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The Butcher's Sons

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This darkly lyrical and violent family saga set in a butcher shop in New York circa 1930 tells the story about three Irish brothers, each struggling to find their role--to define their lives and express their dreams--amid the poverty of a broken home, alcoholic father, and the violent society of Hell's Kitchen. Dickie is guided by an almost animal desire to get what he wants and, as a fighter, is fearless in his pursuit of being respected by mobsters. Walt, the middle brother, romances a woman whose educated father sees the lad as gutter trash. Then there is frail Adlai, who finds himself on the most perilous path, an illicit affair with his oldest brother's best friend. The Butcher's Boys is an engaging read about desperate young men determined to do whatever they can to find something gilded amid the grime of old New York.

256 pages, Paperback

First published April 13, 2015

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About the author

Scott Alexander Hess

10 books58 followers
Scott Alexander Hess is the author of five novels, including Skyscraper, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and The Butcher’s Sons, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015. His writing has appeared in HuffPost, Genre Magazine, The Fix, Thema Literary Review, and elsewhere. Hess co-wrote "Tom in America," an award-winning short film, starring Sally Kirkland and Burt Young. He teaches fiction writing at Gotham Writers Workshop and curates Hot Lit, an LGBTQ+ themed monthly newsletter. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Hess lives in New York City with his husband.

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5 stars
18 (50%)
4 stars
9 (25%)
3 stars
6 (16%)
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2 (5%)
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1 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Kazza.
1,441 reviews150 followers
October 31, 2015
This darkly lyrical and violent family saga set in a butcher shop in New York circa 1930...

Yep. That's The Butcher's Sons. Darkly lyrical, as well as gritty and real. With tangible and beautifully drawn characters of their time, complete with an engrossing story.

If you're looking for standard "MM romance," keep on going because that's not what this book is. Three brothers - two are het, one is same-sex attracted - and all their individual story's are vividly laid out here. It's an ensemble cast with the brothers having equal page time. There is love but it's not a romance, it's so much more. It's lit-fic and one of the best books I've picked up this year.

It takes me a while to write a long review, and the review is long, so the full review is at

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Profile Image for Chase Hackett.
Author 2 books136 followers
August 14, 2019
This book was a real wow. Three brothers make their way along the very separate paths they’ve chosen to get out of the grit of Tenth Avenue, paths that inevitably conflict.

I loved Hess’s careful evocation of the period and place—Hell’s Kitchen in the 30s. You get a terrific sense of the sights, sounds, smells of this place.

A really marvelous book.

Profile Image for George Seaton.
Author 53 books31 followers
June 24, 2015
That should be 4.5 stars. A dark read that tells the story of three Irish brothers holding together their father's butcher shop in Hell's Kitchen during the Depression era. The sons, each with their own passions, struggle to make their way in an time and place that provides small comforts and difficult challenges. The only off putting thing about this story--for I do love dark--was an extended narrative from an ancestor that seemed to break the rhythm of the storytelling itself. But that's just me. Otherwise, this is wonderful read by a very talented author.

Profile Image for Joseph Ferguson.
Author 11 books154 followers
December 13, 2015
In 1930s New York, the lives of three brothers working in their father’s butcher shop diverge and intertwine as each finds his own pathway to manhood.

This is a brutally dark, lyric fairy tale in which three brothers – one violent, one indecisive, and one gay, quest for life, while finding their places within a shattered family. Characters are established right away when eldest brother Dickie pushes youngest Adlai to the ground over a perceived slight. Middle brother Walt does not respond, but Big Ed, a member of the Butchers, Dickie’s small-time Irish gang, finally helps. The sheer gravity of Dickie’s violent temperament drags all the brothers along. In an effort to go big time with the Butchers, Dickie intrudes on a meeting between rival Italian mobsters and ends up shooting one of them. Later, he sends an Italian bagman packing by smashing a pickle jar on his head. These acts garner the attention of Frankie, a sharp-dressing Italian mobster. After kidnapping Dickie, and beating him to a pulp, Frankie offers him a job as hit man, with the caveat that the brothers also work for him. Beautifully written, infused with symbolism, and baptisms of blood, fire, and water, each character reaches epiphanies in their separate journeys. Adlai, on the threshold of coming to terms with his homosexuality feels, “He was thinking like another person, an older person, a man from the future…he was aware of a newness coming through him.” (78) Meanwhile, they find love. Dickie meets his match in a black woman named Eva; would-be doctor Walt, falls for Adriana, whose physician father despises him; while Adlai enters a dangerous but fulfilling homosexual relationship. When Dickie’s plot to fix Walt’s romantic problems backfires, the family hides out together in an upstate cabin where their zombie-like father, Pat, rises from the dead, taking charge. At once gritty, poetic, vile, and romantic, Hess’ masterful, elegant style weaves diverse elements into a seamless narrative touching the heart of what it means to be human.

This compelling tale is a must for Hess fans, and an excellent introduction for everyone else.
Profile Image for Damian Serbu.
Author 14 books113 followers
January 7, 2016
This is a great story. Intense. Passionate. I loved the tension and love the existed in the family, all at the same time. The romance is lovely, and the brutality a realistic horror in it. The writing is very, very good. It drives you to keep reading and keep reading until the end. Only one annoyance: some typos, such as missing spaces or a ., or .. Just distracting, but not enough to lesson my great joy at reading this story.
Profile Image for Karolinele.
18 reviews
January 15, 2022
I really wanted to love this book, but I found it difficult to connect emotionally with the characters.
1 review1 follower
March 2, 2023
Hess creates a finely wrought tension of three brothers heading towards individual disasters yet manages to end on a note of hope. Loved this book and hope there's a sequel!
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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