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The Death of Sweet Mister

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,941 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Woodrell, author of Tomato Red, delivers his most powerful work to date in The Death of Sweet Mister. Like Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, Shuggie Akins tells his story of a reluctant descent into the world of adults in this unforgettable and ultimately moving novel.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 30th 2002 by Plume (first published May 21st 2001)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  2,941 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic

If Flannery O'Connor is the Sophocles of Southern lowlife, then Daniel Woodrell is the Seneca.

This deceptively colloquial Ozark tale--full of artful rhetoric, black ironies and blood--is treated in such a pitiless Olympian fashion that the result is more mythic than tragic.

Shuggie and his mother Glenda leave their mark on each other, and they will leave their mark on you the reader too.
What a book, what a book.... So grim, so bleak, so dark and so well written. In line with Cormac McCarthy, this writer Daniel Woodrell is. I read Winter's Bone some years ago and loved it too. Again a bleak situation of a young lady. This book is about Shug, an overweight young boy, 13 years old, with violent father and a drunk mum. The relationship with the mum is, to say the least, a bit weird. Kept me reading nonstop within my available time, highly intriguing from beginning to the very last ...more
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those that like fine dark Appalachian literature
Recommended to Jaidee by: inspired by my love of Amy Greene's book "Long Man"
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "heartbreaking, desolate and organic" stars !!!

7th Favorite Read of 2016 (Tie)

This is a book Tennessee Williams would be proud to have written!
A novel that reads like both a play and poetry.
A story that is both tragic and yet everyday.

The writing and flow of this book are superb. An Ozark family drama with such clear finely drawn characters that you can reach out and touch them, talk to them and due to their high dysfunction likely run from them.

Shugie (Morris) is 13. His momma calls him S
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: southern
The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell is the August 2016 choice for post 1980 read by the Southern literary trail group. After reading a preview of the book, it did not look like a story that would interest me, but when group members praised the book, I decided to read it for myself. Despite Woodrell's extraordinary story telling ability, The Death of Sweet Mister was not a story that I enjoyed reading. For that, I rate it 3 stars- 1.5 for the bleak story and 4.5 for the prose.

I could te
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, may be disturbing to some
The Death of Sweet Mister: God Bless the Child That's Got His Own

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell is nominated as a group read for August, 2016, for the group On the Southern Literary Trail. The polls are open. This is just one of the exceptional nominations being considered. Interested? Drop by. Sit a spell. If you're inclined, walk the Trail with us. What would you like to read? There's always plenty to choose from along the Southern Trail. My thanks to Trail Member Carol of Cary,
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy crap!

I may need to read some Cormac McCarthy to cheer up after this one.
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: litmus-test
Dear Casual Readers, this is not a book you are going to want to read. But if you can muster your resolve, get your boots on, and stomach it, the powerful writing of Daniel Woodrell will knock said boots right off your feet.

I don't have a background in classics. I'm a science geek who just happens to love fiction. Until recently I didn't know that there was a genre called "Southern Gothic" or if I'd heard the term, I'd probably think it meant some sort of ghost story set in a decrepit antebellum
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the bleakest, saddest, most hopeless stories I have ever read. It tore at my heart. What amazes me the most is how well Daniel Woodrell presents the complicated dynamics between Red, Glenda and Shug and how clearly we see that the good heart in Shug is never going to be allowed to exist in this sordid world he occupies. I began to mourn him on page one.

Woodrell employs exactly the right sharp, staccato, unvarnished writing style that his subject demands. He puts his words in the m
Doug H
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

Oedipus Rex Shug

Drug and alcohol addiction, poverty, violence and murder, child and wife abuse, even incest: it’s all here.

Yes, the subject matter is horrifying, but I absolutely loved this mercilessly brutal and yet somehow still tender and touching novel in which a long-suffering victim of an extremely dysfunctional family and a toxic environment comes of age and seals his own fate.

While I enjoyed Tomato Red (which deals with many of the same themes), I think Woodrell’s writing is superior i
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

"You wake up in this here world, my sweet li'l mister, you got to wake up tough. You go out that front door tough of a mornin' and you stay tough 'til lights out - have you learned that?"

