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3.49  ·  Rating details ·  243 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Critically acclaimed Well marks the astonishing debut of an author with a singular and unflinching voice and vision. Set primarily among the working-class of a Seattle suburb called Federal Way, this highly original novel-told in the form of interlinked short stories- extols the lives of a large cast of characters lost in various modes of darkness and despair. Whether stru ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 2nd 2004 by Grove Press (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  243 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Ian "Marvin" Graye
Get "Well" Soon

Initially, this book evoked Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” and Raymond Carver’s short stories, but it soon became apparent that McIntosh’s characters came from a similar milieu to those in William T. Vollmann’s “The Rainbow Stories” and “The Royal Family” (only Seattle's Federal Way versus San Francisco's Tenderloin).

The major difference between McIntosh and Vollmann is that the former is more interested in the people, whereas the latter self-consciously prioritises their transgress
Lee Klein
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Through the first half of this I was thinking it's perfect, fragmentary structure interlinking all these people, the general place the primary character, everyone sort of desperate, unrestrained, drinking too much, drugs, violence, white northwestern urban poverty, Seattle area, a place called Federal Way, like a lower middle class strip near the airport, all of it expressed in clear, flowing, unpretentious, active, dramatic, moving language, often veering into really well-done sex scenes that w ...more
Simon Fay
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
There's a Hubert Selby Jr. quote on the cover:

'A book that still resonates in my heart.'

I can see why they sent him a copy. A large portion of the early stories in the book read like somebody affectionately imitating Last Exit to Brooklyn. They're not bad, just a bit bland in comparison. Even the time period, written some two or three decades after Selby's book, is oddly undeveloped. The down and outs, strippers and alcoholics that populate the stories would be just at home in 1970's New York as
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Matthew McIntosh's fantastic(ly brutal) themystery.doc was recently published. This is his first novel (2003). What he does in this one is pretty much what he does in the second one. But he does it better today. So much better. So so so much better. I mean, Well starts out almost in cliche land re: the sadness and brutal life of the depraved and society's most bottom dreck. Both books get blurbed by Selby Jr ; but it's the first that fits in his world ; the second is pretty much beyond him. Nice ...more
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: can't remember but some bugger on GR
Shelves: novels, short-stories
I've put 'novel' and 'short stories' down as they are really connected stories (in the manner of Winesburg, Ohio)...

review later
was a bit annoyed by it really, all the capitals, columns, silly titles (to my mind, here's one of the 'chapter' titles - THOUGH OCCASIONALLY GLARING OR VIOLENT , MODERN COLOR IS ON THE WHOLE EMINENTLY SOMBER. Is it though, as Catherine Tate's Lauren* would say?). And it purports to be a novel when in fact it is a collection of stories, albeit sometimes linked. And it d
Apr 25, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book about like-able characters, and McIntosh forces the reader into their minds. Much of the book is written in a particular style of first-person that is unusual, but sometimes creepy - the characters are either talking directly to you, the reader, or you are part of their thoughts. These characters deal with fear, pain, and addiction - not always in the best ways or ways they can even express. The connections between stories, when I found them, were thrilling, but I'm not sure i ...more
Getout Ofmybookcorner
I couldn't work out whether to give this book a 3 or a 4. But then I thought, if this book was in my shoes it would give itself a self depricating 3 - so a 3 it is.

Whilst it was almost captivating that a book could feel so hopeless and bleak, I kept feeling as if round the next corner, there would be some sort of redemption or glimpse of contentment...

This book will leave you clawing at the walls of your own well, and I hope you make it out, because you're on your own.
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Dark, memorable -- busted places and people. Young writer with a bunker full of talent. The stories are subtly connected, at least by place, and a lot of them don't follow any kind of standard structure, which is refreshing, as is his voice. Hard to triangulate but I can't forget these characters. Reminds me of Hubert Selby Jr.'s style. ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
In the Library of Congress information about this work, one category for it turns out to be "working class fiction" --- a term I haven't seen before, but an apt one in this case. This book turns out to be a series of mini-stories and vignettes set in and around Seattle --- some of them were previously published in some magazines. Occasionally some characters turn up in several of the chapters/situations, so the degree of inter-weaving of the tales is limited. It's hard to say that the chapters - ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I started this having read Mystery.doc first. There is a part of this one that is reprised (almost paragraph for paragraph for at least two pages) in his later book, and I can see how his mindset hasn't changed much when he writes.

