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Where All Light Tends to Go

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  4,818 ratings  ·  803 reviews
A Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel
In the country-noir tradition of Winter's Bone meets 'Breaking Bad,' a savage and beautiful story of a young man seeking redemption.

The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth r
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Robert Actually I was hoping for an unexpected ending. The basic happy ending would've been too predictable.

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The glaring contrast between the harsh ugliness of this storyline and the beauty of the author’s writing makes for a stunning read. This is my second David Joy and I've gotta say, he continues to impress me with his level of grit, compelling characters and poetic words. I’ve enjoyed his writing so much, this city girl is contemplating a gander at his memoir, Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey. Say what? Yes . . . that's how enamored I am with his style.

At sixteen, Jacob resigned himself to
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Daddy taught me well. Talk shit when you're free. Shut up in the cuffs. Lawyer up first chance.

Jacob McNeely's daddy runs the meth trade in the small North Carolina town. He gives Jacob the job of helping a couple of his guys take out a guy he thought was a "tattler".

They fuck that up. Daddy has to get involved.
Daddy McNeely has the town the way he wants it. With the law (bulls) looking the other way while he conducts business and his ex-wife (Jacob's mom) strung out on meth so bad that she do
Pouting Always
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jacob McNeely has tried to make peace with the hand life has dealt him, his mother is an addict and his father the cruel head of a meth ring and it seems as if all he's meant to do in life is follow his fathers footsteps as an outlaw. After dropping out of high school and breaking up with the love of his life Maggie it seems like he's gotten himself entrenched where he is. Then when Maggie graduates and a errand his father sends him to run turns south, Jacob must figure out if there is a way out ...more
3.5 stars, but who's counting?

The road back into The Creek bent and curved for what seemed forever, split off one way toward Walnut Gap and cut off another toward Yellow Mountain. That forever is part of what gave the place its lore. Folks that far removed had seldom associated law and justice with badges. The old time stories told tales riddled with bootleggers and murder, stories of copper stills on the fingers and branches of cold mountain streams, heads bashed in and buried before the blood
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harsh and brutal with not so much as a ray of hope. I still don’t know where the light goes but, not a lot reaches this part of the mountains.

Meet Jacob McNeely:
The school I’d spent the majority of my life in seemed smaller now, though looking back it had never been big enough. I grew up twenty miles south of Sylva, a town that really wasn’t much of a town at all but the closest thing to one in Jackson County. If you were passing through, you’d miss Sylva if you blinked, and the place where I w
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Noir enthusiasts
Recommended to Lynda by: On the Southern Literary Trail group
METH-AMORPHOSIS - physical and mental transformation caused by meth abuse.

- Faces of Meth

Methamphetamine (Meth) is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant drug that dramatically affects the central nervous system. It is usually illegally produced and distributed in several forms, including powder, crystal, rocks, and tablets.

In the short term, using meth causes an increase in energy and alertness, a decrease in appetite, and an intense euphoric “rush.” In the long term, a person using meth may e
James Thane
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic debut novel, beautifully written with great characters and a wonderful sense of place. Set in the rural area of Cashiers, North Carolina, the protagonist is eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely, whom we meet one night as he climbs the town's water tower to look down on the high school parking lot as his former classmates leave the building from their graduation ceremony. In particular, Jacob is searching for Maggie, the girl he loves and whose heart he broke two years earlier.

Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

"Blood's thicker than water, and I was drowning in it."

Jacob McNeely has been raised in the mountains of North Carolina by his father - a real uhhhhhhh self-made man . . . .

His momma is still around . . . kinda . . .

Unfortunately, she didn't take the advice of Fat Amy so the majority of her life has been spent scratching at imaginary bugs and other important things like looking for a lightbulb.