'Shug' Akins learns the hard way, between the beatings delivered by his father Red and the pampering of his mother Glenda. To the first, he is just a lazy, fat, soft teenager that needs to have some sense punched into him. Red goes to regular school, but we learn almost nothing about that side of his life. His
Just as in his novel Winter's Bone, in this book author Daniel Woodrell moves beyond usual "modern noir," and into something closer to rural tragedy set in his world of the Missouri Ozark mountains. This Oedipal tale is about the relationship between young "Shug" Akins and his mother Glenda. Glenda is attractive and apparently irresistible to the opposite sex, which is a sad situation because she makes terrible decisions when it comes to men.
Granny said Mom could make 'Hello, there" soun
Diane Barnes
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can't do it. I can't review this book. It was brutal, but beautiful at the same time. Shug and Glenda are two of the saddest creatures in literature. Daniel Woodrell is the only author I know who could tell their story. ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, favorites
This is an unforgettable book.

Many reviewers have likened this story to Oedipus Rex. I agree, but I also think that the sweet innocence of Shug versus his odd relationship with his mother gives this story a depth that most stories don't possess.

Shug is a 13 year-old obese outcast, and is probably on the autism spectrum. His mother is an alcoholic who uses her sexuality to get what she thinks she needs out of a situation, which blurs the healthy lines that exist between mother and son naturally.

Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A novel about the metaphorical death of " Sweet Mister " also known as Shug Akins a sad, overweight, 13 year old boy growing up in the seamiest group that ever lived in the Ozarks, yet is fully able to adeptly narrate a harshly lyrical story based mostly on his forced voyeurism. It's all here , his pathetic attention seeking alcoholic mother Glenda who coddles him and her womanizing ,criminal ,and abusive boyfriend Red who uses him as a punching bag. Also aboard are drugs, foul play, innuendo an ...more
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I could call this book a 'coming of age' story, but I won't. It's not necessarily the wrong way to put it, but our "death of Sweet Mister" transitioning to his proper name, Morris, is more ironic than anything else.

What is it about books that show us the misery and shit in people's lives that really make us cringe, smile, laugh, howl and think about for days afterwards that cause us to think, 'Damn, that was good!'? It's human nature, my friends. Human fucking nature. We're all screwed up to som
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I saw the Southern Literary group on GR was reading this one for August. I knew nothing of this book or the author. I read a few reviews on the book and it sounded quite interesting, so I figured I would check it out. I have been wanting to read more southern literature. I was surprised by how much I was drawn into this book. The title is quite true of the main character. You see the death, figuratively, of sweet mister, aka....shug. The story is about a 13-year old boy, Shug, who should be a ch ...more
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
All my favourite writers are favourites for different reasons. Tartt for her ability to weave a story sometimes about nothing, Winterson for her heady prose and now Woodrell (along with Donald Ray Pollock) for his ability to punch you in the stomach, only to walk away and leave you wanting more. Give me grit, give me all of the gnarly, mucky gritty shit.

As much as I get a kick out of listening to say, Stephen Fry speak; his clever vocabulary, the pompous roll of his words - I have started apprec
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell
Red, Glenda and Shug-Sweet Mister-Morris live in the middle of a cemetery in a caretaker's capacity. Shug does all the manual labor of mowing the grass on a tractor and using a push lawn mower to fit in between the tombstones. His mother Glenda is always intoxicated on her "tea", which is really rum and cola. Red his stand in father uses him to commit crimes for him like stealing people's prescription drugs while the people are home. Red is emotionally
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An Ozarkian Greek tragedy so mythic it could be carved in stone, but presented in such disarming voice it becomes an earthy delight filled with humor, sadness, and innocence lost presented in language of exquisite cadence and rhythm. That voice is Shug’s, a overweight 13 year old who’s relation with his childlike mother Glenda and the oppressive “father” figure “Red” is the center of the story. His daily life consists of food, raiding drugs from sick people for “Red”, caretaking a graveyard (whe ...more
Tom Mathews
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who liked Winter's Bone
This excellently written novel by Daniel Woodrell is about as warm and fuzzy as ground glass. In reading it I am reminded of something else Dennis Lehane once said, that "In Greek tragedy they fall from great heights ... in noir they fall from the curb."

