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So Long, See You Tomorrow

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,354 ratings  ·  1,090 reviews
On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William Maxwell delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past.
Paperback, 135 pages
Published January 3rd 1996 by Vintage (first published 1979)
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Frances I have just finished was perfect. I too loved it and I don't live in the States - an image of a different America to the one constantly…moreI have just finished was perfect. I too loved it and I don't live in the States - an image of a different America to the one constantly portrayed.(less)
Robin Just finished this. The narrator was tormented by the shame of denying his friend at the high school in Chicago. It may seem a small thing to the…moreJust finished this. The narrator was tormented by the shame of denying his friend at the high school in Chicago. It may seem a small thing to the reader in the overall scope of the novel but not to the narrator. This man was a sensitive person who felt things deeply, He had a chance to offer a kind word to Cletus and to promise he would keep the secret of what had happened in Lincoln. Perhaps if he had offered that, Cletus would have been pictured in the year book. Instead Cletus disappears implying that he he and what was left of his family had to run again.(less)
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,354 ratings  ·  1,090 reviews

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Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My heart was sliced to ribbons by this story. The narrator, an elderly man whose boyhood was scarred by a horrendous event, attempts to make sense of it all – and to make amends, as he tells it – 50 years down the road during the course of writing his memoirs.

In his memoirs, he talks about his childhood in Lincoln – about losing his mother to the influenza outbreak of 1918. He vividly recalls where they (his father, brothers and himself) lived and how they coped with their loss in their individu
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Illinois native William Maxwell enjoyed a long, illustrious writing career. As his writing life was winding down, Maxwell penned an autobiographical, coming of age story about how events leading up to and following a murder in his small town of Lincoln, Illinois changed his perceptions of life. Resulting was So Long, See You Tomorrow, a perceptive novella which garnered the American Book Award.

Born in 1908, Maxwell enjoyed life in small town Lincoln, Illinois. A farming community in close proxim
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a little masterpiece of narrative compression. Though only 135 pages long, it can seem at times that whole paragraphs of unwritten backstory are suggested by every line, every image. A rundown of the plot will not give you a sense of the high level of mastery involved here, but here it is anyway. In the early 1920s one married farmer befriends another married farmer then steals his wife. Both marriages break up. The adulterous wife--Fern Smith--sues her husband for divorce and wins on gr ...more
This is miniature tour de force…powerful, moving and beautifully written in a spare writing style that evokes a profound sense of place. It’s no secret that this novella is an old man’s recollection of a tragic episode from his childhood…a love triangle and murder in a small, Illinois farm town in the early 1920s. Yet, this story reveals much more than an account of a crime of passion. This slender novel is about childhood memories, nostalgia and dealing with loss, guilt and haunting regrets.

Storytellers are liars

John Updike said about this novel: "What a lovely book, utterly unlike any other in shape I have ever read."

He's right. While the subject matter of this book is not new or particularly original, the form is. The framework of the story is about a murder, yes, but William Maxwell tells us all the salacious details in the first chapter: farmers, neighbours, best friends, Clarence and Lloyd, become mortal enemies when Lloyd has an affair with Clarence's wife. Clarence murders L
So. This novel is indisputably a 5-star book by any criterion. Each sentence is one the current crop of MFA-wielding authors dream of having penned. It becomes only more intense, lyrical, disturbing, resonant as it progresses to its end.

These 2 friends' reviews do it justice and are lyrical in their own right.

Keep your eye on the title. It reminds the reader that Maxwell's focus is on collateral damage, on the peri
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Speechless... That was extraordinary.

(24 hours later)

I knew I was in for something special when I heard Richard Ford saying that this was one of his all-time favourite books but I didn't expect this level of amazement and mastery as I zipped through these 150 pages on a rainy October Sunday. How did someone manage to pack so much humanity in such a tiny work of art? The last time I felt such mind blowing concision was when I read "The Great Gatsby" for the first time. Every single sentence conta
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: set-in-the-us
One of the best depictions of the effect on children (and a dog!) of marital discord I’ve ever read. This small book manages to say so much about life across the generations with, at its root, the recognition of the importance of ritual for children and the damage that can ensue when a married couple no longer have anything new to offer each other. Located in rural farmlands in Middle America there were times when I felt dust between my teeth and in my hair so vividly does Maxwell evoke the land ...more
This is another of the wonderful novels that was brought to my attention last year through Mookse Madness, a knockout polling competition in The Mookse and the Gripes group. This one is a short but near perfect novel.

