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Round Rock

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  285 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
In a small town among the citrus groves in the Santa Bernita Valley, so the locals claim, nothing ever goes according to plan. "It's a great place to live, they say, if you like surprises: it's just like life, only different."

Certainly a number of Rito's inhabitants--fewer than a hundred in all--are surprised to be living here. Red Ray, for instance, a wildly alcoholic la
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Vintage (first published June 24th 1997)
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Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
I went back to this novel after reading BLAME. I am always interesting in an author's first novel. It was rocky in many places and uneven. I stuck with it but I thought it needed much more editing. There were parts of the story that simple didn't belong and some things that were just a little too pat even for a first novel. It was published by Random House after all.

The author is obviously touched by alcoholism as this theme and sobriety runs through both of her books. This the tale of a fellow
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
If I read fiction, I would read Michelle Huneven. Don't be mislead by her last name, Michelle is
very ...even.
Geoff Wooldridge
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This round rock rolled slowly and failed to gather sufficient moss to make it truly interesting.

Set in the Santa Bernita Valley of California, not far from Los Angeles, the Round Rock of the title is a farm for recovering alcoholics, run magnanimously by Red Ray, himself a reformed drunk, whose marriage was a casualty of that condition.

Lewis Fletcher, an academic of sorts, who needs to dry out and get his life back on track comes to Round Rock and immediately forms a strong bond with Red.

Lewis m
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Would give it 4.5 stars if I could. Great book
Sean Kinch
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this book and everything about it. Would now read anything by Huneven.
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the third Huneven novel I've read--I started with Blame, then read Jamesland a little while later--and I understand this was her first, though it would've been hard to tell, her writing is so mature and elegant. It's set in the Santa Bernita Valley region of California, and her descriptions of the area and the little town of Rito are so eloquent that I could form a perfect picture of the citrus and avocado groves, the river, and the mountains in the distance; perhaps I was helped along b ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
After enjoying "Blame" I wanted to read this one, too -- Huneven's first, and an award-winner. As with "Blame" the setting is almost its own character: California's Santa Bernita Valley and small town of Rito in this case. Clearly Huneven knows her way around alcoholism and recovery, since they are central to the plots of both books. In this one, it was a bit harder to get through the early chapters because it was hard to keep track of all the characters introduced. But it was worth the effort, ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-authors
Here's the last 50 pages made easier than it took to try to get through them before I gave up:

"It's the Circle of Liiiiiife
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Liiiiife."

Before that, this was a great novel, with characters worth getting to know and follow, and a fictional Southern California valley that feels like it could have been real, until it ran out of steam at that point and just drifted. How
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Huneven has an amazing knack in this novel for turning alcoholic, addictive, jerk face, assholes into Shakespearean-ly lovable characters. My favorite is the support character of Sally Morrot, who never actually appears physically in the novel's action. I enjoyed the writer's sense of humor about human foibles as well as her intelligent and eloquent use of language. A wonderful, compassionate look at the human condition in all its messiness. A favorite quote:

" ' Grief seems to be a form of obse
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to be in a writing workshop with Michelle Huneven this summer, and she is awesome.

I'm always happy when a book actually surprises me, when there's a twist I don't see coming. That happened in this book and was great. I actually gasped! Michelle creates strong, believable characters and pulls you into their world so easily. Also, the vivid setting descriptions make me miss California terribly (what doesn't these days?). Enjoyable read, although I think I liked
Hanje Richards
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I have decided that in this stress-filled period of my life and at this stage of my life, what I am really looking for in a book is characters that I care about and someone to tell me a good story.

I felt like this book did both.

Looking for more fiction with addiction and recovery themes and more fiction set in California (this one also covered both of these criteria as well).

Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I struggled through the first 75-100 pages. Normally, I wouldn't keep reading if I had so much trouble to begin with, but something kept me reading. I think most of it, however, was bias as I live in SoCal and am fascinated by the valleys. None of the characters felt relatable at first, then 1/3 of the way through suddenly felt flushed out. Especially Lewis, who took a sudden turn and felt human.

I'm glad I stuck it out, but all in all, it left a lot to be desired.
Sara Van Dyck
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fict-h
This book might have more meaning for someone concerned with recovery from alcoholism, but I found the characters pat and their struggles with relationships not leading to much understanding on anyone’s part. They do a lot of feeling and talking, but not enough reflecting . I felt as though I was in a very small universe, where the characters all mean well, everything somehow works out comfortably, and nothing outside matters.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really, really liked this book. Second Huneven book I've read in a row. It has a small town setting, people trying to change everything in their lives, healers, a rambling rehab center in an old victorian, fruit trees, and a nutty dog. Go forth.
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Liked it... Susan read it so I got it... really a 3 1/2 ... tough story, however, kept at it... interesting to read how tough it is to quit! and how hard it is to get going afterwards! would recommend even tho gave a 3
Joel Roberts
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
i would have liked this much more if i did not have to struggle through the first 100 pages, which were incredibly slow and boring. fortunately, the characters were fairly well developed, and the plot had a few interesting twists.
Joey Diamond
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Pretty good tale of life in a small valley at a "drunk farm". Lotsa kinda cliche characters like the eccentric rich one, the ex-lawyer turned AA savior and the wise Mexican healer but it sucked me in enough.
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Not as well written as Blame but another good one by Michelle Huneven. Set in California, it is about the lives of people entwined around a sober living facilty and how their lives intersect and affect each other and the community.
Jane Black
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Red Ray a reformed drunk who runs a half way house. Lewis, Libby, and Billie in a small town.
Hey Sailor!
young woman, older man
changed loyalties (billie, lewis) part I, II
setting - valley
Linda Huffman
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Feb 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful characters, honest and smart writing, a good story-- a terrific book.
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Hard not to rate this as a comparison to her later work. Can definitely see early glimpses of genius in this first novel.
Jun 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
So far pretty good. I liked her other book Jamesland. This also seems to have interesting, wacky characters.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love these characters and the dreamy California locations...
Wonderful, wise novel about the lives of three people connected to a drunk farm in southern California. One of the best contemporary novels I've read in many years.
Jan 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Almost inexplicably heartwarming. The writing is intelligent but unpretentious, and the characters, with their myriad of faults, really draw you in and make you care.
Edward Mccaffrey
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Good story but theme and plot seemed to drag on.
Barry Bridges
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pretty decent, good story.
Oct 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
Our book group choice for this month. I have had Jamesland on my to-read list for a long time and will definitely read it and Blame now
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I am the author of four novels.

I was born in Altadena, California just a mile from where I live now. I college-hopped (Scripps, Grinnell, EWU) and landed at the Iowa Writers Workshop where I received my MFA.

My first two books, Round Rock (Knopf 1997) and Jamesland (Knopf 2003), were both New York Times notable books and also finalists for the LA Times Book Award. My third novel, Blame, (Sarah Cri
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