Jacob came to terms at an early age
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
In Cashiers, North Carolina, the name McNeely is synonymous with the meth trade.  Jacob's father runs the business and his mother enjoys the fruits of his labors.  Father is profane and a little bit crazed, his torso a veritable graffiti of tattoos.  Mom is just this side of a drooling idiot after years of sampling the product (Quality Control, anyone?).  All Jacob has ever wanted is to get out of there, but as he grows older he finds himself involved so deeply in his father's business that thes ...more
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Karen Murphy
Out of all the books in this genre that I've read this year, out of all the books I've read this year there are only a handful I can say are my favorites. "Where All Light Tends to Go" is the one that haunts me most of all of those, it's the one that I think of most often. Maybe partly because I'm familiar with areas near where this story is told, but the largest part is because it's a beautifully told story even when the story is hardly beautiful, the telling of it is poetic, lyrical, lovely ev ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Heck of a story, told with profundity and clarity, set in a stark, cursed world few see

This novel is especially praiseworthy for a debut, particularly when I compare it to some of the early works of other authors of the Southern lit (noir) ilk, like Daniel Woodrell, whose praise graces this book's cover. I keep wanting to compare this to a Ron Rash short story (like those in the stellar, sulphurous Chemistry and Other Stories) expanded and developed further into a rather short novel. By this com
Jennifer Masterson
Putting this book aside, too. Working on getting out of a book slump. Not a bad book just not the right timing.
Paula Kalin
David Joy's powerful debut novel is one you can't put down. Where the Light Tends To Go gives you a true look at life in the Appalachians. Jacob McNeely, son to a meth ring leader, is a character I could really feel for. He wants to leave his unforgiving environment, but is resigned to his inevitable fate. The reader lives through his heartbreaking romance with girlfriend Maggie.

Well written. A recommended read.

4 out of 5 stars.
Where All Light Tends to Go: Love, Light, and Fading to Black

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as the Post-1980 Group Read for May, 2015. Special thanks to Trail Member Dawn Copley for nominating this work.

David Joy has written a compelling debut novel in Where All Light Tends to Go. A student of Ron Rash, Joy obviously listened closely to his gifted mentor. Daniel Woodrell praises the novel as, "Lyrical, propulsive, dark, and comp
Diane Barnes
Apr 08, 2015 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. There were too many inconsistencies for me, too many details that didn't add up, too much that just didn't jive, sometimes in the same sentence or paragraph. The story was a good one, but in the end I just did not care about these characters or what happened to them. Too bad, but I do think this author has some promise. Maybe he can tighten things up in his next book.
Edward Lorn
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up.

First and foremost, this doesn't get all the stars for one minor nit-picky-ass reason. Some of the happenings after the halfway point were awfully convenient, and when I feel the need to stop reading because I'm struggling to suspend my disbelief, I gotta mark ya down, sorry.

Oh, and there's an odd repetition of the words "situate" and "resituate" and I have no idea why. These words pop up so much that I kept checking the title of the book to see if those words might be a ru
I was meh on this book, disengaged and disbelieving.

This kid, Jacob, is, essentially, the hooker with a heart of gold character and all his hopes are pinned on a girl, Maggie, whom he’s always loved. Only, he's not a hooker, he's the son of the small town's meth king. He thought he had found a way out of his miserable life and he was so close when some new cops, ones not being paid off, show up on the scene and go up against the methy population which, in turn, poses a problem for the cops who a
Marilyn C.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017

Dark and gritty - A solid, 4 star Appalachian noir read!
"There was no escaping who I was or where I'd come from. I was shat out of a crankhead mother who'd just been cut loose from the loony bin. I was born to a father who'd slip a knife in my throat while I slept if the mood hit him right. Blood's thicker than water, and I was drowning in it. I was sinking down in that blood, and once I hit bottom, no one would find me."
It's the hopelessness that makes this book so dark. A good boy born to a bad family and an even worse future. It's depressing.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
'There was a place where all the light tends to go, and I reckon that was heaven."

Where All Light Tends to Go is one of the darkest, grit-lit, small town NC noir, hillbilly noir - or whatever label you want to give this genre - novels I have ever read.

Set in Cashiers, NC, a town a little over an hour from where I live - which inhabits the richest and the poorest, this is a coming of age story casting a portentous shadow from the first page. The language is rough and the story raw and heartbreak
Judy Collins
WHERE ALL THE LIGHT TENDS TO GO, David Joy’s debut is a gripping harsh tale set in deep rural Appalachia— a young teen, trying desperately to escape his evil, dysfunctional family environment and pulled in emotionally by a meth-addicted mother and a sociopathic father.

