Local Souls (Paperback)

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award (Fiction) and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection


“This book underscores what we have long known—Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.” —Ann Patchett


Through memorable language and bawdy humor, Gurganus returns to his mythological Falls, North Carolina, home of Widow. This first work in a decade offers three novellas mirroring today’s face-lifted South, a zone revolutionized around freer sexuality, looser family ties, and superior telecommunications, yet it celebrates those locals who have chosen to stay local. In doing so, Local Souls uncovers certain old habits—adultery, incest, obsession—still very much alive in our New South, a "Winesburg, Ohio" with high-speed Internet.

Wells Tower says of Gurganus, "No living writer knows more about how humans matter to each other." Such ties of love produce hilarious, if wrenching, complications: "Fear Not" gives us a banker's daughter seeking the child she was forced to surrender when barely fifteen, only to find an adult rescuer she might have invented. In "Saints Have Mothers," a beloved high school valedictorian disappears during a trip to Africa, granting her ambitious mother a postponed fame that turns against her. And in a dramatic "Decoy," the doctor-patient friendship between two married men breaks toward desire just as a biblical flood shatters their neighborhood and rearranges their fates.


Gurganus finds fresh pathos in ancient tensions: between marriage and Eros, parenthood and personal fulfillment. He writes about erotic hunger and social embarrassment with Twain's knife-edged glee. By loving Falls, Gurganus dramatizes the passing of Hawthorne’s small-town nation into those Twitter-nourished lives we now expect and relish.


Four decades ago, John Cheever pronounced Allan Gurganus "the most technically gifted and morally responsive writer of his generation." Local Souls confirms Cheever’s prescient faith. It deepens the luster of Gurganus’s reputation for compassion and laughter. His black comedy leaves us with lasting affection for his characters and the aching aftermath of human consequences. Here is a universal work about a village.



About the Author


Allan Gurganus is widely translated, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys, and his stories have been appearing in The New Yorker since 1974. He lives in a small town in North Carolina.

Praise For…


Refreshing. . . . an antidote to the marketplace’s mass message and massage. . . . The house of a master-magician-builder-writer. . . . Go ahead, step in, light up your life.
— Clyde Edgerton - Garden & Gun

Allan Gurganus is our verbal magician. He turns factual rabbits into poetic doves. Every sentence contains a surprise, but the brilliant surface doesn’t dazzle us from peering into the tender human depths.
— Edmund White

Allan Gurganus has the uncanny ability to make you laugh and shudder at the same time. That rare gift is on full and glorious display here.
— T. C. Boyle

Vivid language, provocative sentence structure, and metaphors that elevate the reader’s consciousness. [Gurganus] shares with his southern cohorts a delight in discovering the quotidian within lives led under extraordinary, even bizarre circumstances.
— Booklist

Gurganus returns to Falls, N.C., the setting of his Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, with this trio of linked novellas…. In these layered, often funny narratives, close reading is rewarded as Gurganus exposes humanity as a strange species.

— Publishers Weekly, "Pick of the Week"

Each novella in Local Souls…is guided by the centrifugal force of memory, heart and a playful, agile mind…Let these novellas bring attention to the overlooked art form. They will please readers who have been waiting for more from an admired writer who is funny, appropriately dark and can magically twirl a sentence.

— Elizabeth Taylor - Chicago Tribune, Editor's Choice

The pleasures of Allan Gurganus’ Local Souls are pretty much the pleasures of fiction, period: the satisfactions of the tale and the surprise of the phrase, insights into the human condition and portraits from a particular place, a sharp sense of the physical world and a freshened awareness of the pulls and pains of social class. Pick a page and you’ll find a sentence to love…. Dazzling.

— Kevin Fenton - Minneapolis Star Tribune

The beloved author whose literary bona fides rank him among the most revered writers of the last 50 years, Gurganus has an eye for gesture large and small, an ear for voice at once razor-sharp and tender, and a way with finding the absolutely precise moment of dramatic tension.
— Brett Lott - Boston Globe


Product Details
ISBN: 9780871407788
ISBN-10: 0871407787
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: May 5th, 2014
Pages: 352
Language: English