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


4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,943 ratings  ·  302 reviews
“Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit.” —The Washington Post Book World

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green.

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimate
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Algonquin Books (first published 1980)
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 Joe, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,943 ratings  ·  302 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Joe
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sociologist could use Larry Brown's "Joe" as a Southeastern study journal. Larry knew these people, heart and soul. The goodness of heart in some and the evil souls of others. "Joe" tells a gripping story.

You would not want Joe in your family. He is only gonna let you down.
Would you want Joe as your friend? Good choice if you do. Through thick or thin, Joe is there for his friends. Doesn't matter your station in life, if you're Joe's friend then he'll celebrate the good times with you and he i
“Coke, then whiskey, Coke and then whiskey. He wiped his mouth and capped the bottle and lit another cigarette.”

I felt hot and sticky, grimy, parched, and a bit reckless while in the company of Joe and this cast of down-and-out, law-breaking, drunken, gun-toting, and sometimes vile cast of characters. I wanted to crack open a beer (I don’t drink beer!), swig it down in three gulps and toss the can over my shoulder without a care in the world. I wanted to jump in the shower and wash off the filth
Diane Barnes
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Joe was a bad husband, loved his wife but just couldn't stop drinking and carousing. He was a bad father who never took much interest in his kids. He's done prison time, drinks too much, likes to play the cops for fools when he can; you might say he's one to stay away from. But he has a good heart, and he's a mighty good friend to have when you need one.

Gary is a 15 year old lost soul who needs a friend, needs a job to help his family, isn't afraid to work, and has a father who is evil incarnate
Larry Brown sets the scene in Mississippi as a family trudges down the road carrying all their possessions. Gary, one of two central characters is described as “small, but he carries the most.” This is a prophetic description. His family has lived all over in many small towns, in tarpaper shacks, and in ditches by the side of the road. In this story, they will stop to take up residence in an unclaimed cabin. Gary is fifteen, he thinks. He has no birth certificate. As the story develops, I empath ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone, especially those who enjoy Southern Literature
Recommended to Lawyer by: Diane Barnes
Joe: Down and Out in Mississippi

I finished Joe last night. As always, Brown captured me through his staccato prose. The dialogue is a mirror of life among the have nots. Brown's sense of place is carved as sharply as his characters. The hard scrabble setting of north Mississippi is perfectly described.

Brown's cast of characters might well have travelled the roads of Faulkner's The Hamlet, rarely making it into Jefferson. Here are the Snopeses, Varners, and their neighbors. They're not ready to b
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-writers
I can't recall how I stumbled upon southern writer Larry Brown, but I thank Christ I did. He's become one of my favorite authors of all time. He passed away several years ago, and I truly miss his work. JOE was the first Brown book that I read and I was immediately hooked. Larry Brown had such a feel for characters, place, conflict, pacing, and plot. He was a master. ...more
Judy Vasseur
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alcoholics, smokers, NRA members, pit bull owners, pickup truck owners
Recommended to Judy by: Ron in Atlanta and Fans of Southern Literature

Hell fire! Nothing to do? Have you a cold beer and a double banana moon pie. Slip your pistol under the seat, roll the window down and cruise through a hot Mississippi night in your dented pick-up.

Ants, bees, the bugs of summer, keyed-up guard dogs, coons, snakes, are all characters as vivid as the humans in this beautifully written novel. The major characters are inanimate: liquor and firearms.

Rambunctiousness is one thing, pure evil another.

There is a caste-system in this country. Those that h
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hillbilly-noir
It seems strange to say that I "liked" a book so filled with unpleasant characters doing nasty deeds, but I did. Larry Brown goes to some dark places, but his writing is so fine that you won't mind the journey into those unlit areas. He knows these rural denizens, driven by poverty and boredom to seek an escape, any escape from their lives of misery.

Brown instantly becomes one of those authors that makes you say, "I gotta read everything by this guy!"
RJ - Slayer of Trolls
The second novel by the late, great Larry Brown features criminals and drifters, parolees and dumpster divers; those looking to elevate themselves, those just trying to get by, and those who wallow at the bottom of society and drag others down with them. There are no moments of true joy, only brief moments of hope that are often squashed and which lead more often than not to greater despair, despite a mildly redemptive arc for the title character. Squeamish, avoid.
Judith E
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern, fiction
Joe Ransom is one of the most complex characters I’ve had the pleasure to “meet”. Wade Jones is one of the most despicable characters I’ve come across. Larry Brown’s creation of these characters takes place in the backroads of Mississippi, with an abundance of Deep South dialogue that doesn’t detract but enhances the setting and the pacing of Joe and Wade’s “meet up”.

