I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
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I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  1,709 ratings  ·  328 reviews
Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williams—not just in the figurative sense, not just because he was one of the last people to see him alive, and not just because he is rumored to have given Hank the final morphine dose that killed him.

In 1963, ten years after Hank's death, Doc himself is wracked by addiction. Having lost his license to practice medicine, his morph...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 12th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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Prey by Linda HowardThe Night Circus by Erin MorgensternI'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve EarleThe Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. AuelAny Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson
2011 disappointments
3rd out of 29 books — 19 voters
Ready Player One by Ernest ClineThe Night Circus by Erin MorgensternBossypants by Tina FeySteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson11/22/63 by Stephen King
Amazon.com Best Books of 2011: The Top 100
79th out of 100 books — 166 voters


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Community Reviews

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Michael
Jun 23, 2013 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Michael by: BooknBlues
This sad, sweet, and often funny tale of an underground doctor among the down-and-out in San Antonio in the early 60’s won my heart over. Doc is a functional heroin addict who, after losing his license in Louisiana, lives in a boarding house where he sustains himself by ministering to the medical needs of folks on the wrong side of the law. This service is mostly care for injuries from alcohol fueled fights and abortions for poor women or prostitutes with no other recourse.

Everything changes for...more
Chance Maree

Grammy award winner, singer/songwriter Steve Earle named this novel after his 14th studio album released in 2011. He has acted in roles on television and in movies. While I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive is his first novel, Earle has also written a play and a book of short stories. To be honest, I hadn't heard of him before reading his novel, so my opinion is only swayed by having read about him on Wiki, and liking his anti-war, anti-death penalty, etc views. The man has led a colorful lif...more
Ian
Steve Earle is a problem for many a blue collar Republican. He started out making music by looking and sounding a lot like them, his songs about making a better life, patriotism, love won and lost, and God, resonated and they were hooked. Mostly they still are, only along the way Earle's experiences of heroin addiction and prison altered his perspective as his life was touched by injustice and the oppressed. He couldn't ignore it.
His brilliant first book, Doghouse Roses, comprised of short stori...more
Judy
Aug 28, 2012 Judy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Steve Earle fans

I am a big fan of Steve Earle's music, so I had to read his first novel. It was OK.

The ghost of Hank Williams haunts the renegade Doc Ebersole, who kept Hank somewhat alive until he didn't. Doc is a bum, a doctor who has lost his license and lives on the edge of a Texas town. He gets by providing abortions and other medical services to skid row characters who for various reasons can't or won't go to a hospital. He is also a drug addict who kicks and is kept alive by a young Mexican girl-a sort-o...more
Cynthia
Hope Personified

A failed doctor whose career has crashed into the drudgery of drug abuse fueled by backroom abortions performed at a whorehouse back room in 1960’s Texas might sound like a grim tale. And it is. However beautiful young healer recently arrived from Mexico joins forces with the doc. As she comes to love him while learning his healing trade she also works magic on the drug addicted hookers they treat. One by one they stop their addictions and give up hooking returning to a better li...more
Quiltgranny
This is a nicely written, imaginative book. I had no idea who Steve Earl is, so i read about the author about midway through. i can now understand how he was able to write some of the descriptions of the main character, Doc, and his imagined ghost, Hank Williams. I also took the time to read a little about Hank Williams' life (and death) which were just as interesting as this book was entertaining. It's a great read.
M Christopher
A truly beautiful book with a very unusual cast of characters. Junkies, dealers, whores, pimps, crooked cops and a priest with anger issues come together in a moving story of redemption and grace. Oh, and don't forget the ghost of Hank Williams... A modern masterpiece by one of country music's true outlaws.
Jason Mills
Dec 25, 2011 Jason Mills rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like books. :)
It's 1963 in Texas, and Doc is down on his luck. Haunted by the irascible ghost of his sometime friend and patient Hank Williams, Doc has fallen out of practice and into dope addiction, scraping by in a boarding house by performing back-street abortions for prostitutes and poor girls. One of these waifs, Graciela, is left behind with him, unable to speak English and with nowhere to go. Over time he and Graciela become partners - in 'crime', if not precisely in love - but her startling and inexpl...more
Jeremy Garber
Steve Earle’s first novel, set in San Antonio in 1963, is a sweet but flawed story about drugs, heroism, race, spirituality and religion, and ornery Texans. The protagonist, Doc, is a former physician with a serious heroin problem who makes a living providing illegal abortions to the outcasts of society. Compounding his difficulties is the continuing mysterious presence of the ghost of Hank Williams, who may have been killed by Doc providing his last dose of smack. Doc’s nosedive flophouse exist...more
Larry Hoffer
Steve Earle is a pretty fantastic musician, and with his terrific debut novel, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, he's proven his talent as a writer as well. This is a tremendously well-written and creative book with characters that slowly reveal themselves to be more complex and sympathetic than you might think, and a plot that mixes despair and hope with a little bit of mysticism.



