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So Long, See You Tomorrow

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,773 Ratings  ·  716 Reviews
On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William Maxwell delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past.
Paperback, 135 pages
Published January 3rd 1996 by Vintage (first published 1979)
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Carol Yes! I was drawn to the title on the library shelf, years ago. I didn't know anything about Maxwell at the time. He's a wonderful writer. I also love…moreYes! I was drawn to the title on the library shelf, years ago. I didn't know anything about Maxwell at the time. He's a wonderful writer. I also love They Came Like Swallows, based on Maxwell's loss of his mother in the influenza epidemic of 1918, when he was ten years old. Maxwell's writing has been inspiration, if I may use that word, and nourishment for my own writing, on the same subject. (less)
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Nov 24, 2014 William1 rated it it was amazing
This is a little masterpiece of narrative compression. Though only 135 pages long, it can seem at times that whole paragraphs of unwritten backstory are suggested by every line, every image. A rundown of the plot will not give you a sense of the high level of mastery involved here, but here it is anyway. In the early 1920s one married farmer befriends another married farmer then steals his wife. Both marriages break up. The adulterous wife--Fern Smith--sues her husband for divorce and wins on gr ...more
Oct 21, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Speechless... That was extraordinary.

(24 hours later)

I knew I was in for something special when I heard Richard Ford saying that this was one of his all-time favourite books but I didn't expect this level of amazement and mastery as I zipped through these 150 pages on a rainy October Sunday. How did someone manage to pack so much humanity in such a tiny work of art? The last time I felt such mind blowing concision was when I read "The Great Gatsby" for the first time. Every single sentence conta
Jul 20, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Mikki
I've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fact, the end reflects back to the beginning, another of my favorite things. And as I approached the end, I lingered over the sentences, rereading them: slight though they may seem, they are so worth it.

This slim novel is a perfect example of why a writer writes, how an incident can linger and fester until he works it out of his thoughts and memories
Jul 20, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing
Too many conflicting emotional interests are
involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and
possibly it is the work of the storyteller to
rearrange things so that they conform to this end.
In any case, in talking about the past we lie with
every breath we draw.
(p 27)

In this shattering, though very simple, piece, Maxwell writes the story of mid-western boys, one looking back on his childhood and remembering the other boy caught up in the vortex of a murder on a farm. The details sound bare
This is miniature tour de force…powerful, moving and beautifully written in a spare writing style that evokes a profound sense of place. It’s no secret that this novella is an old man’s recollection of a tragic episode from his childhood…a love triangle and murder in a small, Illinois farm town in the early 1920s. Yet, this story reveals much more than an account of a crime of passion. This slender novel is about childhood memories, nostalgia and dealing with loss, guilt and haunting regrets.

Dec 06, 2015 Fionnuala added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who know dogs can talk
Written more than forty years after They Came Like Swallows, this book takes up the story of Bunny where it left off in that book. But the name Bunny is not used in this book; he has become the narrator, and he is never given a name, as far as I can recall - I read it very fast, perhaps too fast.
Unlike Swallows, this book isn't all about one family but branches out into an almost unrelated story about another couple of families during the same period, 1920s, state of Illinois. Maxwell makes the
Jul 20, 2015 Mikki rated it it was amazing
Rarely do I find myself re-reading books since there are just way too many on my bucket list and time is steadily counting down. However, the other day, when my feed showed TWO people adding William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow, I figured that it must be a sign, so pushing my other reading aside, I grabbed my copy of the book and asked Anne if I could read along. She said "Yes!". It was the best decision I'd made in a while.

You see, I first read this book in early 2009. It was my introduc
Dec 29, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 135 pages, this is a book slight in length and deceptively simple in plot, yet powerful in it’s depiction of love and loss. Set in 1921, in a small rural mid-western town, the book opens with a murder. On one cold winter morning, a single shot rings out just before daybreak and a local tenant farmer, Lloyd Wilson, is found dead that morning in his barn. There is little that’s mysterious about the crime, Smith had been having an affair with his best friend’s wife and the friend, Clarence Smith ...more
Maria Headley
I don't know how I'd never read this before. It's particularly silly, because I've read possibly three entire books about William Maxwell, and certainly plenty of his New Yorker stuff, just in the way one reads randomly bits of things over the years, and they accrue, and one day, you realize, Hello, I haven't read any books by this writer that EVERYONE ADORES. Maxwell was an incredible person by all accounts - I read MY MENTOR, the Alec Wilkinson book about him, as well as a straight bio, and an ...more
May 21, 2016 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-i-own
I love it when an author can tell a "big" story in so few words. This is the sad telling of the aftermath of murder which occurred in a rural community in the 1920's. We even get to hear the dog's prospective (which is heartbreaking by the way). Good book. I would recommend to most everyone.
Apr 12, 2014 Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Love, even of the most ardent and soul-destroying kind, is never caught by the lens of the camera.”

