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Kings of the Earth

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,615 Ratings  ·  336 Reviews
Following up Finn, his much-heralded and prize-winning debut whose voice evoked “the mythic styles of his literary predecessors . . . William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy and Edward P. Jones” (San Francisco Chronicle), Jon Clinch returns with Kings of the Earth, a powerful and haunting story of life, death, and family in rural America.
The edge of civilization
Hardcover, 393 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Random House
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Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grit-lit
this book is a little bit of this:

and a lot of this:

okay, so it is much more of the latter than the former, but how often do i get to make x-files references in book reports?? not very often. this basically is a novel version of the events covered in the documentary, minus one brother. three brothers, closer than most and of feral intelligence and an array of undiagnosed conditions both mental and physical. they basically live like beasts - crowded into one bed at night, urinating where they p
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
At first I was not sure how I felt about this book. I felt almost like a voyeur, uncomfortable and not enjoying the process of reading about the Proctor family and the apparent squalor of their farm life. As I continued to read, something happened. I found myself getting caught up in their lives and beginning to care about the brothers, to be angry at Tom and his father, upset with the troopers and glad there are good neighbors in this world. I guess Mr Clinch has written an effective novel for ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3 Brothers living in their old family farmhouse in upstate New York. All of them sharing the same bed, I picture smelly, coverall wearing boys that don't cook, or fix up the house at all. Luckily, neighbor Preston Hatch keeps an eye out for them.

The oldest brother, Vernon turns up dead one morning-- and an investigation follows, leaving the other 2 brothers as suspects. Each chapter is a different person's narration, which kept me interested. The chapters also go all over the place in time, wit
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago Clinch's Finn was a best book of the year for me so I was really looking forward to Kings of the Earth. I was not disappointed. It’s a marvelous book, beautifully written. Faulkneresque without Faulkner’s opacity, the book shifts back and forth in time and focus, but we’re never confused. Clinch builds his story in bits and pieces until they fit together as beautifully as a dry-stack stone wall.

Finn was mean as a junkyard dog, but there’s not an ounce of meanness in the three Pro
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This ain't my review, folks. It's from the LA TIMES:

A Faulkneresque story of brotherly love and violence.

Kings of the Earth: A Novel, by Jon Clinch

Murder would seem to be a starkly defined crime. There's the killer, and the victim. The crime and the punishment. But within those relationships exists enough space to weave all manner of morality tales, which is what Jon Clinch has done with subtle brilliance in his novel "Kings of the Earth," which burrows into brotherly love and neighborliness and
Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Three brothers in upstate New York live a lonely agrarian life. They live as if from another century, almost as if on the frontier of long ago when people were isolated and had mostly just immediate family to rely on and relate to. Luckily they have a next door neighbor, Preston, who's lived in the world and has some social skills. Most of their story is shown through Preston's eyes. Vernon is the oldest brother followed by Audie and then after gap of 8 or so years there's Creed. They could almo ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I am always drawn to farm settings, so this richly descriptive literary work that spanned the 1930’s through the 1990s drew me in from the start. The beauty of Clinch’s language, the sensory descriptions and the distinction between various characters’ voices was quite remarkable. For me, the novel was about people who don’t quite fit in – who are misunderstood – but are comfortable in their own environment, their own existence. It’s a story about family ties, bonds to the earth, the comfort of r ...more
Patrick Reinken
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
In a book, playing with time is a kind of magic trick.

If it’s done poorly, we don’t believe. We see the dove that’s up the sleeve, the different sizes of playing cards in that deck, the fake feet on the woman who’s cut in half. And we don’t blink or wonder or feel amazed.

