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Gob's Grief

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  567 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In the summer of 1863, Gob and Tomo Woodhull, eleven-year-old twin sons of Victoria Woodhull, agree to together forsake their home and family in Licking County, Ohio, for the glories of the Union Army. But on the night of their departure for the war, Gob suffers a change of heart, and Tomo is forced to leave his brother behind. Tomo falls in as a bugler with the Ninth Ohio ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Vintage (first published May 19th 1999)
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Showing 1-30
3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  567 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Oct 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not nearly as wonderful as Children's Hospital, but still quite good. For awhile I thought this was going to be a five star book, but the bottom sort of dropped out of it towards the end, but not in too major of a way. This book really needs to have a new blurb written on it, and maybe the cover changed (especially on the paperback), since making this book seem like a Civil War novel is like saying that Gravity's Rainbow is about World War 2. Actually the Pynchon book is so much more about a war ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-finished
Well, I feel bad because this book has gotten really high marks and excellent reviews on this site. But after reading half of it, I just didnt find it all that interesting. The writing isn't lacking, the characters aren't ill conceived nor poorly developed. Just didn't seem like much...happened. And maybe the second half is a barn burner, but working at a library, I'm tempted by books at every turn and sometimes my will is weak. I'll try and stay true next time Gob, if you'll have me back.
Rebecca McNutt
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, fiction, war, death
When Gob's brother, Tomo, is killed in the war, Gob grows up grief-struck and wanting to make a huge difference. Gob's Grief tells the story of a man destined to do the right thing, even in dire times.
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A book that sits ambiguously between epic, lyric, and science fiction. Though it's light on the science, often invoking magic as a deus ex machina, it is actually quite heavy on the medicine practices and beliefs of the era.
Grief is the theme that binds all the major characters of this story, tho each one's grief is different and taken on different effects. Interestingly enough, Chris Adrian wrote this out of his own grief for his brother's death. For all its history, its fantasy, and its pathos
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
A very strange & probably very good book whose strangeness did not particularly appeal to me. Three different characters who have lost brothers in the American Civil War get caught up in Gob's (a fictional son of Victoria Woodhull who also lost a [twin:] brother in the war) effort to build a machine to destroy death & bring the dead back to life. Because of the Woodhull connection, there's lots about postwar social movements such as spiritualism, woman suffrage & women's rights, the ...more
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
They see (and hear) dead people. Several characters in Chris Adrian's debut novel (2000) are in contact with the dead. Gob Woodhull is not, exactly, but it is Gob's guilt, grief and obsessions with his twin's death — and his desire to bring him back from the dead — that are the fulcrum on which this strong and odd tale turns.

In 1863, Gob's brother, Tomo, runs away from home to join the American Civil War (bugler); Gob chickens out and runs home, and his guilt is all-consuming after Tomo is kille
David Mahaffey
Nov 22, 2009 rated it liked it
A compelling premise undermined by a lack of imaginative language, by structural shortcomings, and by unfulfilled expectations.

The gothic ideas put forth are exciting, and the author does not shrink from depictions of the grotesque, but I was hoping for more precise and lyrical language. There are outbursts of the kind of writing I expected from the novel, but their presence only highlights the absence of consistently good writing.

Much of the best writing comes about 100 pages into the novel, i
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This was an accidental and unlikely read, a random grab at the library, that turned out to be a complete joy. It's sold as a historical novel, set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and so it is, to the same extent that Moby Dick is about catching whales.

Gob's twin brother Tomo runs off to join the fight one fateful night in 1863, aged 11, and is ingloriously killed like so many others a few weeks later. Gob is prostrated with grief and guilt and devotes his life thereafter to cheating
Annabel Joseph
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It was written by an old friend of mine from the University of Florida (we haven't talked in 25 years, so our ancient friendship did not influence this review.) It's not a book I would normally have read based on the setting and back cover blurb, but it drew me in from the start with the lyrical writing and the way it made me feel like I was part of every scene going on. The author put a twist on historical events, introducing characters like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Wh ...more
Sep 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The novel has a little unnecessary repetition, because of the way the author follows multiple narrative threads through the same chunk of time. But despite this minor flaw, it is some of the most deeply moving prose I've ever read. In part I think that stems from the startling amount of historical and psychological accuracy Chris Adrian achieves. He gets you into the mind of Walt Whitman, takes you convincingly through the building of an elaborate "grieving machine" that will bring back the Civi ...more
May 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Weird, historically playful, and very, very beautiful.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book gets off to a promising start when Gob and his brother Tomo set out to join the Union army. Then the story switches to Walt Whitman helping injured soldiers in a New York hospital. Then it switches again, to Gob's efforts to build a machine that will bring back the dead. There are dead brothers and angels, two of Adrian's recurring themes. His imagination is unmatched, but a byproduct of this might be the book's eventual lack of focus. The transition of Gob's family, the Woodhulls, from ...more
Brian Wasserman
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Endless seesaw of dialogue and exposition written in a tired contemporary tone that is appallingly anachronistic, the author has a tendency to elaborate on details too tedious for us to care, if anyone calls this lyrical the choir master must be blind and singers merely deaf.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting premise, but not great execution.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Loved his style of writing, but this is a bloody weird book. I am not sure even now whether I liked it, but I am interested in reading more by Chris Adrian.
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readownedloved
Talking about my reactions to Gob's Grief would probably be about as difficult to talk about if I tried to review a book that, well, really I'm going to have to review also now called Weiland, or the Transformation and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. For Weiland, it was one of the first books I had read in a long, long time that just struck a chord in me at times where there passages and thoughts expressed that were so chillingly like certain perspectives of my own that I often find difficulty ...more
Eleanor Toland
Gob's Grief is a sprawling and incredibly strange story about a man determined to bring his brother back from the dead, against an epic backdrop of child soldiers, the American Civil War, women's suffrage, Victorian spiritualism and Walt Whitman. Whitman is one of many historical figures to feature in Gob's Grief and he is not a mere historical cameo but a major character, a gentle messiah for nineteenth-century America.

