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The Death of Sweet Mister
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Group Reads: Post-1990 > The Death of Sweet Mister, August, 2016, Final Impressions

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message 1: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
So you've finished The Death of Sweet Mister. You liked it, loved it, or threw it in the trash can? What did you think? Is this your first read of any of the novels of Daniel Woodrell" If so, would you read any more novels by Woodrell? If you've read other books by Woodrell, how did you think this one stacked up with your other reads? Me? I loved it. If Woodrell writes it, I read it. If you write a review, please post a link to your review in this discussion topic. We want to know what you think.


message 2: by Franky (last edited Jul 28, 2016 09:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Franky | 339 comments I read this two years ago, so I probably won't be reading this month, but I do remember the experience. I thought it was a powerful read, but a mix of different ways to describe it: tragic, gritty, raw, bold, disturbing. I do enjoy Woodrell's writing style in this book, and he can really capture the feel of emotion in characters. I thought this book was slightly a "loss of innocense" tale, and I felt bad for Shug for most of the novel, as he seems to be put in an unwinnable situation in a life that is bleak. I thought Redd's treatment of Shug was terrible and you really sort of feel for Shug at times because of this. The ending was quite disturbing.Some of the characters/situations reminded me a bit of Flannery O'Connor.

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Jeffrey (jwhitsitt) | 18 comments I absolutely loved this book. After reading I went on a Woodrell Daniel tear and read
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell , The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell , Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell , and The Outlaw Album Stories by Daniel Woodrell .
Of these I liked Winter's Bone and The Death of Sweet Mister the best. The other 3 were just OK for me. Going to take a Woodrell break, but am looking forward to
Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell .

Even though Shug definitely lost any "sweetness" he had left at the end of the book, he was forced into behaviors and situations beyond his years from the start. The thing that drove this home for me was that he never (that I remember) called his mother, Mom; it was always Glenda.


Franky | 339 comments Jeffrey wrote: "I absolutely loved this book. After reading I went on a Woodrell Daniel tear and read
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell,The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell,[bookcover:Tomato R..."


Jeffrey, yeah, I forgot about him never referring to his mother as "Mom." Odd, huh. Yeah, Shug was definitely in a bleak world, for sure.

Thanks for the heads up on all the titles. I tried to get into Winter's Bone years ago, but gave up. Maybe I should try again.


message 5: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
I finished this last night just before going to bed, and that was a bad decision, as I couldn't get to sleep for thinking about it. I also noticed him calling his Mom Glenda most of the time, but he did use Mom in a couple of instances, which was when he felt even more vulnerable than usual. I was almost glad when Sweet Mister died, poor sweet Shug had to get tough to survive.

Did any of you who read The Maid's Version get the reference to the fire and the monument in the graveyard? It seems Woodrell was thinking about writing that book for years before he actually did.


message 6: by Jeanette (last edited Aug 02, 2016 05:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jeanette (jj5again) | 7 comments It's a powerful book- this first person witness. It holds little room for interpretation for intent by any of the characters, IMHO. Because the reality is. Exactly what it is. The frog hunting sequence drew parallels. Shug has amputated parts by the home place interactions if not furthered in extent by the role modeled attitude toward the larger world.

I have no other to compare it to by this author than Winter's Bone, which I thought nearly as good. Powerful too, as well. And you know when you read multitudes of stories, when one sits within strong memory over time, then that the writer is skilled. Winter's Bone did and has.

But to be truthful, if you have lived within a harsh world, especially during childhood or young adulthood or both- you seldom feel any wont to visit these kinds of tales. I do not. And I can't say I especially enjoy them. But trying to convey in writing or within feeling the lessons and the strengths that such experience teaches you? And the antennae it gives you toward others observed defensiveness and unvoiced complaint? Quite far beyond empathy and that little kind of verbal "understanding" of voiced sympathy so pervasive presently- people like Shug can grow up having grown extra "parts" for replacements. It's not always a down side this kind of starkness in early life. But of course, it can be. Especially if the victim role is supported and expanded in cognition of her/his self.

I would love to see Shug in age. Daniel Woodrell!


message 7: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2718 comments Mod
I read it a couple years back as well and agree with the description of harsh that others have applied.