It's the fall of 1963 in a rundown neighborhood of San Antonio. Doc Ebersole is a disgraced former physician...more
Bill
So not only is Steve Earle a great singer/songwriter, but it turns out he does a pretty mean novel as well. Doc Ebersole was once a fairly respected physician, but all that began to change when he got mixed up with Hank Williams. Then he basically became the guy who kept Hank's back pain at bay with a steady supply of morphine, right up to the night he gave Hank that fateful shot that finally killed him as he lay in the back seat of his Cadillac. Since that fateful night, Doc has been haunted by...more
Elif
Meinung
Bevor ich versuche, meine Meinung zu diesem Buch in Worte zu fassen (was sehr schwierig sein wird), klickt einmal hier [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nd2vV...] und hört euch das Lied an, während ihr mein Geschreibsel lest. Es fasst die Stimmung des Buches, das offensichtlich nach diesem Lied benannt wurde, perfekt zusammen. Es ist ruhig, schon fast monoton und dennoch dramatisch, trostlos, mit einem Funken Ironie, sowie Hoffnung.
Doc ist ein sehr passiver und Protagonist. Man erfährt we...more
Amy L. Campbell
Note: Review copy provided by Netgalley. Also, I enjoy Earle's music.

Earle's new book reads a bit like a country song. At times a bit exaggerated in order to fit the rhythms and storytelling tradition behind the genre. Doc is a man haunted by both his drug habit and his past in the form of Hank Williams's ghost. The reader will be captivated by the gritty reality of Doc's life as a dopehead and the people he must interact with, not only to feed his habit, but to absolve his past sins and hopeful...more
Brendan
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is like that lunch your mother used to make you in 5th grade. Maybe it wasn't the best or most delicious in all the lunchroom, but it was made with love and frugal thoughtfulness, neatly wrapped in a brown paper bag.

While Earle's writing is in no way groundbreaking or wholly original in its style and contents, it's pure, it's crisp, it's clean and it's from the heart. I was amazed by the depth and redemption of his characters, the lush moral contrast of th...more
Scott Freeman
This is my early front-runner for my favorite book of 2011 and truly one of the best novels I've read in years. Doc Ebersole is a down on his luck physician. Having been one of Hank William's last friends and physicians he has watched his life fall into an extreme state of disrepair. Strung out on heroin and having lost his medical license he spends his days shooting up and his nights performing illegal abortions in the most desolate street in San Antonio. All the while he is haunted by the ghos...more
Karen
This is not your average 60's era novel. In "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive", Earle renders the anti-hero into a hero, addiction falls into redemption, and those meant to be Saints are the worst sinners of all.

Doc, the main character, is a morphine addicted former MD stripped of his license. He is "haunted" by the ghost of Hank Williams (yes, THAT Hank Williams), whose presence and general obnoxious behavior seems to both prompt Doc to continue his downward spiral - and somehow comfort...more
Rozalia
Now I know why people say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I literally had to fight my way through the book, but I just couldn't force myself to read the last 30 pages.
What I expected the book to be like: a poetic, interesting novel about a Mexican girl who emigrates to the United States and finds herself surrounded by surreal, neurotic people and ghosts. Steve Earle is a songwriter, so I expected the book to be deep and inspirational.
What it really was like: such a disappointment....more
Lisa
I am so glad Steve Earle read this novel himself because no one else could have done it justice. I loved the characters right down to Big Tiff. Well, maybe I didn't love Big Tiff, but I loved how Earle drew her, read her, made her come alive.

The story itself was about the people most of us choose to ignore. We don't want to know about their wretched, chosen existence. Earle made them sympathetic or, at the very least, human. Strong in the eye of the storm, frail in the calm of the morning.