The narrator looks back after many years at his boyhood in rural Illinois. The account starts with two tragic events - the death of the narrator's mother in the post-war flu epidemic and the shooting of a tenant farmer by his neighbour and former friend in a tragic romantic triangle
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Mikki
I've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fact, the end reflects back to the beginning, another of my favorite things. And as I approached the end, I lingered over the sentences, rereading them: slight though they may seem, they are so worth it.

This slim novel is a perfect example of why a writer writes, how an incident can linger and fester until he works it out of his thoughts and memories
A Most Vehement Flame

"jealousy is cruel as the grave:
the coals thereof are coals of fire,
which hath a most vehement flame"

Solomon 8:6, King James Bible

This short novel about a 1921 murder-suicide in a small Illinois farming town mesmerized me. Written as the recollection of the narrator's friendship with another 14-year-old and his reconstruction of events from newspaper accounts fifty years on after he cannot shake a lingering memory of the last time he saw his friend, whose father killed his
May 29, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who know dogs can talk
Written more than forty years after They Came Like Swallows, this book takes up the story of Bunny where it left off in that book. But the name Bunny is not used in this book; he has become the narrator, and he is never given a name, as far as I can recall - I read it very fast, perhaps too fast.
Unlike Swallows, this book isn't all about one family but branches out into an almost unrelated story about another couple of families during the same period, 1920s, state of Illinois. Maxwell makes the
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Too many conflicting emotional interests are
involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and
possibly it is the work of the storyteller to
rearrange things so that they conform to this end.
In any case, in talking about the past we lie with
every breath we draw.
(p 27)

In this shattering, though very simple, piece, Maxwell writes the story of mid-western boys, one looking back on his childhood and remembering the other boy caught up in the vortex of a murder on a farm. The details sound bare
Diane Barnes
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
So long, see you tomorrow. Five words that all of us have said at one time or another. A simple phrase with the intent that tomorrow will come, and everything will be the same. For some of us, though, it doesn't come, and for others, things are irrevocably changed.

There is not a wasted word in this short novel, which tells us a great deal about the lives of two young boys who meet at a house under construction, play together there on the beams and scaffolding for a few weeks, then see each other
Connie G
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, illinois
William Maxwell wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about two lonely boys whose lives briefly intersect. Although he is now an old man, he still feels guilt that he did not reach out and offer support to his friend after a tragedy.

The narrator's life fell apart when his mother died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. His family members each grieved privately, but no one talked about their feelings. It was a difficult time for the sensitive ten-year-old boy.

The second great loss occurs a few years
How have I not known about this book? More importantly, how have I not known about William Maxwell? I came to So Long, See You Tomorrow in one of those convergences I love so much. I was lunching with a friend and extolling the wonders of the Backlisted Podcast where the author/publisher hosts and their guests talk about older, sometimes neglected, books. I was thinking she'd love the one on My Ántonia, but as she was finding the podcast on her phone, she looked down the list and exclaimed about ...more
Jun 20, 2017 added it
Recommended to Tony by: Teresa
Shelves: u-s-lit
The wind blows hard across the prairie and into small-town Lincoln, Illinois. You can feel it through the walls.

Did I say walls? There might as well not be walls in the farmhouses in Lincoln, Illinois. The gossip blows hard, too. And young boys struggle with the transparent doings of mothers and fathers.

William Maxwell uses such a young boy to narrate part of this story. He climbs the carpenter's work of his family's new house, unclothed studs and rafters; and he will be reminded of that years l
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Rarely do I find myself re-reading books since there are just way too many on my bucket list and time is steadily counting down. However, the other day, when my feed showed TWO people adding William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow, I figured that it must be a sign, so pushing my other reading aside, I grabbed my copy of the book and asked Anne if I could read along. She said "Yes!". It was the best decision I'd made in a while.

