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Authors: Will Allison

What You Have Left

BOOK: What You Have Left

Praise for
What You Have Left
by Will Allison

“One of Allison's greatest gifts is his ability to come at a story from an original, surprising angle… . Just as it seems clear where the story is going, Allison spins it in another direction, one that's somehow both surprising and inevitable. The moment is stunning… . he shows us a landscape that is rocky and difficult but that has its own sere beauty—the kind that, at the novel's best, can make us forget for a moment to inhale.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“[T]he novel's … characters slam through life embattled, weary, looking for missing pieces that most often remain missing.”

The Los Angeles Times

“Loss and redemption take center stage in storywriter Allison's beautifully written debut novel. Characters' tension-fraught relationships are well played, and Allison is adept at navigating a labyrinthine web of psychological underpinnings … the nonlinear narrative gives Allison a trove of angles, and he nails all of them.

Publishers Weekly,
starred review

“Soulful, salt-of-the-earth tales of hurt and hope in redneck-proud South Carolina.… Raw-boned, heartfelt prose.”

starred review

“The novel takes its place on the shelf of American abandonment fiction.… In spare, transparent prose, Allison takes us
through nearly four decades in the lives of a South Carolina family crippled by the past and unarmed for the future.… The strength of
What You Have Left
lies in the relationships among its characters… . Allison captures the truth and irony of being part of a family, no matter how broken it is.”

The Washington Post

“Allison knows Southern characters and paints them with a sympathetic brush, even when they're addicted to video poker, sneaking cigarettes, or defending their state's right to fly the Confederate flag.
What You Have Left
is a book readers will want to rush through and savor at the same time.”


“Allison's engaging debut dissects the guilt and betrayal embedded in the history of one South Carolina family… . Allison clearly empathizes with his characters' foibles and manages always to find some measure of humor when they repeatedly let each other down.”


“Allison has crafted the sort of novel that should find a home in book groups everywhere.”

Edmonton Journal

“[A]n enchanting, winsome look at Southern life … [the novel] concerns the sundry and tenuous bonds of family, with the specter of auto racing, NASCAR-style, buzzing in the background.”

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Allison's writing exposes brutal honesty with grace. Holly, Wylie, and Lyle know we're hearing them out—sort of like poker players dealing the cards to their lives, daring us to show our hand to trump or fold.”


“This wonderful little novel packs in heartbreaking emotions with the mundane, daily struggles.… This is the type of novel you read in one sitting, and then you call your loved ones to make sure they know you're thinking about them.”

Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“What makes the novel enjoyable is that it's character-driven. It's about desperation and obsession in the messy lives of people who are lovable not for what they do, but for what they believe, what they fear, what they crave—in short, for being human.”

The Indianapolis Star

“As the title suggests, it's a book about loss, and there is real sorrow in these pages, but the force of life in Allison's prose is exhilarating, and it is a joy to discover a storyteller with such a sure hand.”

Narrative Magazine

“The strength of Allison's writing lies in his ability to convey his characters' weaknesses without undue analyzing … Allison's strength also lies in his ability to convey, in a delicate and kind manner, his characters' goodness, conveyed through the particulars that teach the universal: small and daily good deeds, the difficult love of couples and parents, the tricky negotiations among generations.”

The State,
Columbia, South Carolina

“The story … stays with you long after you have closed the book.”

Poughkeepsie Journal

“[The] intercutting of viewpoints and time sequences is stunningly effective. Storylines whirl and ricochet like stock cars swerving along a figure-eight track.”

Dayton Daily News

“The moving account tells of a South Carolina family struggling to survive despite a mother's death, a father's abandonment, and a grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's disease—and a host of risky behaviors by others left behind.”

Columbus Dispatch

“Allison does not tug at the heart with his narrative but rather takes up the threads of his characters' lives with patience and a keen eye for the telling of detail.”

Charleston City Paper

“Allison's writing is personal and direct, his characters are interesting but not quirky.”

Library Journal

“A remarkably cohesive novel in which the chapters also can stand alone as stories.”

This Week,

“Allison structures his book well, writes in significantly understated but poignant prose, and keeps the reader riveted.”

Southern Seen

“Propelled by Allison's spare, straightforward prose,
What You Have Left
looks at the often uncomfortable circumstances of facing one's past mistakes and the peculiar tapestry of American lives in the late-20th century with keen insight and genuine feeling.”

City Beat

“Allison capably explores the enduring bonds that link family together.”

The Independent Weekly

(Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill)

What You Have Left
is a remarkable first novel that glows with feeling and crackles with surprising insight into the ways that families shape one another. I love the elegance of Will Allison's prose—he knows how to write a beautiful sentence but hasn't forgotten how to tell a story too—and his book shows such wonderful control over complex moods: it's funny yet thoughtful, heartfelt yet unsentimental, and altogether a rich and rewarding reading experience.”

—Dan Chaon, author of

Await Your Reply

“Will Allison's
What You Have Left
is written with such vitality, such delicate intensity and clarity of feeling that I wanted it never to end. A story of fast cars and colliding emotions, it runs quicker than a dirt-track car on a Saturday night. The characters are heartbreaking, and absolutely real—good people spinning out of control.”

—Mark Childress, author of

Georgia Bottoms

“The clarity of Will Allison's prose underscores the small, crucial moments when the fate of human beings is decided, on the subtle abacus of hope and accommodation, betrayal and love. He perfectly captures the texture of unstylized American lives.”

—Janet Fitch, author of

White Oleander
Paint It Black

“The death of race car driver Maddy Greer reverberates through the interlocking chapters of
What You Have Left,
creating a sharp and haunting picture of an absence. The prose is precise, the observations acute, and the emotional range huge. This is beautiful work.”

—Karen Joy Fowler, author of

The Jane Austen Book Club

“Though the beautifully drawn characters of Will Allison's
What You Have Left
do not understand how their lives draft, fender to bumper, upon each other, the reader can only sit back wondering whether clear driving's ahead, or a seemingly inevitable disaster. This is a masterpiece in writing, and in understanding Nature versus Nuture. We understand that Holly's her mother and father's child whether she wants to be or not, and know that, in time, the little fire-cracker Claire will be her own independent-thinking, stock car driving, wonderfully obsessed person in her own right. Brutally hilarious and mesmerically tragic,
What You Have Left
might be the perfect novel. These characters will be sticking to my ribs for years.”

—George Singleton, author of

Work Shirts for Madmen

“No matter where you're from, Will Allison's novel feels like home, with characters who challenge, defy, and love each other in the ways that every family must. All that plus stock car racing—what's not to love?”

—Erika Krouse, author of

Come Up and See Me Sometime

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2007 by Will Allison

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. For information address Free Press Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

This Free Press trade paperback edition February 2011

Portions of this novel have appeared or are forthcoming in the following publications:
Glimmer Train
(Issue #61, Winter 2007),
Cincinnati Review
(Fall 2006),
One Story
(Issue #47, November 2004),
Zoetrope: All-Story
(Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 2004),
Atlanta Magazine
(Vol. 44, No. 1, May 2004),
Kenyon Review
(Vol. XXVI, No. 2, 2003),
(Vol. 52, No. 1, Spring 2002).

and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

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Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
Data Control Number: 2006051876

978-1-4165-4319-0 (pbk)
978-1-4165-4667-2 (ebook)

For Deborah, who made me start over


Chapter One: 1991 Holly

Chapter Two: 1971 Wylie

Chapter Three: 1991 Lyle

Chapter Four: 1970 Wylie

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