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2014 Book Discussions > Provinces of Night - Now with Extra Spoilers (August 2014)

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message 1: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments This will be the place to discuss the book including spoilers, though early in the month let's be a little conservative.


message 2: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments How do you feel about the way Gay treats his characters?


message 3: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Deborah wrote: "How do you feel about the way Gay treats his characters?"

Now that's an interesting question and one I will have to ponder a bit. My initial reaction is that, for the most part, Gay is respectful in his treatment of the people that populate this book, despite some serious character faults, such as alcoholism. The characters felt real. They exhibited the emotions that made them real -- they were sad, reflectful, happy, moody, mean, passionate, sorrowful, and others.


message 4: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Linda you put that so beautifully that I wish I had had the insight to say it. I think you're dead on with that assessment.


message 5: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 114 comments yes I feel he knew and loved his characters, warts and all... very forgiving of idiosyncrasies and human weaknesses.


message 6: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I confess I always love that in an author. Respectful and forgiving, but he spares them nothing.


message 7: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments The book starts with Boyd and his story is one that is sticking with me. What drove him to pursue his wife and her lover? Was it a the same family trait that drove Warren to be an alcoholic womanizer and Brady to think he had the power to curse people? Or were those traits a result of their somewhat tumultuous childhood? Not that it matters. The characters were so richly drawn.


message 8: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments It's hard to reconcile Boyd and his wife with what they between them made. Fleming is more than the sum of his parts. But yes, Boyd could have had a novel all his own. To explain all his inexplicable choices.


message 9: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I was fascinated by Fleming. A classic introvert with a rich inner life. It's not easy to write about these types. William Gay is a marvel!


message 10: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments The bits we learned about Warren made me want to know more. He seems to be wealthy (as well as a womanizer and alcholic) but we are never told at what. He seems likable and certainly has a sense of humor. I was touched by E.F.'s description of Warren's visit with him.

And then there's Julia. E.F.'s long suffering wife, who doesn't seem to hold any grudge against him, although even he seems to believe she should but hopes she doesn't.


message 11: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Well, I guess she's an old, old lady...


message 12: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Sophia wrote: "Well, I guess she's an old, old lady..."

LOL - I would agree with that!

I wonder if E.F. actually came into the house or if she dreamed it? I like to think he did and that they communed in their dreams. Their story would be great background for the sons, but then, Fleming is this book's prime character and he is nicely drawn.


message 13: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments It's funny. She said at some point she had her regrets too. E.F.'s were enumerated, hers were not. But as said above, she's an old, old lady.


message 14: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I keep wondering about Fleming and his parents. What do we make of this, how they both leave him? Why does Boyd go? Why doesn't Fleming stay with his grandmother who would love him to? How does Fleming turn out so well, in spite of the damaged people who bore him?


message 15: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I think Boyd probably wanted to go long before he did to look for Fleming's mother, but he waited until Fleming was grown-up enough to manage on his own. Fleming is used to being on his own and being in control of his own life and schedule. If he stayed with his grandmother, he would have to conform to her household's schedule and she might fuss over him, which he would probably hate. How does Fleming turn out so well? Good question. Some people just do.


message 16: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Boyd is on the hunt for his wife at least twice. Perhaps he's gone before. I did not get the sense that he stayed until Fleming was grown-up enought to manage, but that he stayed until he had enough money to go.

As to Fleming not wanting to stay with Julia, I would attribute most of that to the presence of Brady. Who would want to live in the same house with Brady?

How did he turn out so well? I don't think it is all that strange. Perhaps it is against the odds, but he just seems to have a good moral compass.


message 17: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Linda wrote: "I did not get the sense that he stayed until Fleming was grown-up enough to manage, but that he stayed until he had enough money to go. "

That was my feeling too. But I was often left wandering how he managed. And how did he rise above the birthright of his very damaged family? Did he take after Julia's side?


message 18: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Raven Lee tells Fleming that she is not her mother, is Gay by extension telling us something about Fleming?


message 19: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Deborah wrote: "Raven Lee tells Fleming that she is not her mother, is Gay by extension telling us something about Fleming?"

Deborah, the two situations do seem to be similar. Fleming certainly does not seem to be like his father or mother. But, but I think Fleming may fear he is.


message 20: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments What were your thoughts on Brady? Was his function in this book to act as catalyst? Why was he so bitter and by contrast why were his bothers more able to forgive E.F? What was the source of Brady's power and what was that power?


message 21: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I'm not sure how much "power" I believe Brady had. I don't believe his "curses" had any power. One of my favorite lines in the whole book came in the conversation between Junior and the widow of the man Junior paid Brady $50 to curse. After Junior explained his guilt in causing the plane crash, the widow said
something along the lines of, "You got all that for $50. I wonder why sand was so expensive." She had paid a lot more than that for someone to put sand in the gas tank of the plane.

Brady had some "power" by virtue of acting so crazy and violent that other people were afraid of him. That seems to be how he kept his parents apart.


message 22: by Sue (new)

Sue Linda wrote: "Deborah wrote: "How do you feel about the way Gay treats his characters?"

