So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

As with most good things in life, this book was referred to me by a dear friend who was concerned for my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being. "It's brilliant," he said. "It's a completely arresting read. Riveting subject matter. And also cerebral and heart-breaking, but not snobby." He grimaced because he knew the description wasn't doing the book justice. But that's how it is with the great stories, they defy summary. And if I was going to synopsize, it would go something like this: a young boy watches as his friend, Cletus, has his life up-ended after Cletus' father commits a murder in the winter of 1920. Now an old man, our narrator, the silent observer, mulls over his early interactions with Cletus and speculates on the events leading up to the tragic shooting, tacking together memory and gossip, fact and fiction, in an attempt to make sense of what he hadn't understood as a child. It's a great story because Maxwell acknowledges that seeking truth in these memories is both futile and inevitable. It's just a thing that people do. Beautiful in its simplicity, this little novel has more than its share of stark truths, such that I could not be without a pen and paper while reading. It seems like Maxwell offers the wisdom of an entire lifetime in 130 pages. -- Sus Long

— From August 2011


In this magically evocative novel, William Maxwell explores the enigmatic gravity of the past, which compels us to keep explaining it even as it makes liars out of us every time we try. On a winter morning in the 1920s, a shot rings out on a farm in rural Illinois. A man named Lloyd Wilson has been killed. And the tenuous friendship between two lonely teenagers—one privileged yet neglected, the other a troubled farm boy—has been shattered.Fifty years later, one of those boys—now a grown man—tries to reconstruct the events that led up to the murder. In doing so, he is inevitably drawn back to his lost friend Cletus, who has the misfortune of being the son of Wilson's killer and who in the months before witnessed things that Maxwell's narrator can only guess at. Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss.

About the Author

William Maxwell was born in 1908 in Lincoln, Illinois. He studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and after earning a master's at Harvard, returned there to teach freshman composition before turning to writing. He published six novels, three collections of short fiction, an autobiographical memoir, a collection of literary essays and reviews, and a book for children. For 40 years, he was a fiction editor at The New Yorker. From 1969 to 1972 he was president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award Medal and, for So Long, See You Tomorrow, the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in 2000.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780679767206
ISBN-10: 0679767207
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: January 3rd, 1996
Pages: 144
Language: English
Series: Vintage International