Here is my review.

Diane wrote: "Did any of you who read The Maid's Version get the reference to the fire and the monument in the graveyard? It seems Woodrell was thinking about writing that book for years before he actually did. "

I did catch that, probably because TMV was fairly new on the market when I was reading this one.


message 8: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
My copy had a section titled "My World" at the end of the book by Woodrell. He explains that he comes from that world, and lives close to it now, down the street from a meth dealer, in fact. So he knows first hand the people he writes about. I did not come from such a harsh, unforgiving area or people, and I kept thinking "Why doesn't Glenda just take Shug and get out?" Jimmy Vin was her escape hatch, until Shug fixed that, and he only told when Glenda said he coundn't go. I think that was the final catalyst for him; Glenda was the one who killed Sweet Mister by preparing to abandon him.


Sara (taking a break) (phantomswife) | 1378 comments Isn't the saddest part of this that it is a world that truly exists. I would have loved to have believed Woodrell invented this world, but I know he didn't, he just observed it.

Diane, you have said it perfectly. Glenda kills Sweet Mister. Sadly, she is probably only trying to save herself. The hope of salvation for anyone in this novel seems impossibly futile. I was also thinking, "flee, for God's sake" but I think it is easier said than done. Where do you go and how. People are always more afraid of the unknown than the familiar, despite how horrid the familiar might be. When you have never known anything else, how do you know change is possible. Heartbreaking!

Here's my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Big thanks to this group and Lawyer particularly for introducing me to this amazing writer.


PorshaJo | 4 comments Sara wrote: "Isn't the saddest part of this that it is a world that truly exists. I would have loved to have believed Woodrell invented this world, but I know he didn't, he just observed it."

I agree. It's a horribly sad story of Shug. But not only Shug, the others as well. Glenda, Red, Basil, Granny.... its very sad to know that this kind of life is true for some people. I believe I read somewhere that the author in fact did know this kind of life from observation.

I'm very thankful to the group for bringing this author to my attention.


Doug H Hi Gang,
I noticed something about the last few lines that I'd like to mention, but I can't do it without spoilers. I'll hide it with html commands when I write a review, but as far as discussing things in the Final Impressions thread goes, do we hide spoilers or do we just come right out with it?


message 12: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2718 comments Mod
Doug wrote: "as far as discussing things in the Final Impressions thread goes, do we hide spoilers or do we just come right out with it? ."

The Final Impressions board works on the assumption that readers have finished the books so spoilers are allowed.


message 13: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
Please Doug, by all means "spoil" us.


message 14: by Doug H (last edited Aug 13, 2016 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Doug H These were the lines I noticed that made me go Hmmmm...

"There was something off about the sun. Not as round as normal but shining hard. All that sunshine coming my way and nothing I cared to see. I stared into the sun until I couldn’t see a thing."

I saw the Oedipus Complex in Shug almost immediately, but these lines made me think that maybe Woodrell was going for something even bigger than Freud: Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles. He blinds himself at the end too, right?

Thanks for nominating this book, Carol from Cary. I rated it 5 stars.

Here's my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 15: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
Wow, making that comparison makes you a reader extraordinaire. Once you point it out, it seems obvious.


message 16: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2718 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Wow, making that comparison makes you a reader extraordinaire. Once you point it out, it seems obvious."

Agreed.


Brina I admit the writing was extraordinary. I managed to read through, also hoping that Glenda and Shug would leave, but the characters and story did not appeal to me. Now that I've read all of your comments and see that this world really exists, it becomes all the more depressing. I am wondering if Woodrell's other writing is less grotesque or if I'm going to have to pass on his other books in the future.


Doug H Aw shucks and thanks but not true. Woodrell is a writer extraordinaire. I'm just a slow reader.


Karen | 28 comments Daniel Woodrell wrote a powerful novel that is bleak and his most moving loss of innocence in The Death of Sweet Mister. My review can be found hereThe Death of Sweet Mister


Laura McGregor  | 1 comments My God; this was awful. So well written, but living in a cemetery? Alcoholics and dopers and ex-cons. Incestuous longings. Don't know who your daddy is? Granny has no teeth.