Brown slowly moves the reader through the daily life of Joe who drives a beat up pickup truck, complete with shotgun rack, slurpi
Lars Jerlach
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joe by Larry Brown is a gritty, often repulsive, sometimes difficult to stomach, but ultimately immensely affecting and powerful novel.

Brown’s subjects are a bunch of poor, and always down on their luck Southern rednecks who exist on the road, in shacks, trashed trucks and dilapidated mobile homes. From hour to hour, from cigarette to cigarette, from beer to beer with no apparent goal of meaning these people scrape a meager existence in the most depressing of circumstances. Most of the characte
Horace Derwent
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, Larry Brown at his best, and the best book of 1991(awarded by Publisher's Weekly and National Book Association)

The author no more told us a simple story about simple people with a matter of how good defeats evil

That man and that boy, them meets at a cross-road somewhere in Deep South. He sees a young he when he sees him, and he's trudging his rut, and he ain't wanna see him doin' this. Both of them cud be saved by each other, and both of them cud get to Hell if one of them two goes awry. Bu
Richard Derus
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Publisher Says: Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down—not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he is the son of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, and he’s desperate for a way out. When their paths cross, Joe offers him a chance just as his own chances have dwindled to almost nothing. Together they follow a twisting map to redemption—or ruin.

Kirkus, back in 1
Fay, Father and Son, Joe. That’s the current order, liable to change at any time. Except I can’t imagine an order where Fay wouldn’t be first. I’m glad to know that when she walks out of the story in Joe, she walks right into her own.
Betsy Robinson
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Joe is like living a whole other life. It’s gritty, rough, and exhausting. But oh, can Larry Brown write. Rural Mississippi is as much a character as all the hard-drinking men and the two main characters, young Gary Jones who finds a skewed but noble mentor in Joe Ransom.

This is my third Larry Brown book. I may wait until I’m feeling more grounded and energetic than I do right now to read another.
Tom Mathews
Gritty with a capitol G. I generally like southern grit but this book lacked almost any redeeming value. To top it off, the ending was a real head-scratcher. I've heard really good things about the late Larry Brown, but this was a disappointment.

My thanks to the folks at the Pulp Fiction group for introducing this and many other fine books.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
You might be a redneck if you read this novel, and you feel as though you’ve met a few of your kin. You might be a redneck if you read between these pages, and you feel like you’re coming home. You might be a redneck if words like y’all and fixin’ to flow freely from your lips. You might be a redneck if JOE makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You might be a redneck if you’re building relations with your second cousin on your mama’s side. You might be a redneck if you whistle between the ga ...more
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story deals with characters that you may have read about before in other southern tales, ones that you may have seen in town, your local, but had never got to know more of.

The author deals with big problems in families and communities, a tale dealing with lesser than over the picket fence dream family, you get another slice of ones not quite living that dream but finding their way through the pitfalls and making decisions to make a change.

This story revolves around three men, three generati
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must of read a different book than y'all did. The story was slow, with little happening, and an unsatisfying end. The characters were mostly uninteresting and underdeveloped, with occasional hints, and stereotypical: the men were all drunkards, and the women interesting mostly in companionship (or sex.) Male arguments were either resolved with guns, knives or fists. White trash. ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was good, but not as good as Father and Son.

Brown is/was a talented writer, whose strength seems to be in the simplicity of his language and the powerful images his writing elicits in the reader's mind. It just goes to show, a really good writer can throw away his thesaurus and still create beautiful and literary prose.

Brown is also a master at creating a subtle sense of tension and feeling of hopelessness, which is a hallmark of Southern Gothic Fiction...the life sucks and then y
Robert Blumenthal
This is a book of Southern literature. I have seen many comparisons between this author and William Faulkner. I have read but a short story of Faulkner's, so I am not that aware of his writing. This book is a gritty, character-driven story of an alcoholic ex-con and the 15-year old boy he somewhat takes under his wing. The boy is living with a total bastard of a father, also an alcoholic, along with his mother and two sisters in a decrepit, abandoned shack in the woods of Mississippi. He meets J ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: William Faulkner enthusiasts. David Goodis readers.
Recommended to Still by: Goodreads Friend Col
Shelves: tbr
Unforgettable masterpiece.
I might write more tomorrow but tonight I'm just not up to doing it justice.

