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Billy Dead

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  19 reviews
When Ray Johnson's brother Billy is found murdered in a ditch, Ray is overcome with sorrow and a strange sense of relief. In a quiet Michigan town with no secrets, Billy's death unleashes some ugly memories -- events that the working-class Johnson family has struggled for years to forget. Ray watches closely as the sheriff pursues the killer, and soon he is reluctantly dra ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  137 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Amber Anderson
May 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this a few years ago but still recall so much of it. Mostly I remember the way this book made me feel-uneasy. It also took me way back to the towns and trailer parks I spent time in during the occasional weekends with my deadbeat father. I imagine the home of the family was dimly lit and reeked of cheap beer and cigarette smoke...Turns out that this story takes place in one of those small towns in Michigan (also where the author grew up).

It opens with the mysterious murder of Billy, a ter
Jennifer Rockwell
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am absolutely wrecked. Some of the most searing, brilliant, unflinching, heart-breaking writing I've read in some time. A powerhouse of a novel. Not for the fainthearted, but very much for the open-hearted. Highly recommend. ...more
May 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel that does the first person present tense narrative in a masterful way. Lisa Reardon is an intensely empathetic curator and guide as she takes readers on a keep-up-with-me-please look at a girl's life, forsaken by her mother when it most counts, and who is raped not only by father and older brother as a very small child, but develops a very dysfunctional yet loving common-law relationship with a second brother. I don’t want to know these people; my revulsion is strong; I want to w ...more
Ruth Sims
May 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lisa Reardon's book, Billy Dead, earned copious praise when it was published in 1998 and it deserves the honors. Years after I first read it- I keep thinking about the story’s flawed and difficult characters, siblings Billy, Ray and Jean. The story is narrated by Ray and it’s a story of poverty, abuse and redemption. It’s unflinching, too; Reardon doesn’t gloss over any of the details and it is for perhaps this reason that the book was highly regarded by critics. Alice Munro (perhaps the greates ...more
Lizzy C
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I <3 You Lisa
Dec 02, 2010 rated it liked it
At first this really bores me, I started reading it a few months from now but i stopped because it lacks me interest cause it was actually random and you couldn't get what the books was trying to say. But as soon as i read further, it kept me going like crazy. I almost couldn't put the book down because each chapter ends with a very intriguing scenario.

The story behind this book is truly admiring, intriguing and very very disturbing. Most of the time it really disgusts me, it's pure violence for
Billy and Ray Johnson were brothers that had the usual brotherly spats but also suffered abuse. The description of their life and the things that Billy does at a young age are uncomfortable to read.
When Billy's body is found, the reader assumes that it was by someone who watched him crawl down the road by Ray's house. The misery is described but Ray's reaction seems cold and matter of fact.
This sorrowful picture and writing style reminded me of Erskine Caldwell's "God's Little Acre." That book c
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Lisa Reardon can write sad and deppressing atmosphere no doubt. But i dont think i like what she had written; hence teh 2 stars.

So Billy Dead is more like psychological suspense novel, no one got arrested for the death of Billy but it was fairly predicteable who commited the crime so i dont think it was much of a mystery.

Wow though...the world that Lisa created is unforgetable. I remember reading it when i was in the 6th grade and 4 years later i can still recall that intense feeling i was plu
Z L Sickels
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If I had to pick an all-time favorite book, it would be an easy choice. It's Billy Dead. This book is the greatest love story I've ever read. The love affair is so forbidden, disgusting to most people even, yet it's a true love story between two people who need each other. Because, maybe it takes someone who has grown up in a certain way to love someone who also grew up that way. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse I'm learning that it never really goes away. Maybe that's one reason these char ...more
Al Sevcik
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is the first of Lisa Reardon’s three novels – all of which are winners. In Billy Dead she pulls off a tour d force, a novel that is beautifully written but – centered on a family which the word “dysfunctional” barely begins to describe. In the entire book there isn’t one character whom a sane person would invite to dinner. Yet – yet – step by step the reader becomes involved. The genius of Reardon is that the moment you decide a character is as awful as he/she can get, suddenly, that person ...more
Leife Shallcross
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Completely shattering. A devastating but beautifully rendered portrait of a family defined by the abusive behaviour of the father. What I found most interesting and most striking was how Reardon manages to convey the strength of familial relationships, even under the appalling circumstances these children grow up under. This book explains why it might be so hard to sever your ties with the very people who have damaged you beyond belief. What was terrifying was how normalised some of the abusers' ...more
Donald Jans
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not about unicorns pooping rainbows. Great novel, about a really tough subject. Very insightful, and tough to read at times. But every story doesn't need to be about unicorns pooping rainbows. Kudos to the author for tackling this one. ...more
Sep 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a well written, but very disturbing book. It was hard to decide a star rating because I can't really say I "liked" it at all. ...more
Marla Sommer
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Brutal story of incest, physical abuse and neglect within a family.
Sep 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
incest, child abuse, child molestation, alcohol abuse, rape, violence, hatred: sick people, sick book
Courtney Himes
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a provocative book about incest and deep seeded family issues. This book is about love, hate, heartache, and murder.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Short review on my blog. ...more
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