Local Souls (Paperback)

By Allan Gurganus

Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9780871407788, 344pp.

Publication Date: May 5, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (9/23/2013)

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


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.

Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. “Fear Not” opens and closes at the scene of a high school play.How does this framing device—and the perspective of the first-person narrator—affect your reading of the story?Did you feel closer to, or further from, the action of the story than you would have if there had been no first-person narrator?In what way did the frame lend the story a sense of theater and drama?generic viagra price canada
  2. The character Fearnot is given her nickname before the events of her story unfold.How does your understanding of that name change over the course of the story?How do her actions and experiences reflect and affect the meaning of her name?generic viagra price canada
  3. Fearnot breaks two major sexual taboos over the course of her story.How does the second reflect, answer, or, possibly, redeem the first? What did you make of the revelation at the end, about who the couple at the theater turned out to be?Were you surprised?generic viagra price canada
  4. In “Saints Have Mothers,” Jean Mulray’s relationship to her daughter, Caitlin, is characterized by jealousy, resentment, and possibly a hint of eroticism, in addition to pride and maternal love.How does this novella—like the previous one—explore what is forbidden and unspoken in family relationships?Did you empathize with Jean’s complicated feelings towards her daughter as much or more than you empathized with Fearnot’s feelings towards her son?How are they similar, and how are they different?generic viagra price canada
  5. Describe the role that the larger community of Falls plays in “Saints Have Mothers.”How are Jean and Caitlin perceived by their peers in town? How does that perception affect them and their relationship, and how does it change over the course of the novella?generic viagra price canada
  6. Shortly after Caitlin returns, Jean says, “Like the rest of Falls, I had turned my child into someone ideal then immortal” (163).What do you make of this? How does the flesh-and-blood Caitlin who returns alter Jean’s—and your—perception of the “ideal then immortal” Caitlin that they were imagining in her absence? Can you recall a time in your life when someone you know was idealized in death? What would it have felt like if that person had suddenly reappeared?generic viagra price canada
  7. How do you characterize the narrator’s relationship with Doc Roper in “Decoy”?Why does Bill Mabry feel so betrayed when Roper retires?generic viagra price canada
  8. Describe the effect of the flood in “Decoy.”How does it change Doc Roper? How does it change Bill? With regard to Bill’s memories of his father, what is the significance of the fact that The River Road has been destroyed?generic viagra price canada
  9. “My doctor, best on earth, is reading me alive again!” says Bill near the end, when the doctor appears by his side.Describe what happens in the final scene of the novel.Is Bill’s death, with the doctor at his side, redemptive?Why or why not?generic viagra price canada
  10. Jean Mulray describes her daughter Caitlin as a “Somebody” and says of herself, “Us others? At our luckiest we’re with somebody” (89). Each of the novellas in Local Souls has at its center a “Somebody:” someone magnetic and fascinating, whom the town, and the narrator, can’t look away from.What do Fearnot, Caitlin Mulray, and Doc Roper have in common?Where do they differ?How are the narrators of the three novellas—the unnamed first-person narrator of “Fear Not;” Jean Mulray of “Saints Have Mothers;” and Bill Mabry of “Decoy”—alike in their perception of and relationship to these Somebodies? How are they different? Do you have a Somebody in your life?Can you relate to these narrators, in the hold these Somebodies have on them?generic viagra price canada
  11. Describe the community of Falls.How does it compare to your town?generic viagra price canada