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A Million Heavens

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  728 ratings  ·  132 reviews
On the top floor of a small hospital, an unlikely piano prodigy lies in a coma, attended to by his gruff, helpless father. Outside the clinic, a motley vigil assembles beneath a reluctant New Mexico winter—strangers in search of answers, a brush with the mystical, or just an escape. To some the boy is a novelty, to others a religion. Just beyond this ragtag circle roams a ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by McSweeney's
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3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  728 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Jason Sinclair Long
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think maybe some of the reviewers who didn't like this book either don't like this KIND of book or don't know how to read this kind of book. There are a lot of negative comments regarding the "disjointed plot line," etc. Yes, like many other authors have done in the past and will continue to do in the future, Brandon switches between several inhabitants of a prescribed geographical area. And then he ties all the disparate stories together in the end. For me, in this case, it works. The writing ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-work
I guess I forgot to tell you guys about this one when I proofed it, sorry. It's kind of a slower burn than his previous books; it felt a little draggy at the beginning, but all of a sudden I was so immersed in it and it just tears through from there on. Unsurprisingly, being John Brandon, it's really super sad, but it's a bit more plangent than the previous ones, and less cruelly fucked up.

Also, jeepers, look how pretty that cover is! Oh, McSwy's, you can do no wrong.
Diane Yannick
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
A Million Heavens drove me crazy. How dare the author write such a disjointed narrative and then tie it together so beautifully in the last few pages? John Brandon can write beautifully but I wanted a story that I could dig into without keeping a journal of 'symbolism that I should (but don't want to) think about'.

I plodded through narration by a wolf, a gas station owner, a dead guy, a mayor, some guide, Arn, Dannie, Cecilia, Soren's father, and assorted others. I know the characterizations wer
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really liked this novel. It fits together like a half-dozen character studies. It seemed disjointed at first and I had some difficulty fitting the pieces together, but by the last 1/2 I was truly transfixed. Awestruck in the last quarter. A beautiful, creative narrative about loss and need and connection and the things we are willing to give away. I look forward to reading more of his writing.
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I want very badly to give this book 5 stars because so much is done so well within it, but then there's the wolf, and Reggie. Honestly, if these two characrer weren't there, getting in the way, and insisting on a direction, I think Brandon's other characters, all so wonderfully crafted and honest, might have taken the story to even better places.
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I love libraries, and I love librarians who take a chance on books that may not make it to the best-seller lists. (I don't know how they choose, but if anyone would like to enlighten me, I'd appreciate it.) Here in Seattle/King County we have great librarians. In the past year I've taken a chance on five books that ended up to be 4/5 star titles. All from the library, all off the shelves on a whim - lucky me. A Million Heavens makes it six.

A child prodigy who taps the universal chords for all of
Steve Bauman
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and structured.

Initially it seemed too clever for its own good--the wolf-perspective chapters were kind of, "oh yeah, it's a McSweeny's book, herp"--but Brandon does such a superb job of tying everything together... it's just an impressive piece of work from start-to-almost finish. The ending is a bit perfunctory, though in some ways that's probably for the best, as it may have tried to tie things together too neatly with too much detail about the final fate of coma boy/musi
Suzanne Zeitouni
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I'm not usually a fan of mystic realism and this parable seemed stretched at times. A group of disjointed misfits whose stories entwine with the meanderings and symbolic maulings of a wolf, leave the reader in free fall at times. This work was more poetry than narrative and while I appreciated the lyrical qualities I became bored with the journey.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Slow, a bit bizarre, glad when it ended.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Book: A Million Heavens

Author: John Brandon

Published: July 2012 by McSweeney’s, 272 pages

First Line: "The nighttime clouds were slipping across the sky as if summoned."

Genre/Rating: Literary fiction; 3/5 songs, written by the man you loved who died, filling your mind until you can think of nothing else

Review: I am an unabashed John Brandon fan.

His Citrus County was one of my favorite books of last year, and I’m still looking to get my hands on his Arkansas (my library isn’t the best at stocking
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tentatively 4 stars.
In my mind, I bounced back and forth between 3 and 4 stars as I read. I had 3-star "It's good, but why should I care?" moments and 4-star "Daaaaang this shit is legit" moments, and ultimately the latter won. I think.

Reggie is dead. Soren is in a coma. These are not spoilers, because the back of the book will tell you as much. The book isn't so much about them as it is about everyone around them; the majority of the main characters don't even know Reggie or Soren, but they c
Apr 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: lapl
Cecelia, The Wolf, The Mayor, Reggie, Dannie, Arn, The Gas Station Owner, Soren's Father, The Piano Teacher, The Wolf, Dannie, The Gas Station Owner, Arn, Cecelia, The Mayor, Reggie, Cecelia, The Wolf...these are subheadings cutting up the entire book every two or three pages. These characters all relate to each other but not in a very interesting way. Additionally, each character is referred to in third person by each name above which is tiresome and annoying when you have to keep reading "The ...more
Tarin Towers
"A Million Heavens" follows about a dozen characters as they live their messy lives in and around shitty small towns in New Mexico. Events center around a young boy who currently lies in a coma, having collapsed after playing beautiful, original music out of nowhere. His piano teacher feels guilty. His father is a wreck, refusing to leave the hospital. Legions of residents of the area hold weekly vigils, with mixed motives.