Every element of a Southern cliche thrown into one novella. 5 stars.


message 21: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
But, Laura, Woodrell does it better than anyone else!


message 22: by LA Cantrell (last edited Aug 20, 2016 04:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Just finished.


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Jeffrey wrote: "I absolutely loved this book. After reading I went on a Woodrell Daniel tear and read
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell,The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell,[bookcover:Tomato R..."


"Woe to Live On" is dark, but truly historical fiction - no drugs, no contemporary themes, but yes - love, loss, and extremely accurate portrayals of Civil War events. Right after reading this, we had a group read called Fallen Land which most everyone but me adored. It was not a bad book whatsoever, but it had the unfortunate placement as being the novel I read immediately after this outstanding work of Daniel Woodrell's. I think you are going to love it!


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Diane wrote: "I finished this last night just before going to bed, and that was a bad decision, as I couldn't get to sleep for thinking about it. I also noticed him calling his Mom Glenda most of the time, but h..."

Diane, yes! Me too. I saw the reference with the black monument and his reference to the fire right away. Early on in the book, though, when Glenda and Shug were walking back from the blackberry picking, he mentions that they are close to the town of Venus Holler. Not sure if others remember or not, but that was the setting for Tomato Red.

In our "initial comments' area, somebody - maybe Dawn - was suggesting that Sweet Mister was part of a trilogy. Actually, other than the stories overlapping around West Table and Venus Holler, I don't think so. I just think that the author kept writing about what he knew and "where" he knew, so several of these books are from the same area.

I recently read Woodrell's Give Us a Kiss and had to put it down. The sexual references were really ticking me off. At any rate, before abandoning ship, I noticed that the main character (a crime writer trying to break out of his genre while simultaneously visiting his brother and ending up tending a crop of pot) says that his brother's biggest set of enemies is the family by the name of Dolly.

Did anybody catch that Ree's last name in Winter's Bone is Dolly?


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Jeanette wrote: "It's a powerful book- this first person witness. It holds little room for interpretation for intent by any of the characters, IMHO. Because the reality is. Exactly what it is. The frog hunting sequ..."

Jeanette, great observations. Tomato Red would probably be the most comparable to this book, and it is excellent. Same dark tones, but there is some hopefulness there that I barely saw here, except for the thwarted escape to New Orleans. Some of the characters are mildy clicheed - the redneck has a mullet and the gay guy is absolutely gorgeous, etc - but considering that Woodrell has LIVED amidst these folks, maybe clichés aren't always far fetched.


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Diane wrote: "Wow, making that comparison makes you a reader extraordinaire. Once you point it out, it seems obvious."

Makes me want to go back and read Sophocles! Just like in Serena, everybody kept comparing her character with the works of Shakespeare, when she came from farther back - Medea by Euripides. I LOVE seeing authors do this and wish my education had been more liberal arts and classics. Great, great find, Doug!


message 27: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
How in the world does Woodrell take such people living on the edge in such horrific conditions (to the rest of us) and manage to make it beautiful? I know these people are real because in childhood and at various times in my life, I have been aware of them and cautioned to keep my distance. Where I grew up in Durham, NC, there was an area of town called "pussy hollow". No one respectable ever went anywhere near there. That's what I kept thinking of while reading this book.


Brina Was I really the only one who didn't like this book? The prose was amazing but I have always been a sucker for a happy ending. The entire book I wanted Glenda to take Shug and leave and go somewhere but they stay. Curiously, couldn't Shug have been placed in foster care if the police were aware of his life? Just a thought.


message 29: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane | 753 comments No you are not the only one who did n t like it and I won t tell what I did to my copy ;)


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Brina wrote: "Was I really the only one who didn't like this book? The prose was amazing but I have always been a sucker for a happy ending. The entire book I wanted Glenda to take Shug and leave and go somewher..."

LOL! Many of Woodrell's books are tough stuff and should come with a warning label - this one especially. If you know going into a movie like, i dunno, Apocalypse Now or Reservoir Dogs, it is easier to distance yourself emotionally and just rave over the ability to be sucked into the story.

