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where all light tends to go

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2016 Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel and longlisted for the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award

In the country-noir tradition of Winter's Bone meets Breaking Bad, a savage and beautiful story of a young man seeking redemption. The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually.

The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town. Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when he botches a murder and sets off a trail of escalating violence, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his kingpin father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.

© Putnam, 2015
"[A] remarkable first novel...This isn’t your ordinary coming-of-age novel, but with his bone-cutting insights into these men and the region that bred them, Joy makes it an extraordinarily intimate experience."
"David Joy orchestrates the swirling, chaotic action of this debut novel with nimble prose and undeniable wisdom."
"Gripping...Engaging characters, a well-realized setting, and poetic prose establish Joy as a novelist worth watching."
"Readers of Southern grit lit in the tradition of Daniel Woodrell and Harry Crews will enjoy this fast-paced debut thriller. Fans of Ron Rash’s novels will appreciate the intricate plot and Joy’s establishment of a strong sense of place in his depiction of rural Appalachia."
"Joy’s first novel is an uncompromising noir, its downward thrust pulling like quicksand on both the characters and the reader. And, yet, there is poetry here, too, as there is in Daniel Woodrell’s novels, the kind of poetry that draws its power from a doomed character’s grit in the face of disaster...This is the start of a very promising fiction-writing career."
"Breaking-Bad-esque meth-ring drama meets classic romance."
"[An] accomplished debut...In Appalachia, a young outlaw, Jacob McNeely, struggles to escape what Faulkner called that ‘old fierce pull of blood,’ a violent meth-dealing father, the dark legacies of an unforgiving place and the terrible miseries it breeds. [A] beautiful, brutal book."
"Bound to draw comparisons to Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone...[Joy's] moments of poetic cognizance are the stuff of fine fiction, lyrical sweets that will keep readers turning pages...Where All Light Tends To Go is a book that discloses itself gradually, like a sunrise peeking over a distant mountain range...If [Joy's next] novel is anything like his first, it'll be worth the wait."
"[A] bloody struggle to break free that Joy tells with assurance, a great ear for voice and an ache that only a backwoods Carolinian could bring to the story."
"The novel is a simple machine, like the revolvers Jacob's father favours, for their reliability and quality assured delivery of what's promised…[While] the prose does often touch on lyricism, the writing and plot remain direct."
"A painful yet beautifully crafted coming-of-age novel, Joy's debut should please fans of Cormac McCarthy and the country noir of Daniel Woodrell (Winter's Bone)."
"[A] bleak, gripping dive into the heart of darkness...Especially for a debut, Joy's story has a powerful economy of form."
"[A] roller coaster trip through hope, horror, disappointment, violence, fatalism and transcendence."
"Joy works with the materials many call the stuff of 'country noir.' The result calls to mind the work of powerful writers such as Ron Rash, Daniel Woodrell, Mark Powell, and Cormac McCarthy...Joy has crafted a piece of masterful fiction. His sense of pace, his ability to catch the reader off guard with explosive and often upsetting incidents, his way with the shape of a chapter—all herald a major young writer."
"Joy’s debut is about hope as much as it is fate...[it] is harrowing. Joy’s voice is authentic, his prose sparse, his eye for detail minute. Everything works in this novel to push the reader closer and closer to the cliff’s edge, hoping against hope that what won’t be required is to jump off."
"David Joy gives us a world that is equal parts graceful beauty and true grit in this poetic and heart-pounding novel. Where All Light Tends to Go contains those essential elements for a novel that 'sticks to the ribs': complex and memorable characters, a palpable sense of place, and a plot that is driven as much by suspense as lyricism. You won't be able to put down this profoundly moving and illuminating look into a mysterious and intricate world where the smell of the southern pines mingles with the scent of cooking meth."
Silas House, author of Clay's Quilt and Eli the Good
"Where All Light Tends to Go is lyrical, propulsive, dark and compelling. In this debut novel, David Joy makes it clear that he knows well the grit and gravel of his world, the soul and blemishes of the place. He uses details that put us inside the picture, and lets his narrative move at a graceful but restless pace."
Daniel Woodrell, New York Times-bestselling author of Winter's Bone and The Maid's Version
"David Joy has written a savage and moving account of a young man’s attempt to transcend his family’s legacy of violence. Where All Light Tends to Go is an outstanding debut and a fine addition to the country noir vein of Southern Literature."
Ron Rash, PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times-bestselling author of Serena
"Compelling and authentic . . . a harsh tale of young love’s tender hopes set against the brutal realities of ruined Appalachia. Jacob McNeely’s story is one worth reading."
Tawni O’Dell, New York Times-bestselling author of Back Roads
"Running with the dopers, drunks, and less fortunate in my youth, those who were doomed by their surroundings, the story that David Joy tells is one of truth, power and circumstance and quite possibly a tour de force in American letters."
Frank Bill, author of the collection Crimes In Southern Indiana and the novel Donnybrook
"David Joy writes under the auspices of community, heartbreak, and love, and makes use of the warmest color in fiction - gray. What is right and what is wrong and who is to decide? In the North Carolina mountains, these answers don't come easy. Big decisions come with big consequences, and if you second guess, you lose."
Michael Farris Smith, author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers
"Where All Light Tends to Go reads like the whiskey-breath of Harry Crews word-drunk on the lyricism of Daniel Woodrell. It's as brutally beautiful as it is heartbreaking, and that's a rare thing."
Mark Powell, author of The Dark Corner

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