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


3.73  ·  Rating details ·  3,977 ratings  ·  287 reviews
When Delia Byrd packs her car and begins the long trip home from Los Angeles - from the glamour of the rock 'n roll business, her passion for singing and songwriting, and the darker days of whisky and violence and too much belief in the promises of a man she loved - she heads to Cairo, Georgia, and her own unresolved past.

Ten years earlier, Delia left the husband who turn
Paperback, 434 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Penguin Group (first published January 1st 1998)
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 Cavedweller, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Cavedweller

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,977 ratings  ·  287 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Cavedweller
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've never been more sexually frustrated by a book in my entire life.

I was so worked up, as I finished this freaking sexual tease known as Cavedweller last night, I Googled “nearest naval base,” hoping I could drive over and catch some sailors on furlough.

Yes, Dorothy Allison is an amazing, underrated author, but, why, oh why must she take the reader (over and over again) on her passages of taut prose, filled with tight, sexual tension and then refuse to allow the reader to reach the climax wit
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
I love and admire Dorothy Allison. Both her non-fiction work (Skin, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure) and her fiction (Trash, Bastard out of Carolina) is extremely impressive on an intellectual level, as well as deeply moving on a gut level. So I expected no less from Cavedweller, her second novel. And I'm sure it is only because I went in to reading it with such very high expectations that it was disappointing.

Cavedweller is a very good book. It's just not as good a book as Allison's other b
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was difficult to digest, but maybe that was for the same reason that it was so entrancing. Cavedweller is a book about women. Several generations of women who are all tied to a central character who, you realize as the book unfolds, had to make difficult choices. But, I related, or at least sympathized. What would you do if you had children with an abusive husband? What would you do when the next husband was a drug and alcohol addict? The story begins in the turmoil after she had made ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I had never heard of Dorothy Allision before, but I am so glad that I know of her now. I think she is a really smart author with important things to say. I started out really loving this book and not being able to put it down. Unfourtunately, towards the end I felt like the plot kind of fell apart and things began to get cheesy and predictable, almost like Allison had run out of creative steam. It is a very epic novel, in that it covers a long period of time, and the characters really go on a jo ...more
Kat Masek
Nov 23, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked this novel, and I wanted to liked it more than I did. It is ambitious, and the plot line has a strange shape because Allison tries to do so much, I guess. Perhaps I haven't quite figured it out, and maybe I won't because I don't think it's completely successful. Though the title is "Cavedweller" in the singular, only one of the main characters, one of the protagonist Delia's daughters becomes a spelunker. So surely the author must be referring to Delia, as well. And the characters in the ...more
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the rhythm of this one. I liked the characters.

Overall, it's a bit choppy. Any one of the threads--the drive across the country, caring for Clint, Dede and Nolan, Cissy and the cave--could have been a whole novel. She doesn't dwell too long on any one incident or story (kind of like Delia!). There's a lot of death and despair and mistakes and betrayal, and all of it described really well and carefully. It's not rushed, but she doesn't linger.

Sometimes people aren't perfect. They make mis
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book late into the night because I found the characters fascinating (yet frustrating), and wanted to know what was going to happen next. There were parts at the end that kind of dragged, so it took me longer to read than most books, but overall it was a great story about how people cope with various life events. Although it wasn't the central focus, these lives were examples of how a tragedy and/or tragedies in the lives of young people, when not addressed, can recreate themselves in ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love Dorothy Allison's stories. I love the strong women she brings to life, the contexts she weaves around them, and her writing's descriptive power. I took a long time to finish this book, mostly because I didn't want to say goodbye to Delia and her girls. I found the spelunking passages especially compelling. ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
There was a little too much religion in this book for my taste. That would have been entirely fine but it's not what I was looking for. There was also too much random information about stuff that just didn't matter. That being said it was just an ok read. ...more
Doriana Bisegna
Feb 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I was really enjoying this book by about pg 300 and then I just felt that it went on and on and on! I had planned to give it a 4 star rating but the length started to grate on my nerves. All in all a very good story about a dysfunctional family but just a tad too long!
Emily Laga
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a dense, multi-generational story that paints a picture of rural Georgia without being too on the nose. The characters had me, but I wanted more of a driving plot. That said, the writing was extra-ordinarily good.
Sarah Key
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I went on a Dorothy Allison binge this year. I don't want to tell you how to live, but if you're looking for a way to restore your reading life, Dorothy Allison is damn good place to start. ...more
Dorothy Allison is a national treasure as far as I’m concerned. Like her terrific debut Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller deals with rural poverty, addiction, family history, and the complicated social arrangements of small town life. Cavedweller tells the story of Delia Byrd, who left her two young daughters in Cayro, Georgia, to join a blues rock band. Then, after years of drinking, a few months of sobriety, many miles spent in a tour bus, the death of her fellow bandmate who is also the fa ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it did not like it
400+ pages of absolutely nothing.
Sarah Beth
Ten years before, Delia Byrd left behind her abusive husband Clint and her two baby girls Amanda and Dede to follow the aspiring rockstar Randall. Randall and Delia find fame, alcoholism, and have a baby girl together, Cissy. After Randall drinks himself into an early grave, Delia packs up her youngest daughter and leaves California to return to Georgia to try to make amends for abandoning her two oldest daughters.

After Delia gets her girls back, the thread of the novel seems to split into five
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
I loved Bastard Out of Carolina when I read it years ago in college, then really devoured Trash (short stories), Skin (critical theory) and at least loved the title of her poetry book, "The Women Who Hate Me." I bought Cavedweller in 1998, then promptly put it down after two pages.