But if it’s done well – if it’s done in a way that doesn’t reveal the trickery in the trick – then we see a reality that's different from ours. The rabbit materializes from thin air, the man teleports, the lady does vanish. And
Loretta Giacoletto
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of FINN and other literary fiction
Recommended to Loretta by: Backspace Writers Group
As with FINN, in KINGS OF THE EARTH Jon Clinch again proves himself to be a master storyteller, weaving a bizarre tale about three brothers ‘making do’ on their dirt farm in Upstate New York. During the Depression squalor, poverty, and never-ending work robbed the Proctor brothers of their childhood and those same problems continue to plague them as premature old codgers who depend on each other for companionship and survival. For years they’ve been sharing the same urine-soaked bed, that is, un ...more
Jon Clinch’s debut novel, Finn, which painted a dark but lyrical portrait of Huck Finn’s father, was an almost perfect book and one that took a very original look at one of the classics of American literature. Clinch’s second novel, the magnificent Kings of the Earth, borrows as well, but this time the book borrows from the annals of true crime as it focuses on a mysterious death among four (whittled down to three in the book) elderly, hermetic brothers, who live a hardscrabble life on a derelic ...more
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adultfiction
An intriguing, if bleak, look at three elderly brothers who live and farm together in upstate New York dairy country. The three brothers have lived together in abject poverty in the same place, doing the same thing, ever since they were born. They sleep in the same bed and do everything together. When one of them dies in his sleep, the police come into their world and investigate the other two brothers for murder. The remaining brothers, barely literate and with so little contact with anyone out ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Excellent writing and psychological depth. 3.5 star quality for sure. But between the hundreds of stench descriptions and constant jolt of time and decade! That killed my enjoyment more than I even want to admit. A man's story basically. In other words this is the complete opposition position to the chick lit genre. Feral lives.
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Clinch's use of language and ability to evoke emotion from the mundane are unparalleled. He develops each character with compassion, yet distills the essence of their tragic nature with breathtaking clarity, making this this one of the best books I have ever read.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booktopia-2013
This novel is loosely based on a real life incident involving a family of four brothers near Syracuse, New York, one of whom was accused of killing another. The brothers were poor, illiterate dairy farmers who slept in the same bed. They lived lives that we would consider backward and primitive. Their story was previously told in a 1992 documentary, "Brother's Keeper", which focused on how the rural community rallied behind the accused Adelbert Ward, his trial, and its outcome. Even though they ...more
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This powerful moving saga of a family that doesn't seem to have moved away from the nineteenth century is both compelling and shocking. The story of these three dirt farmer brothers is one that makes the reader aware that no matter how far we have come, there are always those that harken back in some way, shape, or form to a former time. The question, is it because of choice or is it one of destiny often comes to mind.

The boys within this tale, Creed, Audi, and Vernon have lived the lives their
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Clinch is letting me know the Hard South is all over this country.

It grabbed me from the first chapter, the first paragraph. This was the first book I ever slowed to take the time to diagram the characters and their relationships, to follow the stories that the living, the dead, and the dying each had to tell.

When I read his first book "Finn," I was reading William Gay's "Twilight."

This time, I was also reading "One Foot in Eden," by Ron Rash. Interesting parallels, with two
Nancy Valley
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york
This book was quite off beat but I really enjoyed it. Three brothers dirt farming in Upstate New York. The book spans from the 30's till today. The characters were well developed and the book was very well written. I did not expect to have so much respect for the three brothers living so simply almost from another time. I also enjoyed Preston the kind neighbor. I would like to think such gentlemen still exist. That there are still people out there like Preston that care to help a neighbor and ju ...more
Tabitha Vohn
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-brow
Down On The Farm....

At times picturesque, at other times heartrendingly disquieting, Kings of the Earth is a fascinating look into the life of a family that flat out refuses to change with the times. In fact, in the 60+ years and three generations that the story follows, hardly anything changes for the Proctor brothers, except more hard times.

One of the most remarkable facets of this novel is its narrative structure. The voices of the various characters ring as true and sincerely as if the read
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Aw, this is just the best book for me right now. I've been through a rash of sad, the World is ending, I'm drinking myself to death because nothing is worth living for books, and I needed something with bite, character, complex ideas. This book saved my summer.

A person can only read so many simply written books aimed at our young adults before needing, really needing, complex sentences, diverse voices, interesting settings. And this book has me wondering how can one writer come up with so many
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Kings of the Earth is the story of the Proctor family's life, and slow death, on a dying dairy farm, a novelization of the Ward Brothers story. A trip through the rural back roads of upstate New York, when, instead of stopping only at the diner and flea market, the text invites you to become part of the life of the town.

