Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Cementville” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.66  ·  Rating details ·  106 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Cementville has a breathtaking set up: 1969. A small Kentucky town, known only for its excellent bourbon and passable cement, direct from the factory that gives the town its name. The favored local sons of Cementville’s most prominent families all joined the National Guard hoping to avoid the draft and the killing fields of Vietnam. They were sent to combat anyway, and sev ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Counterpoint
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Cementville, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Cementville

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern
This falls somewhere between a 4 and a 5 so let's round on up. I was bombarded with characters at first trying to wrap my head around who was who. When I stepped back and saw each chapter like it's own short story I really started loving how the author presented the town and it's people. Hold out till the end for a nice shock. You won't have all your questions answered but it was not a distraction. I'm still thinking about the title and what it means to me as I read the story. I have a few theor ...more
Heather Fineisen
Paulette Livers opens her debut novel with the death of a group of young men in a National Guard Unit in Vietnam from the same small Kentucky town, Cementville. The aftermath and the social structure of the town reveals the relationships and a murder mystery. This could be any town, any time, any war. The hierarchy of the families, the secrets, and the complex relationships don't just exist in Livers' fictional 1969. The books strength is also it's weakness-- Characters. Memorable characters-a y ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, l

In late spring of 1969, a picturesque southern town is turned inside out by the deaths of seven young National Guardsmen in a single Vietcong attack. The return of the bodies sets off something inside the town itself—a sense of violence, a political reality, a gnawing unease with the future—pushing the families of Cementville into alienation and grief.

The town appears blind to the PTSD of Harlan O’Brien, POW and war hero, even as his horrific experiences bend his mind in
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Where I got the book: free e-copy provided by publisher on NetGalley. This review first appeared on the Historical Novel Society website and in the May 2014 issue of the Historical Novel Review.

This debut literary novel is set in 1969, in a small Kentucky town that produces cement and whiskey. A funeral cortege brings home seven dead Cementville soldiers, all members of the National Guard whose families had expected them to remain safe from the conflict in Vietnam, and one surviving, maimed hero
Geoff Wyss
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an impressive debut novel, one whose lyrical prose and closely observed ensemble of characters reveals the author's love for her subject matter. The book is both a (deep-looking) snapshot in time and a study in the disintegration of that moment. The novel is set in a small Kentucky town during the Vietnam War, a town receiving the bodies of six National Guard members killed in a single battle. Livers branches out from this central tragedy into the interconnected lives of the soldiers' fa ...more
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Cementville is rural America in disintegration. When William Slidell the town founder led his entourage: “The land was beautiful, if a bit hillier than the newcomers might have wished. Dense with woods and full of game. Rocky too, being a quilt of deposits from the ages, riddled with shale and limestone, petrified mussels, corals, and trilobites, the fossilized remains of sea creatures. Every square foot of alluvial bottomland they freed of stone yielded not just good farmland but the building ...more
~ Veterans of war: this story understands you. ~

Seven veterans of the Vietnam war -- most of them still teens -- return home to Cementville, Kentucky, in coffins. An eighth, the only survivor of the raid that killed his brothers in arms, rides shotgun in the lead hearse as the cortege rolls into town. He's been medalled -- he's called a hero. It's 1969, and Cementville, known for its cement plant and renowned for its bourbon, harbours just over a thousand souls. Everyone knows everyone else, or
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it

Paulette Livers' first (but hopefully not her last) novel, Cementville, is a solid effort, though I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had maintained a conventional story arc, rather than being an elaborate set piece (describing a series of tragedies that befall a small Kentucky town during the Vietnam War, after seven National Guardsmen from the town, killed in an ambush in Vietnam, are sent back home). I really like Ms. Livers' writing style, though it took me a while to fall in sync wit
Who says nothing ever happens in a small town? There’s a lot going on in Cementville and it doesn’t all begin when seven coffins from Vietnam are returned to the small Kentucky town. Aside from being about war and its aftermath, Cementville, the novel, is also about small town life and how lives are shaped before birth. A Ferguson will always be a Ferguson, a Slidell always a Slidell. Expectations differ according to one’s last name. It’s difficult to break free, even when bound by tragedy.

Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
In this compelling portrait of a small Kentucky town, named for the cement works in its midst, Livers explores the impact of the loss of seven of its young men in an ambush in Vietnam. They had joined the National Guard hoping to avoid the draft but were sent to fight anyway, and only one survived. The arrival home of these dead young men has a profound and unsettling effect on the whole community and seems to unleash a wave of violence every bit as horrific as that in Vietnam. All the character ...more
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They always say, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." But that is the first thing that grabbed my attention about this book. Something about the cover and the way it was executed really pulled me in.

I have to give this book 5 stars because not only did it keep my attention throughout, it also had me laughing, crying, and gasping out loud. I loved the section where Death made an appearance and the twist at the end I never saw coming.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book to people. Wonderful job!
Rebecca McNutt
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Cementville plants readers into one of the most influential times, the year 1969, during the horrific Vietnam War. The residents of the small industrial town of Cementville are only just coming to face the war, and this amazingly-written and sad yet hopeful novel shows the turmoil, recovery and confusion that came along with being sent overseas.
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Please read. A depth of characterization and knowledge of place unequaled. You will thank me.
Murakami Akemi
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I found the premise of this book very interesting simply because it wasn't the sort of thing I would pick up very often. The book promises to "provide a microcosm of a society shedding the old order and learning how to live with grief," and it most definitely succeeds at that.


- The writing style. The author's writing is very vibrant and drew me into the story from the very first page. I was able to really clearly pictu
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Paulette Livers' Cementville has much to recommend it. The sense of place and time is present throughout. For example an important character reflects upon the city as an active part of place, and thus of Southern culture. From her point of view society makes particular standards for women and for men. These standards are part of civilized society. Even as gendered and class guidelines have been set out, deviation from these guidelines results in some type of punishment, at least they are shunned ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, e-book, netgalley
Cementville is a small town in Kentucky. It was named for its now defunct cement plant and in the year 1969, the population is only 1,003. Eight young men from the town were sent to Vietnam and seven of them have just been returned in coffins. The eighth, football hero Harlan, who lost a leg in Vietnam and should return to a hero’s welcome, has instead returned to a town immersed in shock and grief.

The story is told from many viewpoints. There is young Maureen, Harlan’s little sister, who writes
Lolly K Dandeneau
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Cementville is a story that shows how war changes not just those who fight it, but the family and community. Two coffins are coming home with one survivor who has been wounded(a former quarterback rescued from a prison camp). Maureen is the teenager standing witness to everything as it crumbles. Lt. Harlan O'Brien is suffering PTSD (little understood back then) and with the war a terror burrows into the minds of the town, a deep fear for the future. Giang Smith left behind the horrors of Vietnam ...more
Allison Hiltz
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, fiction
In 1969, Cementville (aptly named for the cement plant that drove the local economy) was a town in decline. Its boys were off at war, some willingly and some unwillingly, and the production levels at the plant were slowing down. As the town quietly adjusted to a new way of living, the shocking deaths of seven of their own and the amputation of another lit a match under the already simmering tensions. First, there is the Ferguson family – a large brood known for their drunkenness, promiscuity, an ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book! The author's writing style was lyrical and accurately portrays a small Kentucky town in 1969 after 7 men from the town are killed in the Vietnam War and many others returned from the war forever changed. It captures family and the lengths people go to for family. It accurately depicts PTSD and how family members deal with it.

This book was smart. The plot was perfectly paced in a way that made you want to keep reading. Livers wrote authentic, real characters that come
Mary Hawley
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“We feel them coming, the low vibration of their wheels, a dark convoy descending upon us, pitching north like a swarm lobbed from the fist of a spiteful deity.” The opening sentence of Paulette Livers’ debut novel Cementville draws the reader into the life of one small Kentucky town, beginning with the afternoon that the bodies of seven of its young men, killed in Vietnam on a single night, arrive home for burial. As the community struggles to cope with this unfathomable loss, it also tries to ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Cementville" might seem like an absurd name for a town, named after a cement plant, yet my own mother spent part of her childhood in a town called Concrete - so christened when the towns of Cement City and Baker merged in 1905.