You see, I first read this book in early 2009. It was my introduc
Diane S ☔
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In straightforward and concise prose, seriously not a word is wasted they all have incredible meaning, Maxwell conveys the loss of innocence of two boyhood friends. This book is so short but the words and the story are so tall. One of the four 1920's books I am presently reading, by a Chicago author I had never heard of, and it was very very good. Reminded me a bit of the writing of Kent Hauf, he manages to provoke tension, dread and a bittersweet poignancy all at the same time. The characters, ...more
I love it when an author can tell a "big" story in so few words. This is the sad telling of the aftermath of murder which occurred in a rural community in the 1920's. We even get to hear the dog's prospective (which is heartbreaking by the way). Good book. I would recommend to most everyone.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not even a bleep upon the literary radar. Minor, with interspersed Gothickish elements here and there. Nothing to write home about!

... Bleh.
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The most heart-breaking novel I've ever read (with John Williams' Stoner a close second). I've read it several times, taught it twice, and the ending never fails to put a lump in my throat.
Roger Brunyate
A Hymn to the Midwest
The sound was not a car backfiring; a tenant farmer named Lloyd Wilson had just been shot and killed, and what they heard was the gun that killed him.

[ . . . ]

I very much doubt that I would have remembered for more than fifty years the murder of a tenant farmer I never laid eyes on if (1) the murderer hadn’t been the father of somebody I knew, and (2) I hadn’t later on done something I was ashamed of afterward. This memoir—if that’s the right name for it—is a roundabout, f
Maria Headley
I don't know how I'd never read this before. It's particularly silly, because I've read possibly three entire books about William Maxwell, and certainly plenty of his New Yorker stuff, just in the way one reads randomly bits of things over the years, and they accrue, and one day, you realize, Hello, I haven't read any books by this writer that EVERYONE ADORES. Maxwell was an incredible person by all accounts - I read MY MENTOR, the Alec Wilkinson book about him, as well as a straight bio, and an ...more
Doug H
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great writing and I liked the story-within-a-story framing, but the large cast of characters with similar surnames confused me at times. I also cared a lot more about Trixie the dog than any of the humans, but maybe that was intentional. Poor thing.
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best novellas I have read in years. I sought it out after learning that Ann Patchett lists it as one of her favorite books.

The story is very simple: It's a man trying to make sense of a murder that happened in his small town in Illinois in the 1920s. The narrator, who himself had a rough childhood because his mother died when he was young, was once friends with a boy whose father was the accused murderer. The narrator now feels guilty that he didn't try to help the boy back th
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2014
“Love, even of the most ardent and soul-destroying kind, is never caught by the lens of the camera.”

Oh, man. What have I stepped into with this book? There’s no way a single read is sufficient for me to review this burning revelation of the soul.

“How was it that she didn’t realize it was going to last such a short time.”

If anyone should ever ask me to recommend a work of fiction that sums up the human condition, passing this book along, I’ll reply, “Sit down. Read this. And don’t get up until y
Dec 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Tom
I do not like this book, no matter how much I tell myself I ought to like it.

The tone of the prose is poetic, evocative, melancholic, nostalgic—one gets a whiff of the past. Some lines are philosophical and make you think.

BUT too much is unclear. The fuzziness which tantalizes becomes immensely annoying. When is this happening? Whose thoughts are we hearing? Pronouns confuse rather than help. Who is the “he” speaking? A new chapter begins, and we are told “she”, without any reference to who tha
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One winter morning shortly before daybreak, three men loading gravel…heard what sounded like a pistol shot..." Thus began the arresting novella by William Maxwell. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” was written in 1980 and won the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The story was set in the early 1910s to 1920s in Lincoln, Illinois. Even though the central event was the murder of a tenant farmer (Llyod Wilson), the more compelling story (at least for m
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 135 pages, this is a book slight in length and deceptively simple in plot, yet powerful in it’s depiction of love and loss. Set in 1921, in a small rural mid-western town, the book opens with a murder. On one cold winter morning, a single shot rings out just before daybreak and a local tenant farmer, Lloyd Wilson, is found dead that morning in his barn. There is little that’s mysterious about the crime, Smith had been having an affair with his best friend’s wife and the friend, Clarence Smith ...more
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William Keepers Maxwell Jr. was an American novelist, and fiction editor at the New Yorker. He studied at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. Maxwell wrote six highly acclaimed novels, a number of short stories and essays, children's stories, and a memoir, Ancestors (1972). His award-winning fiction, which is increasingly seen as some of the most important of the 20th Century, has r ...more
“What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory--meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion--is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.” 59 likes
“His sadness was of the kind that is patient and without hope.” 34 likes
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