One of these, a young community college student named Cecilia, has also
Sean Owen
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
John Brandon has done an impressive job of carving out a recognizable style with only a few books to his credit. The Brandon style has a very strong sense of place, though "A Million Heavens" is based in the New Mexico desert rather than the sprawl of northern Florida that was the home for "Citrus County" and several of his short stories. Brandon's books have a multitude of perspectives rather than a single leading voice. These characters are nearly all united by a sense of dissatisfaction or ye ...more
Sep 13, 2013 rated it liked it
If John Brandon writes like anyone, he writes like Kurt Vonnegut. The content is completely different, of course, but the structure of the sentence is remarkably similar. Short, simple sentences, often beginning with the name of a character, full of matter-of-fact detail, and frequent little bursts of philosophy.

My first book by Brandon was Citrus County, and while that one was a page-turner, this one has very low tension. If it were a movie, it would be one of those indie flicks with lingering
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although I puzzled through much of this book wondering where it was going and how it would tie its various and seemingly unrelated story lines together, I ended up loving where it went and ultimately loving the book itself.
John Brandon is a good solid writer and certainly not someone unfamiliar with the oddities of the human condition; Citrus County proved that. Phrases jump out and meld together seamlessly. There were a number of times I found myself stopping and thinking, "now that's a really
Dan Walters
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, read-in-2014
I was prepared not to like this very much. The idea of the supernatural, after-life aspect of the book didn't appeal to me much. In the end, though, I loved it like the rest of Brandon's books. I can see why someone might consider the book "slow", but in the end it's definitely worth it.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: indiespensable
Went into this book having no expectations and really liked it. I was intrigued by all the characters and their intertwined stories. Would recommend it to anyone who loves good characters and stories.
Lauren orso
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2012

Tis a rare gift to make you feel less alone and much, much lonelier.
Andra Watkins
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Characters I cared for mired in the stew of many I did not. A couple of them propelled me onward, and I finished not exactly sorry I stuck it out. A new experience.
Oct 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars. Great cover, but sadly, a rather pointless, predictable novel filled with characters that all sounded the same.
Starr Williams
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone looking for the answer without knowing the question, willing to do a lot of work for it
Shelves: reviewed

This book is about loss and life and your reaction to both. Following a recently divorced woman, a tragic teenaged girl, a mayor of a failing town, the father of a possible piano prodigy now in a coma, a wolf losing his place in the world, a dead boy forced to write music, and many more, it sheds light on the arcs of life without seeming to care much if the reader follows.

I liked this book in general. I think the characters were interesting, particularly Arn and Reggie, but it just wasn't compe
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm a little confused about this one. By all accounts, it was a book I should have liked. Character-driven, with an interesting premise. Takes place in the American Southwest. The characters interweave in an interesting way. All-in-all, I think I would really like writing an analysis of this book. But I just didn't really enjoy reading it. I think I've narrowed it down to the characters. Like other Character-driven novels, it feels very entrenched in the characters rather than the plot, and it's ...more
Deborah Bausmith
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
There’s quiet gathering of people in a parking lot outside an Albuquerque hospital clinic. A child piano prodigy lies in a coma. There’s a “motley group” of people, loosely connected, in a struggling nearby town of Loft, woven together by a wandering wolf.

I might have quit when I got into the book, but I was invested enough to read on to see how this almost-surreal story would connect. Some connections were made, but couldn’t detect others. I bet my former high school teacher would be all over
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I really thought I was going to like this book, and was quietly disappointed. The prose is beautiful in some parts, the characters well drawn, the setting interesting... and yet it just failed to lift off the page. The number of narrators only served to take me out of the story, even though they were all interesting in their own right. The stories didn't seem to come together in any sort of satisfying way at the end, and the number of narrators didn't seem earned. It took me almost a month to re ...more
Maridith Geuder
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Set in the New Mexico desert, this book features the landscape as a shaper of the many voices featured in its narrative. Characters range from a dead Reggie who may or may not be in heaven to a wolf, a failed mayor, a gas station owner who wanders in the desert, and many others. Original in its structure, it aptly captures the interior lives of all the characters. I was bothered by spelling/usage errors sprinkled throughout.
Kaitlyn Vaden
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I reallllllly enjoyed this book. Before reading it I read some of the reviews and I disagree wholeheartedly that there were too many characters. Everyone had their place in the story and it all came together beautifully.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was one interesting, but strange novel. Had to read to the end! Cast of characters, for sure. Enjoyed it, however.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
After several attemtps, I didn't finish.
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read

As engaging as any novel I've ever read. Loaded with characters, location and heart. My world was enriched. Thank you Mr Brandon.
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Although John Brandon is an MFA graduate of the writing program at Washington University in St. Louis, while drafting the novel Arkansas, he "worked at a lumber mill, a windshield warehouse, a Coca-Cola distributor, and several small factories producing goods made of rubber and plastic." In his spare time, he obsesses over Florida Gators football.
“Anybody can justify anything. It's what separates us from animals. It's a waste of time, though, isn't it-sitting around justifying when there's so much to be done?” 3 likes
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