So right off the bat I was drawn to the idea of a story set in a small town where the biggest thing happening is a declining cement factory. Cementville is a layered tale, with myriad characters whose individual stories are intertwined in the way that the lives of folks
Marsella Johnson
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was uncomfortable to read, an era I was a teen in. It brought back all the turmoil and change that I felt at that time. Civil rights, the women's movement, Vietnam. We were a typical liberal, dysfunctional, middle-class family that was transferred from California to Florida for the Apollo Space Program. Astronauts, space flight and going to the moon were the focus of my family, it was a culture all it's own. I was insulated,but yet I felt all it's turbulence. Unfortunately for authors, ...more
Paula Schumm
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and Counterpoint for an advance copy of Cementville by Paulette Livers.
Cementville is a village in Kentucky that has been adversely affected by the Vietnam War. Seven men have just returned home in coffins. As the story unfolds, murdered bodies keep turning up. Whodunit? There are a couple of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, a crazy man just released from the insane asylum, a violent alcoholic who beats his wife, a drifter, and a draft dodger home from Canada
Dec 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was given an advanced copy of this book by Elle Magazine, but unfortunately I really have nothing good to say about this book. The story is of a tiny, depressed town in rural Kentucky that loses its favored sons to an ambush in Vietnam. This is subject matter I would never have chosen to read had it not sent been sent to me. The style is disjointed and impersonal, jumping to a different perspective in every chapter without much continuity nor a strong sense of time. I had no empathy for any of ...more
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I really enjoyed this book. I received Cementville from the author as a Goodreads giveaway. When I first started reading it took me a long time to tie all the characters together after all this is a story about a town. While reading, I was taken back to a time in my own youth growing up in small town. The author did a good job of showing us the pain of individual lives in a 1970's town after the war. This is a book that I will recommend to others and might read again myself.
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Took me a long time to get through this one...although the storyline should've been captivating, I found that I wasn't interested enough in the characters or their stories. The twist at the end seemed really out of context. I liked the description of the small town life in Appalacia, but the rest wasn't redeemable.
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very smart, beautifully written, entertaining and very affecting novel - such an original voice, and Livers is a master at evoking the feel of this small community in Kentucky, with its diverse characters and sensibilities. Such a fine novel, and stunningly, her first.
Ann Kling
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This story of a small town in Kentucky suffering from the loss of its young men in Vietnam reminded me of my home town and the way it was in 1969. The characters are quirky, but realistic. The mood is not upbeat. Worth reading.
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
the use of many voices in the community reminded me of Russell Banks's The Sweet Hereafter, which also begins with a senseless tragedy.
I believe this is a great book, I think I will try to read it in the future. It's just not pulling me in at the moment...
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Back to Barbary Lane: The Tales of the City Omnibus (Tales of the City, #4-6)
  • A Cat Named Darwin: Embracing the Bond Between Man and Pet
  • The Douglas Notebooks
  • Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience
  • Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son
  • Days in the History of Silence
  • The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War
  • Mildred Pierced (Toby Peters, #23)
  • The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort and Spiritual Transformation
  • October
  • Jewelweed
  • The Wasted Vigil
  • Succulent Wild Love: Six Powerful Habits for Feeling More Love More Often
  • The Private Thoughts of Amelia E. Rye
  • To Make a Match (Scandal in London, #3)
  • Farming, a Hand Book
  • The Way of Transition: Embracing Life's Most Difficult Moments
  • Flying Time
Paulette Livers is the author of the novel Cementville (Counterpoint Press), recipient of the Elle magazine Readers' Lettres Prize, and finalist for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year, and the Kentucky Literary Award. Among recognitions for her work are fellowships and grants from the Artcroft Foundation, Aspen Writers Found ...more
More about Paulette Livers
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »