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Work Like Any Other

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,475 ratings  ·  284 reviews
In this astonishingly accomplished, morally complicated, “exceptional and starkly beautiful debut” (Kevin Powers, National Book Award–nominated author of The Yellow Birds), a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama struggles to overcome past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter.

Roscoe T Martin set his sights on a new type of power spreading a
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Scribner
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,475 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Angela M
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A family on a farm in rural Alabama in the 1920's , a family torn apart by perhaps pride meant to bring them together, the misery and pain of prison life touched at times by friendship and moments of satisfaction - this story is about so much . It's about loss - loss of one's self , loss of dignity , of family , having to make peace with your past before you can move ahead , about not being able to forgive and about the capacity for forgiveness and about redemption.

There are alternating chapter
Diane S ☔
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is the 1920's and electricity is spreading quickly, but not yet to rural areas. Roscoe, a young married man gives up a job he loves with Alabama power and light, to make his home with his wife and son on the farm left to his wife by her father. He, however, is not a farmer and their marriage is floundering because of his unhappiness until he gets an idea to wire the farm by tapping into the power lines servicing the town. A unfortunate death will send Roscoe to prison, it will also send the b ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this because it was on the long list for the Man Booker Prize in 2016 and my local public library had several copies (and a co-worker had already requested one of the other copies!)

This is not a sweeping, multigenerational novel or historical epic, nor is it an experimental or startling work. As such I am a bit surprised to see it on the Man Booker list, but recently they have had a few titles that are about smaller lives. This would be one of those instances. Roscoe is an electrician in
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written historical novel -cum- morality tale was longlisted for the 2016 Booker, and at the time I was not trying to read the whole lists, so I have only just caught up with it. My only criticism is that the ending provides a rather too neat moral conclusion that seems pretty unlikely for 1920s Alabama.

The first part of the book alternates two parallel stories. An omniscient narrator introduces the main protagonists Roscoe and Marie, who are struggling to maintain the farm she h
Elyse Walters
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
"No one gets paroled their second time. There doesn't seem much point to try"
I thought this was one of the most interesting sentences in this worthy of discussion.

Roscoe T Martin, didn't get paroled his second time around as he imagined. "We are denying your parole. Your next hearing will be in two years". Will it??

The BLURP tells TOO MUCH!! It spoil things for me a little.
However, the side plot was additional enjoyment. Not being an electrician, I enjoyed the course teachings about
Viv JM
This book was a real slow burn for me. For the first half, I was thinking it would be 3 stars at most. The premise was interesting, the writing felt competent, but I didn't really feel at all emotionally invested. After that, it definitely picked up and I found myself much more interested in what would become of the characters, Roscoe in particular. The last few chapters were rather poignant and raised a lot of questions about blame, responsibility and forgiveness. I struggled somewhat to unders ...more


Roscoe T. Martin siphons off electricity of the power company's lines near his and his wife's farm. Electricity being the solution for the struggling farm, things are starting to look up and are finally going well, for the farm and his family. Until a company employee gets electrocuted when inspecting the illegal lines. Now Roscoe has been arrested and hauled to jail.

As someone with a technical background, I could imagine how he must've felt when everybody around him showed their mistrust an
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
Elegant, beautiful, heart breaking.
My View:
I think what I loved most about this read was the quietness, the stillness. Despite so much tension, aggravation, violence and anger seeping through the pages of this novel, this was a particularly quiet and sensitive read, perhaps the considered responses by the protagonist contributed to the restful way I embraced this narrative; despite the harshness of the conditions, the punishment being served and the crime committed, Roscoe T Martin remains resp
Between the blurb and the first paragraph, you already know everything that’s going to happen. I admire books that can keep you reading with interest even though you know exactly what’s coming, but this isn’t really one of those. What Reeves’s strategy suggests is that the crime and its unintended consequences are not the important thing here, but rather Roscoe’s years in prison and what they do to his relationships, especially with his wife.

Ultimately I would have preferred for the whole novel,
After Roscoe T Martin siphoned electricity from his old company to the farm his wife Marie had inherited from her father, the farm had two prosperous years. Marie had no idea the electricity powering their farm had been acquired illegally, but when the Sheriff came to take Roscoe away, she and their son Gerald had no idea of the changes their future faced.

It was the 1920s in rural Alabama and Roscoe was charged with illegally using the electricity, and also of manslaughter – the fate of a young
"We are born with some things in our veins, coal for my father and farming for Marie's and a deep electrical current for me."

Work Like Any Other is a quiet novel which tells the story of Roscoe T. Martin, a talented man in 1920's Alabama whose passion and calling was working as an electrician for Alabama Power. When Martin's father-in-law dies, his wife, Marie, presses him to move to her childhood farm. Having neither the skills nor interest for farming, Martin is adrift until he decides to bri
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley
This was a very moving and accomplished first novel set in Alabama in the 1920s. Roscoe T. Martin, his wife Marie and their young son Gerald are living on a farm inherited from Marie's father. Roscoe is a reluctant farmer, but he finds a way to use his former career as an electrician by illegally wiring their farm for electricity. This crime leads to a terrible accident resulting in Roscoe's imprisonment for manslaughter.

Roscoe is a good man who meant no harm, but he winds up paying for his act
Britta Böhler
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, fiction, femlit, debuts
I enjoyed the elegant writing and the quiet style. I found the structure of the book sometimes a bit muddled, though, and I thought the novel wanted to do too much, tell too many strories, so some of the main characters (especially Marie, Roscoe's wife and Wilson, Roscoe's friend who helped with the illegal electricity lines) remained rather sketchy.
But, remembering this is a debut novel: 3.5*
Oct 17, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I usually err on the side of generosity when handing out stars unless it is so bad it's unreadable from the first. Let's give her 1.5 stars.

Starting with the most improbable of story lines -- someone (in the 1920s no less) taps into electrical transformers whose electrical current leakage eventually causes the electrocution of an innocent bystander -- the novel doesn't get any better from there in terms of inconceivable scenarios, unimaginable race relations reconciliations, and flimsy plots all
Ravi Gangwani
'Slowly this book saturates inside you and culminates in your blood.' I have thought to write this line after reading its 80-90 Pages and then a tumult and I am knocked off ...
Seriously this is nominated for Man Booker? I asked myself

How to quickly read this book:
(1) Read the blurb it will cover around 70% section of the story.
(2) Watch 'Shawshank Redemption' it will cover 20% part.
(3) Read last 30 pages that will give you an ample idea of what happened in last.
(4) Assemble all the above mentio
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This book was too long. As many other reviewers have said, it seems like an overblown short story. And none of the motivating passions (electricity, the land, lost motherhood) really ring true or fit together - something sounds a consistently false note and that falseness makes it difficult to connect to any of the characters.

What makes Marie tick? Her character is domineering and cold, but what is her motivation? When we get the big reveal ((view spoiler)
Jessica Sullivan
Continuing with the #ManBooker nominees...

What defines a man? Is it his vocation? The worst thing he's ever done? His guilt? His redemption?

These are the questions at the heart of this somber, poignant little novel about Roscoe T Martin, an electrician at the turn of the 20th century who ends up in prison for his indirect involvement in the death of a man.

It should have been simple: Roscoe came up with a seemingly harmless way to steal negligible amounts of electricity from the nearby city to po
“The electrical transformers that would one day kill George Haskin sat high on a pole about ten yards off the northeast corner of the farm where Roscoe T Martin lived with his family.”

With the first sentence of "Work Like Any Other" Virginia Reeves drops the reader right in, before she then retraces the steps of her story and takes her time to carefully, elegantly and quietly explore her theme. It's a story of guilt, redemption and forgiveness set in Alabama in the 1920's, a time when electrici
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-booker, 2016
Well, I have to say that I think the book description here on Goodreads should have a spoiler alert: there's not a lot of plot left to discover after reading that!

