at the struggles of his female character, though I wish they got a little more emphasis. As ...more
Dec 08, 2010 Amanda rated it really liked it
I am enjoying reading plays by August Wilson. This one takes place at a boarding house in 1911. The guests are all looking for some kind of connection. Seth owns the boardinghouse and he doesn't want no riffraff. Bynum kills chickens and does rituals in the yard. He talks down Herald from a daymare, the water with the bones walking on it. Herald tries to find his wife who left him when he got kidnapped by Joe Turner for 7 years. Selig is in this play as well. He is known as the people finder. Th ...more
Feb 20, 2011 Hattie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any
I enjoyed reading this play so much. So far it's my favorite play by August Wilson. JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE happens in Pittsburgh during 1911 in a boarding house owned by Seth and Bertha. Seth and Bertha are very strong, good people. Seth is always worried about the respectability of his boardinghouse. Bertha is more worried about the comfort of the boarders and whether her biscuits will shape up to make a good breakfast.

There are so many lines in this play where you want to just stop and pon
Feb 27, 2011 Linnet rated it really liked it
Shelves: play
Loomis comes with daughter Zonia, looking his wife Martha. He's lost his song, has not been bound to anyone for a very long time. Martha is found, Loomis regains his song, and realizes that he is bound to no one but himself.
May 01, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Set in 1911, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place in a Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth and Bertha Holly, an island of stability in a house-full of restless transients. Seth is gruff and no-nonsense, laying down laws of respectability. Bertha is warm and embracing, both a mitigator and an antidote to her husband. Bynum Walker is a conjure man, he helps folks find the song that binds them to another. Herald and Sonia Loomis are a father and daughter come to look for wife and mother, having ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Joe Turner's Come and Gone tells the story of Herald Loomis, who is looking for his wife after he is released from 7 years of hard labor. He brings his little girl with him to a boarding house in Pittsburgh and employs a "people finder" to seek out his wife. The boardinghouse owners know who this woman is, but she now goes by a different name. Everyone is distrustful of Loomis because of his gruff demeanor, but looks are not always what they seem.

Wilson continues in the mystical vein from "Gem o
Oct 19, 2011 Neil rated it it was amazing
This is the play set in the teens in Wilson's long decade by decade Pittsburgh cycle. Here, the owners and residents of a rooming house are stirred up by the arrival of Loomis, a mysterious man who we come to find is trying to find his wife after years on a chain gang. The play is about the aftermath of slavery and in some ways, each character represents a response to that horrible legacy. Seth, the boarding house owner, is trying unsuccessfully to get a business started and is all about work, o ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Alexa rated it really liked it
I know August Wilson is problematic for some people, but this was the first time I read any of his work, and I liked it a lot. Then again, I'm always drawn to plays and books that feature a lot of different types of people interacting with one another with a dash of magical realism. Even though it does drag in some parts (not to mention the repetitiveness), there are great haunting theatrical moments here (Juba scene, anyone?!)
May 26, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it
I'm working my way through August Wilson's "Pittsburgh Cycle" - trying to read them in order, but the first ("Gem of the Ocean") wasn't in my library and had to be ordered, so I stared w/ "Joe Turner." The only other Wilson play I've read to this point is "Fences," though I did see "The Piano Lesson" on Broadway many years ago. "Joe Turner" feels like a good play, though it doesn't read as strong as "Fences" does - there are some performative moments (particularly towards the end) that feel ambi ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Jamie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who enjoy reading plays
Recommended to Jamie by: Abby Ashford-Grooms
This is the first August Wilson play I've read. I read it this morning. I loved the economy of the dialogue. Loved thinking about the purpose of each character. The mention of the Monogahala made me think of a Walk in the Woods - a book the future 9th graders will read this summer. The mention of the coal industry as it tied to the local economy is a neat connection. Mattie, Bynum. What does the story have to tell us about life. What are the characters looking for?
Oct 07, 2012 Georgia rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-fun
Joe Turner's Come and Gone was a very interesting read. I love the boarding home as the setting, and all of the characters were very interesting and unique. The play really seemed to explore the real trials and triumphs for many people living back then, in those circumstances. Hopefully I'll be able to read another August Wilson play soon!
Ian Connel
Jan 24, 2013 Ian Connel rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Courtney H.
May 20, 2013 Courtney H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: century-cycle
Even with his economical approach, there's a wonderful cadence to Joe Turner. It helps that he makes excellent, if brief, use of his stage directions to direct his characters' motivations; it gives the dialogue a bit less heavy lifting (though it still does an enormous amount) and lets it be lyrical. At times it is more poem than play (The Piano Lesson, his next play, goes even further in this). This also is the first of the cycle in which Wilson injects the inexplicable (magical, mythical) into ...more
Trinity School Summer Reading
Best read aloud with friends. Wilson's ear for dialogue is extraordinary, and the simple wisdom his characters pop out with is a constant surprise and delight ("Everybody got stones in their passway. You got to step over them or walk around them. You picking them up and carrying them with you.") He celebrates a culture he perceives as disappearing.
Jan 06, 2016 Rosemari rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Profound. All of Wilson's plays are part of an extremely significant body of work documenting his perception of the African American experience decade by decade. I didn't always enjoy the way Wilson told the story, but I place his work high on the shelf I reserve for artist's that deserve serious study. His plays will be a reference for the trajectory of the black experience in America as much as Lorraine Hansberry's powerhouse of a drama, "A Raisin in the Sun."
Jerry Daniels
To understand August Wilson's play, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," one might need to have knowledge and an understanding of Black life at the beginning of the 20th century. Without that knowledge and understanding, it might be difficult to pinpoint what the story is about as its characters tell stories of heartbreak from love or express plans for building a stable future. Only after the second act gets underway, is it clear that August Wilson's play is about characters wanting to overcome the dis ...more
Jessica Barkl
Apr 18, 2014 Jessica Barkl rated it really liked it
My schedule has not permitted my reading schedule to move forward, so, somehow I need to read the rest of the 10 plays this weekend...we'll see if I succeed. I re-read JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE this morning and it was better than I remember it.

