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Breaking and Entering

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  323 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
A book about violence and redemption, Joy Williams' new fiction tells the story of two drifters who break into Florida vacation homes while their owners are away, live there a while, then move on.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 12th 1988 by Vintage
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mark monday
Aug 27, 2015 mark monday rated it it was ok
Recommended to mark by: Mariel
SYNOPSIS: young married ne'er do wells do their passive best to fight the anomie of existence by breaking into mcmansions and experiencing their usual buried resentments and lack of affect in new environments rather than their own ill-tended home.

Joy Williams is often an artist with the prose. her brilliance shines when she is exercising her descriptive muscles: she knows how to paint a landscape, to construct a house, to take a snapshot of a particular locale. although she is capable of the occ
Mar 29, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: safe men
Recommended to Mariel by: the porridge Goldilocks chose
And you are never lonely with him, are you my dear. And yet it is our duty to be lonely, don't you know? One must strive to be more and more perfectly lonely. The heart grows indifferent, but one must push upward continually, more and more alone, toward the surface, like a blind, wild seed."

My favorite story in Joy Williams's short story collection Taking Care was 'Breakfast'. I didn't want it to end. (I love "Taking Care" so so so so much.) I didn't know that Breaking and Entering was Liberty,
Jun 09, 2012 Szplug rated it really liked it
Williams writes in placidly beguiling sentences that measuredly trace their passing like fingertips across your chest and stomach until, with the suddenness of an onrushing doom, they form of such stunning imagery and stark poignancy that those digits clench into a fist that hammers straight on down into your heart.

Man, Breaking and Entering has soaked itself into my bones. Not the Old Testament sin and stain, concussive secrets, and sour mash sunshine that enkindled and enraptured me so in Stat
Ben Winch
Apr 23, 2016 Ben Winch rated it liked it
I should have known, of course. Who’s her biggest influence? DeLillo. What irks me most here? Epigrammatic, deadpan dialogue, presented as if all pointing at greater truths beyond the described, but to me so many dead-ends – just like DeLillo. Cryptic pop culture riffing apropos of nothing, or nothing that I could discern, anyhow:
“My nephew, Donald Jean Turnupseed, killed Jimmy Dean. You know, Jimmy Dean’s car ran into his car.”

“Well,” Willie said, “1955.”

“It seems like a long time ago, but I do
Sep 26, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
Why is my favorite novel by a living writer out of print? Am I hopelessly out of touch? Two young married drifters break into vacation homes in Florida. Ferocious and perfect. Find it.
Nate D
Jan 15, 2016 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nate D by: Mariel
Filled with arbitrary details that may be no more arbitrary than the ones composing your own life. For some reason, despite nothing much happening at first, I can really get lost in the momentary details of Williams' bleakly sarcastic (yet somehow earnest and compelling) universe. The tone reminds me somewhat of Hob Broun's Inner Tube, but actually with much better structuring and progression as the second half picks up momentum. I liked Williams' more recent The Quick and the Dead a lot (not th ...more
May 13, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Welcome to the lunatic asylum. Epigraphs from Kafka and Breton indicates what kind of reality is being essayed in this book and it has nothing to do with K-mart. Two drifters float into the ghostly lives of various characters who speak like hypnotized psychoanalysis patients or piss covered prophets on their fortieth day of locust eating. Really terrifying and unsettling but somehow incredibly funny at the same time. Are there characters more bizarre and memorable then Poe (the 75 year old ...more
Feb 09, 2007 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: terrence malick
Shelves: recently
this book is really awesome. it's like badlands told through the eyes of sissy spacek if she was more jaded and more like virginia woolf in florida in the 80s.
Jan 06, 2009 Matthew rated it really liked it
Pure Joy Williams. The book starts out with an amazing premise--Liberty and Willie, wife and husband, are living life in other people's homes. Not burglarizing them, simply living in them for a time while their owners are away. The descriptions are mindblowing. Williams is a master of defamiliarization and her matter-of-fact style smolders, searing images into your brain. And the characters! A parade of lonely, fearful, ecstatic freaks. A security guard. An alcoholic. A boy whose mother enrolls ...more
Peter Landau
Sep 21, 2015 Peter Landau rated it it was amazing
The thing about people is they’re rarely as boring as they seem. Joy Williams knows this. In BREAKING AND ENTERING we spend time with a collection of Florida’s finest, which means weirdest, even if the setting is mostly in the gated oceanside empty estates of the vacationing rich. The story follows a young couple who fulfill the promise of the novel’s title, living in a succession of homes they occupy unbeknownst to the absent owners. There are other characters, each more eccentric than the ...more
Jun 08, 2007 Jenna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel while sitting on my backporch, amongst the impatiens and half-empty birdbath my super had recently installed on our small patch of urban green. Sometimes I looked up and remembered where I was, sometimes I stayed in it and the surroundings matched those in the book. Weird. Very sad, with beautiful details. I agree on the Badlands comment. What kind of dog is Clem, anyway?
May 27, 2013 Daniel rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book because I could tell that such care went into the writing of it. Every sentence sparkles with Joy Williams' wit. The problem for me is that the sum was somehow less than the parts. Williams begins the book with a premise: a young couple, Willie and Liberty, break into Florida vacation homes and squat there while the owners are away. It's a good premise, and the tension of it carries the book for awhile, as it becomes obvious to readers (and maybe to the ...more
Dec 18, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Warning: there are spoilers in the following review.