Previous Notes:

November 12, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read

April 8, 2018 – Started Reading
April 8, 2018 – page 0
0.0% "My last and final unread Larry Brown novel."

April 8, 2018 – page 54

April 14, 2018 – page 106
30.11% "I've been caught up with current events for the past several days. Outrage daily intensifying, I need to return to the world ...Mississippi of my twenties."

April 14, 2018 – page 1
Sour whiskey, flat beer, stale breath, rank sweat, musty clothing, and the reek of urine and unbathed bodies. The stench coming out of the pages of this novel will most certainly linger in your mind for a while. You can almost smell the foulness within this book. Makes you want to take a shower or wash your hands just thinking about it.

The characters in Joe are hard, redneck and, for the most part, heartless with few exceptions. Joe, the main character, is a horrible husband and an alcoholic wi
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? I LOVE Larry Brown. I cannot be the least bit
rational or objective. I see his flaws (though they be of the sort I wish I could cultivate in my own work) and I don't mind
that the descriptions are sometimes overlong, the sentiment sometimes just a tad old fashioned. This was a writer with a heart as huge as the world. His authority to tell it like he sees it, and hang the consequences, makes for the cleanest and most heart rending prose I can think of. I get lost in his realities
Jul 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Southern-fried gothic. Grab a bourbon, put your car up on blocks, get depressed, and read this book. Not bad 'tall. ...more
Jim Marshall
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to recommend this book, but I’m not sure of the language I can use to praise it or of the audience I could praise it to. It is a dark, violent, painful book centered on poor, white, trailer-dwelling people in contemporary, rural Mississippi. One of the main characters, Gary, is fifteen years old and has to be taught how to brush his teeth by a whore who has been bought for him by Joe, other main character, who makes a living by driving a team of black men to poison first growth scrub tree ...more
Andy Weston
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-gothic
This wonderful piece of southern noir recounts the encounter, harmless enough at first, but gradually getting grimmer, between the Joe, a small-town contractor, and a desperate and deprived family of squatters. Wandering the countryside for years, scrounging and scavenging, the Jones’s take up residence in a derelict house, formerly that of the father, old man Wade, before he was driven out of town. The old man’s depravity is limitless, a dreadful figure, a serial abuser. His son Gary, wants bet ...more
Kirk Smith
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haywire, messed up 50 yr. olds are just not an exotic enough or engaging enough subject for me. One point deducted, credit given for flawless spare style.
Reading this, some of the better parts were the descriptions that would appeal to anyone with some rural background. The rich earth smell of dirt turned behind a plow. The surprising amount of powder dry dust that collects in a house abandoned for fifty years. A teaming wasps nest in a sun baked attic. There are hundreds of those experiences
Millard Johnson
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like "earthy" southern books you may like Joe, or anything by Larry Brown. If you like vivid living characters, you will probably like Joe. If you like powerful minimalist writing, you will probably like Joe. You get the point!

I am both a writer and a reader. Larry Brown is, for me, among the top 5 most important writers of the 20th century -- along with Raymond Carver, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Oddly, I made my book club read Joe and most of them did not like it -- so this kin
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of; William Faulkner, William Gay.
Shelves: southern-gothic
"I think he cut somebody. He just got to where he stayed in jail all the time. He's on probation right now."

"He is?"

"He was. Motherfucker dead now."

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Feast of Snakes
  • Knockemstiff
  • The Long Home
  • The Heavenly Table
  • Provinces of Night
  • Hell at the Breech
  • Twilight
  • I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Body
  • Poachers
  • Outer Dark
  • The Orchard Keeper
  • The World Made Straight
  • The Devil All the Time
  • The Fighter
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
  • Blackwood
  • Airships
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Larry Brown was an American writer who was born and lived in Oxford, Mississippi. Brown wrote fiction and nonfiction. He graduated from high school in Oxford but did not go to college. Many years later, he took a creative writing class from the Mississippi novelist Ellen Dou

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
37 likes · 11 comments
“Couldn’t get no closer and couldn’t get no further away.” 10 likes
“The road lay long and black ahead of them and the heat was coming now through the thin soles of their shoes. There were young beans pushing up from the dry brown fields, tiny rows of green sprigs that stretched away in the distance.” 10 likes
More quotes…