Whitman isn't the protagonist, though. This is George 'Gob' Woodhull, obses
Patrick Faller
Jun 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'd picked this surprising little gem of a first novel during my obsession with first books. In Adrian's case, I chose to jump over THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL to try on his first book, and I'm glad I did. in three parts, the novel revolves around Gob's constructing a machine to bring back those who died during the Civil War, his brother Tomo in particular. The three parts focus on three different characters whom, while skeptical about Gob's implausible creation, find hope in the outside chance the ...more
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nathanial by: hubcap
Shelves: fantasy
Engrossing--Adrian plays with time in a very convincing way. Follows a tight-knit plot (lots of scene, very little summary, close 3rd POV with much internal monologue) for a short period of time (a few years), and ends this first hundred pages with a dramatic crisis. Then he switches POVs, goes decades back in the past, and jumps from scene to scene, ending years before the initial crisis. This portion is shorter, but the next one is even shorter yet. It follows yet another character for a few y ...more
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do we deal with lost? Mostly with remembrance we embrace those that are no longer with us. But what if that isn't enough? For George Washington Woodhull, Gob, loosing his twin brother in America's Civil War wasn't the defining moment of this life. Bringing him, and along with all the dead from all of time, back to life is. To master death is to master all things, for death is the master of all. Gob's plan is the channel all of his grief into the machine, that will bridge the living world wit ...more
Coral Davies
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strange book. It's undeniable how beautifully written it is and also how poignant the focus of the book is for most people - our own mortality and our desire to cheat death and live forever. It is however a bit slow and the ending was confused.

It tells the tale of a young boy called Gob who chickens out on following his twin brother Tomo to war. Tomo unfortunately is killed on the battlefield leaving a grieving Gob desperate to find a way to bring him back from the dead. He sacrifices hi
Tom Romig
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the strangest yet most absorbing and rewarding books I've read. I'm at a loss to describe it in a way that wouldn't be offputting. Loss, death, insanity, visions, voices, ghosts. The supernatural and the incredible. And, of course, grief, a grief perhaps powerful enough to break the bonds of mortality. Chris Adrian presents a phantasmagorical but ultimately bracing view of the hard realities of what we're fond of calling the human condition.

Chris Adrian's ingenious pairings of people, eve
Brady Dale
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Brady by: The Economist Magazine
The first 20 pages or so blew me away, but after that I don't remember what happened. I read it a long time ago.
There was a rash of stories at that time of young, much sought after writers writing novels where the same story is told several times from different perspectives. This is one of those. Alongside The God of Small Things, which I also had no use for - so take that into consideration.
I tested my assessment by making my mother try to read it and she still talks about it as one of my most
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Walt Whitman, Civil War deaths, magic, suffragettes, a machine to conquer death. Strange mixture of the historical with the fantastical and emotional worrying-at on the part of the main characters. Structurally, there's the repeated lost brothers - natural enough given the war, of course - which somewhat collapses the different stories into each other, robbing them of their individual strength and reducing them to examples.

All the disparate elements didn't really come together for me, but it's e
Nate D
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Chris Adrian is inscrutable. When he wrote this book, he was working on his now-complete medical education; since then he's finished his residency, gone to divinity school, and recieved a Guggenheim Fellowship The unitary vision that must underlie this tale -- of 19th century pseudo-science, suffrage, disassembled theology, necromancy (seriously!), moral compasses fluttered free from their moorings, and the sundering of brothers (issuing, of course, from that great and terrible sundering of brot ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I gave one star because, as a piece of literature, it was well written. I liked that the point of view changed for each section. I gave it another star because it was full of awesome vocabulary. I love learning new vocabulary.
I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It was a dark novel. Granted, my opinions are what most would call conservative, but I didn't find anything wholesome or valuable in the story. I did find: obsessive relationships; a depressing, hopeless view of death; child masturbation;
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
so it took me two tries to actually get into the swing of this book, and mostly i persevered because it's chris adrian. i found the first two sections much less compelling than the rest of the book, the first sort of prequel part, and whitman's part. whitman is just too much, i find him annoying and a little baffling, and while i realize things are being set up, it doesn't seem like we need that much for that long.

however, once you get past whitman to gob everything picks up and is much more th
David Hambling
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The writing is lyrical, the research is impeccable, and the premise -- building a mystic machine to abolish death and bring back the dead, specifically those killed in the American Civil War -- is intriguing.
But the enterprise is undermined by an irritating structure that takes us through events three times without adding much: yes, we got the point some time ago, now get on with it.

The numerous gruesome deaths, rape and paedophilia don't really add a lot, and look suspiciously as though they
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Chris Adrian was born in Washington D.C. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he attended Harvard Divinity School, and is currently a pediatric fellow at UCSF. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009. In 2010, he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
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“I wanted to tell you that I was so sad I felt as if I might be happy, or in love, simply because such powerful feelings can appear the same to the naive. I was mighty with grief, and I thought I should be empowered by it. I thought my hands should shine with a yellow light, and that should I reach out to touch our mother on the head, I would call her back from the place she'd gone.” 2 likes
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