One of my favorite books by Joy Williams. She starts the book with quirky vignettes of Willie and Liberty's nomadic life together breaking and entering the homes of wealthy people off on vacation. Willie spends more and more time apart from Liberty in his hobby of "saving people" although it becomes increasing clear that something ominous is going on. Willie is saving people in compensation for a past misdeed, something committed long ago that
Derek Neville
Jul 19, 2016 Derek Neville rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-reads
I made it about 180 pages of a 278 page book and finally had to throw in the towel. The prose here is very good. The setting is fantastic. The entire story has a great dream-like atmosphere to it that I enjoyed a lot. However, what made this book challenging was the dialog. The characters all speak with such deep introspection and almost in verse it seems like. It was a stylistic choice for sure, but grew tiresome and then eventually irritating as each supporting character would start to ...more
Feb 15, 2015 David rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book to evaluate. Much of what is significant movement in the book is subtle and challenging to pin down. There isn't a neat cycle of conflict and resolution, but there is movement, interesting characters, and a surprising amount of human grace inside. A lot of people want things wrapped up simpler and get frustrated by this book. It's good, though. If you can be patient and not insist on the book working a way that it just doesn't simply because other books work that way, ...more
Dec 01, 2015 Chaserrrr rated it it was amazing
"One is in a lighted room, and then it dims. Inexplicably."

"You don't want anything, dear, but you go on. That's because your life wants, it wants you to discover it."

A devastating novel about detachment and disenchantment. Abandoned children, fleeing mothers, tortured birds all in search of some semblance of home that lay just out of reach. In typical Joy Williams fashion no solace is offered. But there is plenty of grace.
Mar 01, 2013 Wesley rated it really liked it
I have a deep affinity for Williams and though it lost me a bit in the third act I responded strongly to this one. I found myself amused and moved in unexpected places and rereading passages two or three times to explore every corner of the language.
Ani Smith
Nov 11, 2010 Ani Smith rated it it was amazing
Intriguing characters and a sense of quotidian magic, like life's a fairytale but no one knows. Of the characters, I am most intrigued by Joy's children, magical smartass little creatures with suffered lives and a strange innocence.
Mar 21, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
What skillful writing. She's very serious and very funny... irresistable combination. Karen Russell mentioned her in an interview, so on that excellent recommendation I tracked her down.

