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I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,362 Ratings  ·  386 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 morp
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 EarleJustice by Karen RobardsThe Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
2011 disappointments
3rd out of 29 books — 22 voters
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan KunderaOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran FoerThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Most Poetic Book Titles
429th out of 1,068 books — 677 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 23, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
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
No matter how I struggle and strive/
I’ll never get out of this world alive. – Hank Williams

Stop me if you have heard this one:

A defrocked morphine-addicted physician, his pusher (who is also his best friend), two hookers (who operate the Yellow Rose Resort Home, a hotel that also serves as brothel, emergency room, and abortion clinic), a mysterious teenaged Mexican girl (who is in the country illegally), and Hank Williams (well, not Hank exactly, but his ghost) walk into a bar.

The punch line is
Chance Maree
Oct 02, 2013 Chance Maree rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy

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
Feb 03, 2015 Ian rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
May 07, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 28, 2012 Judy rated it it was ok
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
Scott Freeman
Feb 21, 2011 Scott Freeman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-books
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
Mar 23, 2012 Rozalia rated it did not like it
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.
Jun 26, 2012 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2013 Quiltgranny rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 06, 2011 Mike rated it it was ok
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.
M Christopher
May 12, 2013 M Christopher rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2012 Jeremy Garber rated it liked it
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
Aug 09, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2012 Elif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bevor ich versuche, meine Meinung zu diesem Buch in Worte zu fassen (was sehr schwierig sein wird), klickt einmal hier [] 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
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
Aug 13, 2012 Brendan rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
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
Oct 28, 2011 Connie rated it really liked it
This book combines reality with magical realism,involving a supporting cast of colorful drifters, drug addicts, prostitutes, a priest, a cop, and Graciela the Mexican healer. The action revolves around Doc Ebersole who lives with the angry ghost of Hank Williams in the Yellow Rose boarding house in San Antonio in 1963. Doc had given Hank several morphine injections just prior to his death, and the ghost of Hank seems to be waiting around so that they can eventually travel to their final reward t ...more
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.

May 01, 2016 Lesley rated it it was ok
strange story of doc and the young Graciela
Stephen Gallup
A lot of the audiobooks I pick up in the library come into my hands almost by chance. The authors are new to me and I just hope, based on the printed synopses, that I'll like their work. With this one, pretty quickly I was having misgivings, because the subject matter is very seamy. I hasten to add, however, I warmed to the characters and perceived an unfolding story that seemed to have worthy intentions.

I felt similar discomfort with an Elmore Leonard audiobook that I heard a few months ago. In
Tony Carter
Sep 18, 2015 Tony Carter rated it really liked it
While Steve Earle is one of my favorite singer songwriters I was blown away by this book. It was wonderful to get to read a full book length story by Steve. He confronts social issues head on and this book is no different. The main character is the doctor responsible for the overdose of Hank Williams. The premise alone made me want to read the book.

The story is about Doc who has fallen from grace and lives with the ghost of Hank Williams. Hank shows up and points out to Doc all of his flaws and
Aug 29, 2015 Van rated it did not like it
The title of this book was what caught my attention at first, as it is hilarious. But the novel is neither that funny nor ironic, it's just depressing--and not even the kind of depressing that leaves you with the hope and motivation to get more out of life but the "what the... did I just read?" sort of depressing.

So let me start off my unpopular diatribe of this book by a disclaimer that I am indeed Christian. That being said, I do try to not judge too harshly when, duh, I'm reading a book about
Victoria Hueber
Apr 07, 2015 Victoria Hueber rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliantly written book, with prose that is smooth, thrilling and deceptively informative. Here is an example from the first chapter:

"The people that Doc usually treated were like him, outcasts of various persuasions, marginalized largely through actions and choices of their own. Granted, almost none of them came from as privileged a background as Doc's, but Doc knew that poverty alone could never account for the complete lack of compassion for one's fellow man in evidence on any Sou
Jennifer (JC-S)
Dec 27, 2014 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was ok
‘No matter how I struggle and strive I’ll never get out of this world alive.’

The circumstances surrounding the death of the country singer Hank Williams on 1 January 1953 are mysterious and disputed. All that is known for certain is that the 29-year-old singer died in the back of a Cadillac en route to a concert date in West Virginia, having apparently summoned a doctor to administer a shot of vitamins mixed with morphine to ease his chronic back pain.

‘I’ll never get out of this world alive’ is
Hillary Early
Oct 12, 2014 Hillary Early rated it liked it
I'm a passively enthusiastic Steve Earle fan, so when I randomly spotted this little treasure on the clearance shelf at Half-Priced books I was conveniently thrilled. I had already listened to the album he released in 2011 of the same name, but had no idea this was out there. I highly recommend the album itself, and as a pleasant afterthought, the book as well.

Nothing really exceptional in this book, but nothing too cringe-worthy either. Most of the characters feel like well fleshed out cartoons
Dec 28, 2014 Linus rated it really liked it
Mixed but positive feelings about this book. As a plus and a minus, it could really only be written by Steve Earle: it's a good book written by a musician, rather than a major piece of literature in its own right. But I think that works, here. It has a voice, and it's coherent, and it mines its many cliches until they aren't cliches any longer.

That's really Earle's gift here. We know these characters, both from literature and from life, and he doesn't do much to make them larger than life. At t
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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
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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.”
“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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