There is another non-Southern book called Fourth of July Creek that a bunch of us have read. It is riveting, but also includes some things you'd rather not know about. A Feast of Snakes is rough too - but excellent.


message 31: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
Jane and Brina: although I really loved this one, there are plenty of others I just can't stomach. "Feast of Snakes" was one of them, and a lot of Cormac McCarthy's books as well. Sometimes you just don't want to go where the author takes you.


Brina I usually choose to read happier books that's why this one hug me hard. The bleak ending really did me in. I was happy with the September book as it was relaxing.


Franky | 339 comments Brina wrote: "I usually choose to read happier books that's why this one hug me hard. The bleak ending really did me in. I was happy with the September book as it was relaxing."

I liked the book in a sense that I was impressed with the writing, but, yeah, the actual plot is a bummer and the ending kind of shook me up for awhile. I see your point.


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Diane wrote: "Jane and Brina: although I really loved this one, there are plenty of others I just can't stomach. "Feast of Snakes" was one of them, and a lot of Cormac McCarthy's books as well. Sometimes you jus..."

One day, we are going to force you to get through Feast! I promise, the last half is easier, and if you managed Shug and Glenda, then Joe Lon and buddies are a cake walk!


Doug H Everyone has their limit. I couldn't take the animal abuse in Feast of Snakes. Human abuse I can handle. Go figure.


Doug H Some of you mentioned being curious about the harsh environment that Woodrell still lives in and writes from. Here's an interview where he discusses that along with his writing process:
https://www.guernicamag.com/interview...


Brina I can't take animal abuse either, even snakes. It will be a long time until you can get me to read Feast.


message 38: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Kaso | 601 comments Still trying to locate the box with all my Woodrell books. Husband dismantled my tbr pile while I was gone 2 put up new book shelf, now I cannot find anything. Spent hours unpacking boxes, still no joy.


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Doug wrote: "Some of you mentioned being curious about the harsh environment that Woodrell still lives in and writes from. Here's an interview where he discusses that along with his writing process:
https://www..."


I wonder if now, nearly three years later and with success under his belt, he still lives in a meth-cooking neighborhood. Hard to believe.


message 40: by Franky (last edited Aug 24, 2016 04:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Franky | 339 comments Doug wrote: "Some of you mentioned being curious about the harsh environment that Woodrell still lives in and writes from. Here's an interview where he discusses that along with his writing process:
https://www..."


Doug, thanks for that. It's an interesting interview. I like how it goes into some of his influences like Cain, Hemingway, etc. Gives me a little more to go on as I think about picking up another title from Woodrell.


message 41: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane | 753 comments I think my problem right now is that down here we have been through so many human inflicted atrocities this year that I cannot bring myself to spend time reading negative and dark souled writing ; that does not mean all my reading has to be eau de rose or candy coated romance , far from it but i draw the line here :)


message 42: by Janie (new)

Janie Watts | 43 comments I feel the same way, Jane. With reality being so terrible, a distracting story is much better than a dark one at this time.


Brina I agree with both of you. I'm entering a busy time right now. I've had to put aside larger books and deeper ones. This book was not what I needed now.


message 44: by E. (new) - rated it 5 stars

E. | 6 comments I really enjoyed this book, the writing in particular. I didn't add to the discussion much because this was such a quick read, it was over before I knew it. But, it has certainly placed Woodrell in my list of favorite authors.


message 45: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - added it

Diane Barnes | 4339 comments Mod
It only takes one Woodrell book to make a fan. I'm glad you decided to join us on this one.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

It is a really good book and could handle it how rough it was. it was painful to see what the son and mom had to deal with it. I think mom was trying to save her self and the boy was to be tough.


LA Cantrell | 1321 comments Erika wrote: "It is a really good book and could handle it how rough it was. it was painful to see what the son and mom had to deal with it. I think mom was trying to save her self and the boy was to be tough."

Agreed. One of the noirish aspects of southern lit seems to be putting people into very tough circumstances and seeing how they fare. Many folks who dislike the southern gothic genre don't get that the characters are placed into hardship intentionally - we are all sweet singing sparrows when life is stable, but it is when the worst is upon us that our real personalities come out to play.

So glad you enjoyed it, Erika! This was painful.


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