Moreover, this text is so beautifully written you'll want to copy sentences into your journal--even if it means you have to start a journal to do so. Here's one of my favorites:
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: paperbacks-read
A Goodreads Giveaway book. Incredible! This book was written in such a way that I constantly anxious to find out what would happen next. Short chapters with numerous narrators made it hard to put down at the end of the night. Countless times I thought I would just read one more chapter, but then it is pretty short so just another, and another, and another. The only complaint I have with the book is that it didn’t seem to wrap up the unanswered questions as well as I would have suspected and the ...more
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Clinch takes three prosaic lives and adds details with a beauty beyond feeling. You feel every emotion of each elderly man, that time and people have neglected or forgotten. Three brothers on a derelict dairy farm in upstate New York left amid the cows and the weeds to carry on in a tradition that defies understanding for me. I cried ,I laughed and at times was completely baffled as to the whys and wherefores they were allowed to subsist at that level of deterioration.

It is well worth reading ,
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to find the ARC for this novel at the Library used book sale. I threw it into my $1 bag and I am glad I did. I haven't read Finn so I cannot compare Kings of the Earth to it. I can tell you I enjoyed this book and looked forward to reading it until I finished it. I enjoyed the method in which Clinch told the story, moving from character to character and back and forth on the timeline. In the beginning I lost track of who was who, but soon I "knew" each character and could foll ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sept-oct-2010
Sometimes fiction is stranger, and more compelling, than truth--and this decidedly unromantic tale of rural America is just that. With a realism not often present in modern-day fiction, Clinch tells his story with a technique used by William Faulkner and in prose compared to that of Cormac McCarthy; he is eloquent and clear-eyed in everything--from his descriptions of the harsh landscape to the simple brothers' grueling farm life. The short chapters offer unique perspectives from a m
Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was another First Reads win for me. Though I've given it three stars, I'd really rate it about 3.5. I enjoyed the story, though the way it was presented was a bit hard to follow (jumping around in time, from character to character, being told sometimes in first person, sometimes third). There also wasn't as much depth to the characters as I had hoped for. I would be interested to read more from this author, but I can't say it was a favorite.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? Jon Clinch can write. I'm dazzled by the different points of views, different voices, jumping from the past to the present and back again and not once was I lost and the story just kept going with each character turning more and more life-like by the page. I'm reading this book over in a month or so just so I can learn me a few things.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
How did this NOT make your "Book of the year" awards. It's my nomination, hands down.
Dan Radovich
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Touchs of Faulkner... Steinbeck.. KINGS OF THE EARTH is true literature for this generation.
Chris Dietzel
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
The mechanics behind this book didn't work for me at all. Each chapter jumps from one character to another and from one decade to the next, and back and forth. I wouldn't mind this approach but the chapters are so short that there is often little to build context within a character's point of view or to create a sense of environment within the year that each chapter is set. Because of that, I found myself not caring about the characters in the past, near past, or present and none of the characte ...more
Tara Rock
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"If you live long enough, you'll owe a debt to everybody you know, and some you don't. If you live right, they'll owe you back." Jon Clinch. This book had an unusual format, which I felt was a big plus. Outstanding characters and plot. Very well done. Now I am on to "Finn."
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Busy as a Bee Books: Kings of the Earth - Jon Clinch 26 25 Apr 14, 2011 09:13PM  
Brother's Keeper 1 18 Jul 20, 2010 09:01AM  
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Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Jon Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive.

His latest novel, The Thief of Auschwitz, arrived on January 15, 2013 on his own imprint, unmediated ink. Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg, calls the book "th
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“There's nothing else in this world the color of a school bus. They call it yellow but it's not quite yellow, and it's not orange either. I'd say it's something somewhere in between margarine and Velveeta. It's not a natural color. Then again I guess if we wanted kids to grow up natural we wouldn't put them on a school bus in the first place.” 7 likes
“You owe some things to the dead even if they're not your own dead. I guess in some way they're all your own.” 2 likes
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