Now that's an interesting question and one I will have to ponder a bit. My initial reaction is that, for the most part, G..."


Agree. I am finding myself endeared to very flawed characters. I find myself not judging them and their frailties and dysfunction.


message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Probably my favorite thing about this book is the matter of fact, straightforward way Gay presents his characters. You see their actions, you hear their words, and you evaluate them for yourself. Mostly the only opinions you hear about them are those that other characters speak. His use of this technique gives us solidly realized, realistically flawed characters that we can judge for ourselves. He clearly has some real affection for some of his characters, but he doesn't let that get in the way of painting honest portraits of them.


message 24: by Sue (new)

Sue One of my favorite lines in the whole book came in the conversation between Junior and the widow of ..."

Agree. That was one of my favorite lines too.


message 25: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Finished the book a couple of days ago. Book 3 and 4 sure did pick up in what happened, how the characters come together. I really like Fleming and the ending gave me a good feeling of what his future might hold.

I didn't quite understand why Neal acted the way he did when Fleming discovered the girl in the room. Obviously what happened was an accident so I don't understand they the authorities were not called, maybe I missed something that Neal may have said as to why he wanted to dump her.

I was also confused as to why Warren would give Fleming the $300, and not his son? Perhaps Warren felt Fleming would do some good with it, unlike his own son.

The scene with E.F. in the snow at the end was tough. I felt for Fleming there. I also like to think, as someone previously posted here, that E.F. didn't actually go into the house and touch Julia on the arm, but that they somehow felt each other's presence, as if in a dream.

Overall I liked the book and the simple style of writing. I'm used to reading very long books, so it was surprising how much could happen to so many characters in so few pages.

Oh, and I don't know what to think of Albright's ending. I like how he was trying to do right by painting Woodall's widow's house, yet it was a bit unsettling how he just fell into the Woodall's role and his widow welcomed him in.


message 26: by Peter (last edited Aug 30, 2014 10:10AM) (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Well, the girl has died after drinking poisoned moonshine. He could either have the police thinking he had poisoned her, or admit to stealing the moonshine. There is no way he could come out of that situation looking good. Also, given the family reputation, the police might have gone and charged him with murder, anyway.


message 27: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I thought Albright's ending some kind of reward for him trying to do the right thing by the widow.


message 28: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Casceil wrote: "I thought Albright's ending some kind of reward for him trying to do the right thing by the widow."

Yes that is what I thought, but it also seemed almost too good to be true. I kept waiting for something bad to happen in response to him accepting everything. But I'm glad of his ending. I was impressed with him taking on the painting job, and also when he confessed to the widow that he had put a hex on Woodall.


message 29: by Linda (last edited Aug 30, 2014 04:55PM) (new)

Linda | 71 comments Peter wrote: "Well, the girl has died after drinking poisoned moonshine. He could either have the police thinking he had poisoned her, or admit to stealing the moonshine. There is no way he could come out of th..."

I guess I hoped Neal would have contacted the authorities so that the girl could have a proper burial and not worry her family by being missing. He knew it was an accident, and it was unfortunate that he led a life that would shed bad light on him even when he was not completely at fault. I guess that was his karma working.


message 30: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I walked away uneasy with Fleming's plans in the light of Brady's curse. Was I alone?


message 31: by Sue (new)

Sue Deborah wrote: "I walked away uneasy with Fleming's plans in the light of Brady's curse. Was I alone?"

Yes. I found this to be a book that caused me to "process" it all afterward; the characters, story, location, relationships, actions, motives. It is worthy of a re-read as I think I may pick up more subtleties and perhaps react differently to some things next time. Interesting novel.


message 32: by Sue (new)

Sue Has anyone seen the movie with Kris Kristofferson and Val Kilmer?


message 33: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Deborah wrote: "I walked away uneasy with Fleming's plans in the light of Brady's curse. Was I alone?"

Hmmm...I actually forgot about Brady's curse on Fleming. Now you have me thinking...


message 34: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Sue wrote: "Has anyone seen the movie with Kris Kristofferson and Val Kilmer?"

I didn't realize this had been made into a movie. Funny, because while I was reading the book I kept thinking how I could see how this could be a movie. Although Kris Kristofferson as E.F. does not fit the image I had in my mind of what E.F. looked like.


message 35: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I had no idea there was a movie!


message 36: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments I didn't either. It would be interesting to see what they did with it.


message 37: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2160 comments Mod
What a great book! The comments Sophia and Deborah made in the spoiler-free thread echo my own feelings. The pacing and description made it feel like you were spending time in Ackerman’s Field with all its grit, beauty, violence, and quirky characters.

I especially liked the bookending of the story with the beginning and end of the dam construction. The only remainder of all that occurred being what's left in Fleming's (presumably Gay's stand-in) memory, giving it the air of a fable. I also liked the how the construction worker found one of the Hixson's disturbing mason jars, which are themselves something of a fable around Ackerman’s Field.


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