I enjoyed reading this story of a family in rural Alabama in the earlier part of the 20th century. You only have to read the book blurb to know it's about a man who is an electrician, steals electricity for his farm and someone dies so he goes to prison. I suppose the interest of the story comes from his time in prison (reading that pa
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Alabama at the dawn of electricity, the story moves between a rural farm and a prison. It's interesting but didn't really move me emotionally. A lot of potential that stopped just short of great for me.
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
This book had a huge impact on me. I was completely spellbound by this story of a man who I felt was unjustly accused of manslaughter. Roscoe Martin was an electrician by trade but left his field to try to work on his wife’s family farm. The work didn’t suit him and caused difficulties in his marriage. So he did the only thing he knew how to do and that was to bring electricity to the farm. And his efforts were successful until an electric company worker is killed when he finds Roscoe’s illegal ...more
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Until at least halfway through this debut novel, I was thinking it was at best a 3 star, and was wondering why it even got nominated for the Booker. The structure irritated me, alternating chapters in the third person with first person narration by the main character - this was interesting and innovative the first 8,473 times I'd encountered it, but it has become a hoary cliché of modern writing. The timing of certain events also seemed off (wait, isn't Gerald only 12 years old - what's he doing ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reeves has amazingly clear and precise prose. It doesn't quite reach the levels of catharsis I hoped it would, and some of the characters more powerful moments came off as muted because of it. Despite that, this book is really good. The premise is interesting and the author is unafraid to give long technical explanations (which are imbued with the characters passion for them, thankfully).
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our shadow panel reviews are up I the blog. Check out how we rated this book:
Tara - Running 'n' Reading
As with the aforementioned title, I was excited by the premise behind this debut: a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama struggles to overcome past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter. This could easily have been a win for me because it includes several elements that I really love! I know, I know, I can be a really picky reader. There's nothing wrong with conversation back and forth between characters in a long as it propels the story forward. After ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this on so many different levels: the 1920's rural Alabama setting; the realistic portrayal of a flawed and damaged marriage; the prison scenes reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption; and how electricity transformed society and those who resisted this change. Lately I feel like each time I pick up a debut novel it is a gamble to see if I will enjoy it but this was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed Virginia Reeve's writing style and look forward to her future works. Solid 4 stars.
Gumble's Yard
A well written book – which although far from exceptional, builds over time and is in its way quietly powerful leaving a moving impression of broken relationships, judgement and failed redemption, one which lingers and grows after the book is completed.
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even with Wilson there, it was just work – work like any other, like milking and cleaning stalls, building pens and running dogs, rolling carts down narrow aisles, organizing cards, memorizing numbers. It was picking at coal veins on your side and breathing rushes of coal dust, awaiting explosions, lifting and loading. It was tamping and shoveling and pitching. And work is measured in time as much as it is measured in pay. I am uncertain how many hours of running equal a man's hand, his wrist,
Set in rural Alabama in the 1920s, this novel examines one man's struggle to come to terms with ending up in prison when his ill judged attempt to provide for his family goes horribly wrong. Roscoe shouldn't be a likeable character but somehow he is, as he goes about the work allocated to him by the warden. At times he doesn't seem very smart and his marriage is obviously not as successful as it first appears. But as the novel progresses you get a sense that he is improving and working out his p ...more
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This historical novel set in rural central Alabama in the 1920s and 1930s begins with tragedy, as the reader learns that a man has been killed close to a farm where Roscoe Martin lives with his wife Marie, who inherited the land after the death of her father, and their son Gerald. The farm is struggling, as the meager profits from the crops aren't enough to pay for farmhands to harvest it, and Roscoe, a trained electrician who dislikes farmwork, is embittered about the seemingly hopeless situati ...more
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The Mookse and th...: 2016 Longlist: Work Like Any Other 8 54 Oct 06, 2016 06:12AM  
ManBookering: Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves 32 102 Oct 05, 2016 09:10PM  
Play Book Tag: Work Like Any Other - Virgina Reeves 5/5 1 12 Aug 21, 2016 10:51PM  

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Virginia Reeves is a writer and a teacher. A graduate of the Michener Center for Writers, her debut novel, Work Like Any Other, was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the Man Booker Prize. Booklist named it to their Top 10 First Novels of 2016, and the French translation, Un travail comme un autre won the Page/America prize and the SensCritique prize for best American de ...more
“Let the prison library not only meet the recognized needs of the men, but inspire them in further efforts. The reading habit once firmly fixed is among the best safeguards for any man.” 5 likes
“Marie’s father was a farmer—yes, always—but he was also a reader. These were his two occupations, he told me. “Are you a reader, son?” he asked early. “Yes, sir.” “That’s good. A heap of books is the only foundation a man needs.” 1 likes
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