These...more
Peter
What do you say about a book where you can rattle off at least a few flaws, but still happily devoured and enjoyed? That would be this one. The characters are almost representations of a kind of person instead of an actual 3D character, which gives the story an almost fable-like feel. Considering the themes, this may have been conscious and appropriate. I was a little iffy on the motivations of some of the characters, as well as some of the dialogue, but Earle really spun an enjoyable yarn into...more
Olivia
Jun 16, 2014 Olivia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
The book was a spontaneous buy in a 2£ book shop and to be honest the main reason I bought it was the cover. After reading the title and the reviews on the back I still had no idea what it actually was about but it was definitely not what I expected it to be and maybe that's the reason why I couldn't really empathise with the characters throughout the whole story. Generally it was a nice read but at some points a little bit depressing, so probably not a book you should read when you're in a sad...more
Kiki
I'm godawful at keeping my Goodreads up-to-date, but the best book I've come across recently is this one. I highly recommend the audiobook, read by the author. Earle's rasping country voice lends a hugely to the recounting, especially the occasional bursting into a line or two of Hank Williams's songs. The prose is gorgeous. The characters are flawed, but extraordinarily endearing. The depiction of the end of the lives of Hank Williams, Doc Ebersole, and even JFK moved me to tears. I plan on pur...more
Mike
A bit disappointing after his DOGHOUSE ROSES. Though pivotal to the narrative, the ghostly interaction between Doc and Hank actually gets in the way of ther story - may be just too many asides. That said, a nicely written story of Faith, Redemption and Miracles, both great and not so great. Overall a valiant effort by Mr. Earle.
Gail Strickland
Wow. A junkie doctor, a young girl who may be a miracle worker, a flawed Irish priest, a good-hearted drug dealer and the ghost of Hank Williams. Who can ask for anything more? And yup, it's THAT Steve Earle, the singer-songwriter. Be warned though; you may be hearing ol' Hank's songs in your head while reading this.
Ted
Oct 03, 2013 Ted marked it as to-read
Shelves: lit-american
I guess this book, by one of my favorite singers, can sit on the to-read shelf alongside The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie, the famous blues musician (Let Them Talk) - who I believe has also appeared on TV (?), as has Earle (in a few episodes of The Wire).
Wanda
Steve Earle is able to carry his song-writing skills, emotions, and authenticity into the written word very well.

"I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" spins the death of Hank Williams into a tale of the doctor who "may" have given Hank the morphine shot that killed him. Haunted (and I mean literally) by that incident, Doc becomes a disbarred doctor in the slums of San Antonio, caring for the prostitutes, junkies, criminals, and more.

Doc's life takes a turn when a young Mexican girl enters his...more
Mitch
Earle's background as a singer songwriter shines through in this book. The man is a storyteller at heart. I enjoyed the book and was captivated by the plot. With that said, character development is not his strong suit. Large swaths of time go missing nary a sentence to warn the reader. Characters progress without much description as to how or why. I think there was a genuinely great story here and had he put more into the players I would have stuck around go another couple hundred pages.

It's a...more
Lisa
Heartbreaking and challenging, but arguably the best piece of contemporary fiction I've read in a while.
Matt Wisdom
This work from renowned singer-songwriter Steve Earle is probably my favorite book of the year so far.
Chris Levine
I am a sucker for mysticism so this book drew me in.The story follows Doc, a functional heroin addict who performs abortions to get money to feed his habit. As the setting is San Antonio in 1963 abortions are highly illegal in Texas.

In addition the ghost of Hank Williams haunts Doc and speaks with him regularly. The story follows Docs life and those around him as they are all changed by a Mexican migrant Graciela.

A good read that takes you to a different time. There was only one character arc th...more
Tina Kennedy
This book was a different type of book for me to read and I loved it. It is dark and seedy but the characters are so deep and nuanced, tortured but want to believe in the good (most of them). I was wholly invested in these characters and the Ghost of Hank Williams really works in this story. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive is an extremely well written and solid book. I am very glad that I read it and I still reflect on this book often. Give it a chance, I think you will find it is definit...more
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Steve Earle is a singer-songwriter, actor, activist, and the author of the story collection Doghouse Roses. He has released more than a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including the Grammy winners The Revolution Starts Now, Washington Square Serenade, and Townes. He has appeared on film and television, with celebrated roles in The Wire and Treme. Frequently interviewed and profiled in the press...more
More about Steve Earle...
Doghouse Roses: Stories Steve Earle Songbook: Guitar Tab I Can't Remember If We Said Goodbye Copperhead Road Goodbye

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“Lonely's a temporary condition, a cloud that blocks out the sun for a spell and then makes the sunshine seem even brighter after it travels along. Like when you're far away from home and you miss the people you love and it seems like you're never going to see them again. But you will, and you do, and then you're not lonely anymore.
Lonesome's a whole other thing. Incurable. Terminal. A hole in your heart you could drive a semi truck through. So big and so deep that no amount of money or whiskey or pussy or dope in the whole goddamn world can fill it up because you dug it yourself and you're digging it still, one lie, one disappointment, one broken promise at a time.”
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“She more than likely came from good enough people. Poor, honest, hard-working folks that never got ahead but did all right as long as they kept their heads down and didn't study too much on what they didn't have.” 3 likes
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