Shug Akins never even made it to the curb.
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have the sneaking suspicion that Woodrell has pulled a parlor trick and the room hasn’t noticed it. This is a deceptively simple, short, easy to read novel – but I am certain that its economy is hard won by reductive wordsmithing. First I must confess that I am positively biased, since this man represents my state and people, and I’ve met him twice, albeit very briefly, at book signings. I’ve also read most his repertoire and have been hoarding this and a couple more for a future date when I’m ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reason for Reading: This may sound weird but, I enjoy reading well-written depressing books.

I have never read this author before nor actually even heard of him, but he caught my eye when I saw that the publisher had reprinted all his works in a new line of trade paperbacks. I had a hard time deciding which book to try first but this one seemed to fit my interests well and it was short so a good one to try a new author. It is really hard to use words such as "I liked" or "I enjoyed" with such a
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a boys account,from a modern day underbelly family, he's a overweight teen living with a stepfather who dishes out violence drugs and alcohol. He watches his mother, who he admires and cares for, get beaten up by his stepfather and used by men for sexual purposes, eventually he feels if everyone has a slice of mom why can't I. His affection and attraction goes beyond being her son and eventually his mother gives in to his love which is quite shocking.
Ben Loory
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
"Our house looked as if it had been painted with jumbo crayons by a kid with wild hands who enjoyed bright colors but lost interest fast. That kid was me, in general, and I did try any paint we had in the shed."

good book, great writing. sort of flannery o'connor meets james m. cain, with jim thompson running around planting dynamite here and there.

i have a feeling that in a couple weeks that 4 star rating is either going to go up to 5 or down to 3. depends on how it all settles. helluva story, t
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Powerful witness. Completely chronological narrator, Shugs at 13. He is a son, obese, and you read his every thought and observation. His cognition, his emotive life, his self-identity- it changes.

This first person chronological narration is pivotal for the power in this piece. I'll say no more until the Southern group read for August 2016.

He becomes little different than the shot frogs.

Dark. Brutal.

I truly enjoyed this.
Even the darkest parts.

I've only read "Winter's Bone" by this author, and I liked the same thing about both novels. Even the most casual observance of a frog, a dirt road, a sound from an insect, is a thing of beauty. Even seemingly mundane parlance of the dregs of humanity is delivered as prose. Because there is a constant undercurrent of inhumanity, barbarity, cruelness, any moment of calm is accepted as a kindness or even affection.

Raised in the hill country of the Oza
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
Isolated and friendless, 13 year old Shug lives with his drunk and reckless mother (Glenda) near a cemetery. Forced to do “drug errands” for his abusive, low-life father (Red) and his buddy (Basil), Shug’s view of “normal” is quite distorted. His oft-drunk mother adds no sense of balance to Shug’s point of view. When a slick stranger (Jimmy Vin) rides into scene with his Thunderbird, things go even more off balance.

There’s a definitive rawness to The Death of Sweet Mister, but Woodrell handles
Nick Younker
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shane D. Keene
I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that Daniel Woodrell just became my favorite novelist. “The Death of Sweet Mister” is my first experience with Woodrell, and I probably won’t stop until I’ve consumed everything he has to offer.

This novel could easily be classified as one of those “almost to real to be fiction” types. The 13 year-old boy named Shug, also the title character, knows only poverty and a life of crime in the Ozarks, a means to stay alive. The poor kid has a derelict mother
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys 'Country noir', 'American southern' literature..
Nature or nurture?

After we'd kicked a ways down the dusty road she said, "You wake up in this here world, my sweet li'l mister, you get to wake up tough. You go out that front door tough of a mornin' and you stay tough 'til lights out-have you learned that?"
"I think so."
"Hmm. There'll come a time when we'll just see about that. Mm-hmm. I'm dead sure that time is gonna come."

Another excellent novel from Daniel Woodrell.
At first, I will admit, I was somewhat relieved to learn that Sweet Mister was a 13-year-old boy, and not a beloved pet,who was going to die. And poor Sweet Mister does die, but only figuratively.The reader watches as Sweet Mister moves from the (relative) innocence of his youth to his emergence as a bit of a monster, a carbon copy of the man who raised him.

Reading Daniel Woodrell is always a visit to a desolate, desperate world full of characters you hope aren't real, but deep down you know the
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