Picked it up again last week. It's fine. Crafted like a page-turner, which it is and I know it was a bestseller, but it just left me disappointed. (Don't get me started on fears that if I read Bastard now I'll feel tha
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, reread
Somehow didn't enter this one back when I read it, but I love-love-loved it. This piece, I thought, was how I feel about the ocean:

"Caving for her, Cissy understood, was like sex for most people. Though what other people thought about sex was nothing Cissy really understood. But in the dark she became for the first time fully conscious of her own body and curiously unself-conscious. Unseen, she moved freely. In the dark her body moved precisely, steadily, each foot placed exactly, while her hips
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book much more than I thought I would. After the experience of "Bastard Out of Carolina", I thought this would book would be a pale rewrite of the same theme but it was a very different and excellent story of a different sort. Maybe you can go home again and not have everyone resentful and jealous of where you've been, and you not have to relive every reason why you left in the first place. Recommendable to everyone.
(The book, not going home...)
Megan Kirby
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading this book felt like breathing--something effortless and essential. Allison's writing just rings in me. It makes me write really flowery, overwrought descriptions in my reviews. Her women are so real, their voices ring so true.

But, but, oh it pains me: The ending of this book was so truly terrible. I can't think of any other times where a book disappointed me so much--probably because I enjoyed it all the way until it fell apart.

Kat B.
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dorthy Allison is amazing. Her writing builds a believable world full of interesting characters. Her knack for dialogue that reads like real conversation is admirable. This story spreads across the span of about 10 years. While developing characters she manages to move the story along through events and problems that kept me hooked. The ending was one of my favorites. Definitely recommend!!!
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
the thing i really loved about this book is the way she showed the characters going through profound life changes and basically becoming different people. that's something that happens in real life that you don't usually get to see in novels. ...more
Melody Ulrich
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
After being floored and inspired by Bastard out of Carolina, I was seriously disappointed by the contrived mood of this book. Allison is trying too hard and almost forces these characters on the reader.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Well, if you like a story full of drama, here it is folks!
Delia, the Mom from Georgia, who one night runs away from her abusive husband and two young daughters. Delia gets ride that night from a guy named Randall and his rock band heading back to California.
Need I tell you more, read the book.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
This starts with a compelling idea, but Allison gets lost in the tangential elements of the narrative.
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having a hard time putting it his down!
Cathryn Conroy
Apr 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So often, life is about survival. Surviving the bad upbringing. Surviving the bad marriage. Surviving the bad addictions. And when survival doesn't work, escape is the only answer. This is a profound novel about survival and escape, promises kept and promises broken, forgiveness and redemption, and the powerful force of female friendship.

It is raw and fierce. If a book could leave a reader feeling battered and bleeding, this would be that book. It's that intense.

Delia Byrd of Cayro, Georgia, a
Nancy Kroneberger
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read. First, the positive: I will give Allison credit for taking on the scope of so many years, characters, and life experiences all in one book. It was quite an undertaking! I appreciated her narrator's voice, whereby things were told in a nonjudgmental, observational kind of way. I thought many passages were full of beautiful descriptive and flowery language, especially the outdoor/nature scenes. But, I must say, this book maybe covered too much, and yet not enough at t ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I should have read Bastard Out Of Carolina first.

Well, I’m a rebel. One who listens to the worst reviewed albums of artists, watches the camp classics of actor’s shame, and reads books out of the 'intended' sequence of an author's cache. It’s what I do. Still there is always a 50/50 percent chance that the unsung work is better than the touted one, so I gave Cavedweller a go. I've read some of Dorothy Allison’s work before, like her essays and her short story "I'm Working On My Charm, and I fin
Deanna Bairefoot Richardson
I’ve never heard of Dorothy Allison but evidently I had picked up this book along the way somewhere and found it in one of my boxes of books. Cavedweller made me think of my youth. I grew up in the nomadic life, born in CA, but when my mother left my father, whom had a mistress that became his wife after their divorce, we moved back to where she was from...the OH valley. The last time I saw my daddy, I was 6 years old. Then, to get even further, she moved us to Texas. When I was 17, I met 3 sist ...more
Carrie Kellenberger
I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did! Dorothy Allison is a gifted storyteller, and I greatly enjoyed this story about a family of women and how their lives intersect with each another.

Delia Byrd left her husband and her two young girls at the hands of his abuse and took off, but she never forgot about the two little girls she left behind who were raised by her husband's super strict grandmother. She marries again and her second husband is a drug addict and alcoholic, so when
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • At Weddings and Wakes
  • Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life
  • Elsewhere
  • Snow in April
  • The Outlander
  • The Light Before Day (Nantucket Legacy, #3)
  • The Religious Body (Inspector Sloan #1)
  • Midsummer Night in the Workhouse
  • Memory Board
  • After the Fire
  • Purgatory (A Prison Diary, #2)
  • Traitor's Purse (Albert Campion Mystery, #11)
  • The Box Garden
  • Small Ceremonies
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • The Republic of Love
  • A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman
  • A Journey with Mark: The 50 Day Bible Challenge (The Bible Challenge Series Book 3)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Dorothy Allison is an American writer, speaker, and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Themes in Allison's work include class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family.

Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina, was published in 1992 and was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.

Allison founded The Independe

Related Articles

  Historian Alexis Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, arrived in U.S. bookstores in February. Coe...
152 likes · 31 comments