This is definitely a "guy" book -- there's a story in here that was published in Playboy, and as soon as I started it, I was like, "This feels like it belongs in a men's magazine". His stories have that voice, that masculinity that feels guilty for existing and danger
Lauren Blake
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not really sure what happened in this book but that didn't stop me from completing the thing in a matter of days. Weirdly wonderful. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A work of fiction that offers glimpses of dark realities. Human but not trite.
A quick but heavy read.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Not my cup of tea
J. M. Stein
Mar 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
Came highly recommended but not for me.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hated
Nigh unreadable. Disjointed scraps featuring unnamed, unconnected characters, snippets as unrelated as the flashes caught when flipping through television channels.
Erica "ET" Barton
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is by E.T. Barton of the BookReviewersClub. E.T. says this book is aboutA young Adult Novel. The author wrote this book back in the 70's. She likes the writers voice. A story about a boy named ender. He lives in a world that is being attacked by aliens. Earth is in pretty panic and they created this program where they implant a monitor in the back of children's head. They monitor their thoughts, the monitor their lives and the ones they find qualified for their program they then take t ...more
Karen Germain
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
This past weekend I was in Silverlake and I stopped into Skylight Books, a very cool new bookstore discovery! I found "Well" on the staff recommendation table. Apparently, it had been one of the stores top ten best selling novels for the past several years. I had never heard of it, but it looked promising, so I bought it.

I finished it in one day. It's one of those books that I kept wanting to read just one more chapter and couldn't put it down. The book is hard to describe. It's a sort of a seri
Jul 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Nirvana fans circa 1993
The author is definitely talented, but this is his first book, and it shows.

Basically a scattershot of loosely connected essays, all of which center around the sad people in a sad town who go about their sad lives being sad.

After a while, the style and content became a little too repetitive, and I lost interest. However, it's clear that the author is talented (and sad) so I will check out his future work.
The most depressing thing ever. Matthew McIntosh's well-written a bunch of vignettes about assorted miserable, down on their everything Americans mostly around Federal Way, Washington. The characters mostly blend into one another, seeing the one common thing is just how horribly miserable their lives are. Enjoy! ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not as even or accomplished as it could be, and more a collection of short stories than an actual novel. But moody, atmospheric and well-written - a fascinating piece of work where location is a more real character than the humans who inhabit the stories.
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Series of essays shedding light on the dark side of life and humanity. Set in a local bar, dingy apartments and the neighborhood off a major freeway, people's lives persist, and hope struggles to find a stronghold. ...more
Dec 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Most of the time it feels like McIntosh is trying to get through his chapters or stories at Hemingway speed, with less success. Most everything feels incomplete. There's a great variety of outlooks, narrations, moments, but it was hardly ever fulfilling to read. Fun titles. ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"...and it's getting closer and I'm waiting, and I don't know what I was thinking while I waited other than it's taking so damn long to get here, and I'm tired and I feel like I've been waiting all my life." ...more
Oakley Merideth
Sep 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fictions
While this collection of inter-related short stories is inconsistent in parts, it does ultimately coalesce into a tight package of narratives all of which challenge the reader with a fundamental question: how does one handle a desire that they are not fully aware of?
Alex Fernie
Well written, but occasionally becomes tedious. It is more a series of interconnected short stories than a traditional novel.
Luke Thoburn
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A disturbing book, depressing and dark. But well written and wholly captivating.
Patrick O'Neil
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Sort of interesting......
Aug 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Are you looking for some local lore? Look no further than McIntosh with his portrayal of Federal Way... Aurora gets some airtime as well.
katie king
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
don't think i was in the right mind frame when i read's interesting and i would have loved this book if i read it while in my teens or twenties. ...more
Robert Davis
Jul 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, seattle
I need to reread this...I gave up after one character dropped the F bomb 20+ times in row. (Great writing?) UGH
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Matthew McIntosh (born in 1977) is an American writer best known for his 2003 novel Well.
McIntosh is a native of Federal Way, Washington. He graduated from the creative writing program at the University of Washington after years of being enrolled on-and-off, during which time he held numerous menial jobs. He also attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. As a second-year works

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