Oh, man. What have I stepped into with this book? There’s no way a single read is sufficient for me to review this burning revelation of the soul.

“How was it that she didn’t realize it was going to last such a short time.”

If anyone should ever ask me to recommend a work of fiction that sums up the human condition, passing this book along, I’ll reply, “Sit down. Read this. And don’t get up until y
Carmo Santos
Jun 24, 2016 Carmo Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norte-americanos

"Maxwell consegue algo que só os maiores romancistas conseguem: transforma a dor e as mágoas profundas em palavras de uma brilhante simplicidade."
Anthony Quinn, Observer

Um livro precioso, uma escrita delicada de uma subtileza que nos leva a desvendar nas entrelinhas o que de mais profundo nos conta. Uma história de amizades, amores, traições, crime e arrependimento. Um regresso ao passado e uma tentativa de recriação e redenção.

Só não leva 5* porque o antecessor, Vieram como Andorinhas, cons
Jul 28, 2010 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, male, year-1970s
4.5 stars. I listened to a story on NPR the other day about how the police can often tell if a suspect is lying because the lies are elaborated fully with so much detail, as if to make up for the fabrication, whereas the truth is often very simple.

This book reminded me of that because it is elaborate and full of detail, from the history of the town to the history of each character to the description of one thing or another that strikes the reader as something nobody would just make up, so that t
May 10, 2013 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The depth of the emotional insight is what makes this book important. It's sad, it's tragic, it's nostalgic.

When he veers into the dog's perspective of the loss of her family you'll cry your eyes out. And I know this pet perspective has been overdone lately but in "So Long, See you Tomorrow" it's something you won't want to miss imo. Such a small book, what a large impact.
Dec 13, 2009 Edan rated it it was amazing
I should have read this in a single sitting, but I couldn't--or wouldn't--point is, I didn't, and I regret it. This novel is not only beautiful and heartbreaking in the way that STONER by John Williams is beautiful and heartbreaking, it's also quite surprising in its use of point of view. It reminded me a little of SPEAK, MEMORY, Nabokov's memoir that plays a lot with memory and fiddling with images and moments from the past. Maxwell does something similar here, with the narrator's imagined vers ...more
Mar 23, 2015 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Ela estava ao fogão, de avental, a mergulhar os pratos do jantar numa panela com água quente. Tinha mudado o candeeiro para uma estante mais alta que a sua cabeça e a luz descia-lhe sobre a nuca, o sítio onde as mulheres e as crianças expressam a sua vulnerabilidade. Olhando para os cabelos loiros e suaves que tinham escapado ao pente, pensou em todas essas pessoas que, por causa da religião, se tinham ajoelhado numa grande ansiedade e a quem tinham cortado a cabeça. O seu peito estava inundado
So long, see you tomorrow

Il breve romanzo di William Maxwell, finalista Pulitzer nel 1981, ha coloriture del sud che richiamano i temi cari al primo Capote e ad Eudora Welty e Harper Lee. La storia è semplice: due adolescenti si salutano alla fine di una qualsiasi giornata di giochi, ma non si vedranno più perché la tragedia irromperà nella vita di uno dei due. La voce narrante è uno dei due ragazzi, ormai uomo, che in un lungo flashback ci porta a rivivere i tormenti e le incomprensioni di quan
Jun 02, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best novellas I have read in years. I sought it out after learning that Ann Patchett lists it as one of her favorite books.

The story is very simple: It's a man trying to make sense of a murder that happened in his small town in Illinois in the 1920s. The narrator, who himself had a rough childhood because his mother died when he was young, was once friends with a boy whose father was the accused murderer. The narrator now feels guilty that he didn't try to help the boy back th
Dec 30, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The most heart-breaking novel I've ever read (with John Williams' Stoner a close second). I've read it several times, taught it twice, and the ending never fails to put a lump in my throat.
A gunshot cracks the crystalline stillness of an Illinois winter morning. It is a crime of passion that cracks the facade of uprightness and innocence of a simple country town. Friendships and marriages have crumbled and childhoods withered away in the face of adult guilt, disappointment and anger.