A mix of Southern Gothic, noir, coming-of-age, lyrical, gritty, psychological, dark, disturbing, and compelling. The next Cormac McCarthy.

Jacob McNeely’s world has no future. It is a cruel world, pulling him into a dark world o
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-noir
There was a place where all light tends to go, and I reckon that was heaven.

Pretty good grit-lit story set in in the mountains of North Carolina. Some of the elements are fairly standard for this type of book, meth dealing family run by a no holds barred old man who will stop at nothing to keep the business going, police corruption. While many of the themes are familiar I thought the author did a nice job of creating an interesting and somewhat unusual main character, Jacob McNeely. Instead of a
Lindsay - Traveling Sister
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
So......I'm going to come across as a grit-lit snob in this. No avoiding it. I am quite sure many others will find very little fault in this book and rate it up there with all the usual suspects. I REALLY wanted to like this one- having looked forward to it for sometime on the recommendation of several great readers that I normally fall right in with lock, stock, and barrel. DO NOT AVOID THIS ONE BASED ON MY TASTES, you will probably enjoy it- quit reading this review now and come back after you ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
David Joy has a tendency to write really ugly characters that you can't help but feel empathic for in a 'I-know-I-really-shouldn't-but-I-goddamn-it-I-do' kind of way. It's that delicious southern-underbelly, coming of age, backwoods-demons kind of fiction that just sucks you right in.

And in audiobook? Oh hell yes. The narrator compliments Joy's writing perfectly.
Brian Panowich
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to read this book before it was released into the wild, but wanted to wait until the final version hit the shelves to review it. It was on this second reading of the hard cover edition that it dawned on me that the love story wrapped ever so tightly within this lean, tough-skinned character study is not what it seems on the surface. Jacob and his high school sweetheart are clearly essential to that aspect of the book, but Love, true, pulverizing, brutal, beautiful love pla ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this via AudioTheatre.
MacLeod Andrews delivers a great performance as narrator.

Surprised at how good this story turned out to be. Written mostly in 1st person, Author David Joy easily hooks you into following "Jacob's" falling-star trajectory through a lifestyle of drugs, violence and love. Hard-edged characters and a gritty landscape fill the narrative frame. Joy's writing twist into poetic passages of compelling color and detail. Held my interest throughout.
Towards the last quarter o
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Skip by: James Thane
Shelves: thriller
Much like Bull Mountain, David Joy writes about a dysfunctional criminal family in the Appalachain area of North Carolina. Jacob McNeely is the son of the local drug dealer, who has a mean temper and no compassion. Jacob has broken off his relationship with his tomboy girlfriend, when he realizes she has the potential to leave the hellhole where they live and he is keeping her there. Jacob is forced by circumstances to do things he abhors, and David Joy keeps you guessing what is going to happen ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Book Review

We hear about the poor, the underprivileged, and the ghetto bound in our country: lives, so we hear, without hope. And we hear antidotal reflections on hard work, free will, an education and personal responsibility as alternative agents to such hopelessness, suggestions typically made by the successful and privileged. There is truth in both statements - the latter offered as medicine to the former - and yet a giant abyss separates the two. Can the one without hope make it to the other
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This is the second terrific book by this author that I've read and he has made me think more highly of grit lit (although I still think the genre is tainted by too many clichés and too much melodrama).

Despite the violence that surrounds him, 18 year old Jacob is a sympathetic character, and believable in his resignation that he is trapped by his circumstances. His father is a meth dealer who will do (or command the doing) of anything necessary to keep his business going. The police mostly look
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David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, 2018). His memoir, Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction ...more
“Only the middle ground of this wicked world mattered, the vast gap that stretched between, and those who were born with enough grit to brave it.” 5 likes
“Some souls aren't worth saving, I thought. There're some souls that even the devil wants no part of.” 4 likes
More quotes…