Simply wonderful.
Rich Gamble
May 30, 2012 Rich Gamble rated it liked it
This is not really about breaking an entering as much as it is a slow, lingering study of certain characters existing in sunny know like your standard arhouse cinema fare but in book form! I think i was expecting too much here. Florida is in my top 3 dream holiday destinations thanks to Miami Vice and whilst there are plently of big mansions, swaying palm trees and other exotic fare..I wish I read it on a beach not commuting on a train. Joy is a unique writer and the story was ...more
Laura  Yan
Mar 02, 2016 Laura Yan rated it liked it
Distinctively Joy Williams. I think I prefer her short stories-this is a novel that feels a bit like a dream, bizarre and sad and at times beautiful. You can spend quite some time puzzling over the dialogue: what exactly are they talking about, and why does it seem so real? Clem is the best character I have ever encountered, and he's a dog. A traditional reading experience this is not. I'm not sure how much it suceeds as a story/novel, but as a series of unsettling and poetic vignettes and ...more
Laurel Beth
Apr 14, 2013 Laurel Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
the three novels joy williams published between 1973 and 1988 are all very good books about young women without agency. the women all try to gain independence in different ways, but all of them try to break through by caring for children, with varying degrees of success. i love them all.

it's much harder to write a book review for a five star book.

first read: may 23 - 28, 2012
shelves: ILL, from the library
Feb 04, 2016 Matt rated it did not like it
Original review:

This tells its show, through and through. Horseshit dressed in wrapping paper.

[0 stars for wishing I'd never bothered. MFA programs & associated writers need to fuck off with the bullshit already. Read something interesting - actually interesting - instead of something that tries too hard to be interesting.]

Review after more thought:

I don't understand what people see in this. At all.

[Still 0 stars.]
Jul 04, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2001, age-adult
I'd had this book for a long time before I finally read it. I think I picked up it from the library book sale when I worked there in high school, and it sat in my drawer (I had a drawer of my bureau dedicated to books) for years. Probably at least 6 years. The premise interested me--people who wandered around breaking into people's summer homes and living there for a while. It was okay once I finally decided to read it... but it didn't make much of an impression on me.
Vincent Scarpa
Jul 08, 2014 Vincent Scarpa rated it it was amazing
Revisiting this novel for what I think is the third or fourth time, and it's as good as ever. A parable about the agonizing desire to know and be known, to understand and be understood. A highly moral novel—I was reminded this time around of WISEBLOOD, another terrific novel with the same texture—that asks more questions than it answers. It's interesting to read the reviews, too-- no doubt a polarizing book. But, for my money, one of the best.
Mitch Galloway
Jun 05, 2013 Mitch Galloway rated it it was amazing
Due only to the strength and maturity of her last 3 works, and because not enough people give a shit, this book has been largely ignored. When I want a Joy William's novel not set in the west, i.e., not The Quick.., I go for this book, which is set in our country's beautiful, ruthless, forever being destroyed leaning member, Florida.
Carol Feldman
This may be a good book, but it is not my kind of book. it left me disquieted and stressed. I can't even tell you what it is about. I started rushing through if to get it over with and finally abandoned it at the 82% mark.
Apr 12, 2016 kelley rated it it was ok
i would have given this a higher rating, but when monologues from characters with little backstory span over 2 pages, and the main characters disappear spontaneously throughout the novel, theres very little to work with
Aug 06, 2011 Alan added it
Willie and Liberty, lovers since age 15, break into vacation houses and live in them in the absence of their owners. Events seem to happen to them, but they have no control. In some ways, Death seems to follow them. Strange Book.
May 27, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Steppenwolf and/or Chuck Palahniuk
Shelves: fiction
There is more than just good story here. Joy Williams transcends story and creates life.
Don't take my word for it. Question everything.
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Williams is the author of four novels. Her first, State of Grace (1973), was nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Quick and the Dead (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her first collection of short stories was Taking Care, published in 1982. A second collection, Escapes, followed in 1990. A 2001 essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and ...more
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