From Ben Brantley's 2009 New York Times Review:

"Set in 1911 and the second chapter (chronologically) in Mr. Wilson’s 10-play cycle of the African-American journey through the 20th century, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” is about nothing less than the migra
Stephanie Folarin
Feb 17, 2015 Stephanie Folarin rated it it was amazing
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a play by August Wilson that examines the comings and goings of lodgers in Seth Holly's boardinghouse over the course of approximately 2 weeks in Pittsburgh in 1911. The play has two Acts—Act 1 introduces themes of spirituality, identity, and migration. In Act 2, the characters in this play experience loneliness, enslavement, and rampant discrimination and racism in the south and north. My favorite character in this play is Bynum Walker. Walker is a voodoo man who b ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Jamal rated it really liked it
"That aint hard to figure out. What he wanted was your song. He wanted to have that song to be his. He thought by catching you he could learn that song . Every Nigger He catch He's Looking For the One he can learn that song from .Now he's got you bound up to where you cant sing your own song. couldn't sing it them seven years cause you was afraid he would snatch it from under you ."

August!!!!!!!! This One Socked Me In the Chest Excellent characters Bynum walker Being The Greatest !!!
Kathryn Bashaar
Dec 26, 2015 Kathryn Bashaar rated it really liked it
My bucket list item of seeing all of August Wilson's plays is nearly complete. Joe Turner and Ma Rainey are the only two I haven't seen yet, so I thought to at least read Joe Turner when I came across it at the library (but reading it doesn't count for the bucket list; all of these plays are so much better seen performed).
I love Wilson's work, and I loved this play. Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle of plays each takes place in Pittsburgh in a different decade of the 20th century. This one takes place i
Aug 12, 2016 Franc added it
I "discovered" August Wilson when a friend invited me to go see Fences. As one of the few Black playwrights, I've been hooked ever since and would love to see all 10 of the Century Cycle (I've seen Jitney and Piano Lesson, since then, so still have a ways to go).
This is the first 1 that I have read. His stage directions and character descriptions help to understand the character, how to get in that role, into the characters' psyche. And of course, the strength has to be in the dialogue and stag
Richard Knight
Aug 19, 2016 Richard Knight rated it liked it
I don't know, man. I was really enthusiastic about reading the entirety of Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle after one of my old professors raved about it, but after reading this play, I've kind of lost the enthusiasm. Not much at all happened and I'm struggling to find any deeper significance to what I just read. I suppose it plays better on the stage, but, man. What was that? The characters were interesting and real, but the rest just fell flat. Fences is next for me. It better be good.
Sep 08, 2016 Keith rated it liked it
This is a moving play with some wonderful dialogue that helps creates compelling, breathing characters. However, with these strengths come some unusual elements tacked on to it including strange visions, speaking in tongues, a bit of voodoo and sudden songs. These elements felt a bit incongruous and heavy handed compared to the rest of the play’s beautiful realism. The play starts extremely strong, but seems to lose its way a bit. Still a very moving drama about identity, racism and hope.
Michael Borshuk
Sep 27, 2016 Michael Borshuk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
The second chronological installment in August Wilson's century-cycle of plays looks at 1911 Pittsburgh, mining the collective haunting of slavery and communal trauma against the disorientation of early 20th-century migration and industrial growth. A lyrical, blues-inspired text that acknowledges characters' pain through ritual and song in the interest of dramatizing options for salvation.
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August Wilson was an American playwright. His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth
More about August Wilson...

Other Books in the Series

The Century Cycle (10 books)
  • Gem of the Ocean
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • The Piano Lesson
  • Seven Guitars
  • Fences (The Century Cycle #6)
  • Two Trains Running
  • Jitney
  • King Hedley II
  • Radio Golf

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“I ain't never found no place for me to fit. Seem like all I do is start over. It ain't nothing to find no starting place in the world. You just start from where you find yourself.” 19 likes
“Herald Loomis, you shining! You shining like new money!” 0 likes
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