Decades later an old man gathers the threads of his memory and reconstructs the turning point of his youth, as if by acknowledging the details of the murder, he will atone for a friendship abandoned.
Mar 27, 2016 Negin rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written, rather morose book about a boy’s memory of an event that remains with him all his life and the guilt that he feels. Like “Stoner”and "Mrs. Bridge", both of which I've read recently, nothing much happens. All three books are the type that are subtle and that remain with you. I have to say that I enjoyed "Stoner" and "Mrs. Bridge" more than this one. The narrative here was clear and engaging for me at first, but something seemed to fizzle out a bit later. Maybe it wa ...more
Stephen P
Never fully engaged. It might have something to do with reading it as a break from Beckett. Now I fully understand the rumor that Sam does not like company. I'll have to reread Maxwell later to give this book a fair shot.
Mar 23, 2010 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: the-lighter-side
What a small, lovely little book. That said, it was quite small indeed, so I'm not sure if I can give it more than three stars.

Mix 4 parts "My Antonia," three parts "In Cold Blood," and one part "Gilead" and you get this book. The interesting thing, and the reason why I believe it was recommended to me, is that this is a bit of a memoir but it's also mostly fictionalized - my total M.O. Maxwell takes his childhood memory of a town murder and recreates the facts of the murder by fictionalizing th
a rural mystery with interesting style in that interested parties 'testify' eventually to illustrate how they crushed the lives of young people through their own gauche, selfish decisions. based on a true story :) this won the national book award in 1982, when that award was getting a little confusing with multiple winners in different formats, but my first maxwell read, hopefully not the last one, though rather tame.
This is a masterpiece, a gorgeous slice of fictional Americana, packed into a small novel that I didn't want to end. Like Kent Haruf, Maxwell is a writer who doesn't use the literary 'tricks and twists' that we see in so many contemporary novels. He doesn't need them. He simply writes straight from the heart. He has such an innate understanding of's amazing and so wise.

I read this book directly after reading They Came Like Swallows, not knowing that the two stories are related. In
Jul 15, 2015 [P] rated it liked it
In times of unhappiness my mind rummages around in the past for poignant or painful memories, as though seeking some kind of brotherhood or solidarity; they need not be alike, the present feeling and the memory, in any way other than sharing the quality of being hurtful. Indeed, I may lose a job or a girlfriend and what my mind will turn up, will nose out like a bloodhound, will be something like Marc Richardson standing outside Thomas Rotherham College one afternoon. Marc was an ugly ginger-hai ...more
Jul 22, 2015 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Edward by: Leola

--So Long, See You Tomorrow
Dec 08, 2008 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maxwell, William. SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW. (1980). *****. This novel by Maxwell was included in the Library of America’s “Later Novels and Stories,” but is available separately in several editions. I feel that it is a masterpiece of fine writing and story telling. Of all of his works – all of which are outstanding – this is probably his best achievement. It is the story of two neighbors who live out on the Illinois prairie, working the land to eke out a living. At first, they are the best of f ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 26, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In straightforward and concise prose, seriously not a word is wasted they all have incredible meaning, Maxwell conveys the loss of innocence of two boyhood friends. This book is so short but the words and the story are so tall. One of the four 1920's books I am presently reading, by a Chicago author I had never heard of, and it was very very good. Reminded me a bit of the writing of Kent Hauf, he manages to provoke tension, dread and a bittersweet poignancy all at the same time. The characters, ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This prose and plot hold such identity to place and time that it is difficult to put the proper adjectives to this work! The succinct and masterful telling of the boys, their families and the town of Lincoln IL in general- just perfection. There are numerous works of William Maxwell I have not read. That will be remedied.

I will not tell you of the plot, the crime, the violation of the order of these boys' lives and their families. It's short, it's a masterpiece. HIGHLY REC.

As good as the entire
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William Keepers Maxwell Jr. was an American novelist, and fiction editor at the New Yorker. He studied at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. Maxwell wrote six highly acclaimed novels, a number of short stories and essays, children's stories, and a memoir, Ancestors (1972). His award-winning fiction, which is increasingly seen as some of the most important of the 20th Century, has r ...more
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“What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory--meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion--is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.” 45 likes
“His sadness was of the kind that is patient and without hope.” 26 likes
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