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Publisher's Summary

From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of borderland that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest, handsome, intelligent); Cob (short, heavyset, a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest, thin, ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in Southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the Gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy, with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.

©2016 Donald Ray Pollock (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In a crowded room full of voices, Don Pollock's voice is so distinct you'll hear first and won't ever, ever forget it. Nor will you want to. And the kicker is this: He somehow keeps getting better." (Tom Franklin, author of Poachers and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter)
" The Heavenly Table is the latest and strongest evidence that Donald Ray Pollock is one of the most talented and original writers at work today. With uniquely vivid and graceful prose he renders a tale destined to linger in the reader's mind, a story by turns violent and darkly amusing, and always powerful. The novel is sure to be ranked among the year's best." (Michael Koryta, New York Times best-selling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead)
" The Heavenly Table is a ferociously gothic ballad about desperate folks with improbable dreams and scant means. It is potent and chimeric, dank, violent, swamped in tragedy - and funny as hell." (Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid's Version and Winter's Bone)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 09-27-16

Transgressive, just not transcendent.

"It still amazed him how you could just be plugging along, stuck in the deepest depression, and then something a little bit wonderful happened that suddenly changed your outlook on everything, that turned your world from darkness to light, made you glad you were still walking the earth."
- Donald Ray Pollack, The Heavenly Table

I really liked Pollock's first novel The Devil All the Time. I thought of it as a mash-up between Chuck Palahniuk and Dashiell Hammett. I've heard people talk about this book in terms of Gogol, Meyer, or McCarthy. Pollock has a lot of talent and is a master of transgressive fiction, but his prose in this novel just seemed (to me) a bit thin. The novel didn't drill me as hard as 'The Devil All the Time'. It just seemed a bit too messy and contrived.

I think Mel captures the essence of Pollock's fiction. He writes "angry, bizarre, violent, raw, raunchy, and darkly hilarious novels". He seems like balancing between the world between the outcast, the carny, the pervert, and the creep. In this novel he spends a couple hours in the fecal swamps to find a couple silver dollars. I guess it would have been worth the sh!t swim if the payout was just a bit more.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Another Punch of Pollock!

Like chewing dirt. Pollock's still angry, bizarre, violent, raw, raunchy, and darkly hilarious. He writes like he sold his soul to the devil for the gift, and his stories feel like they should be read in the back rooms of dens of iniquity then slept off for months. I've been hooked since [Knockemstiff], unable to kick the Pollock habit. It's not as tight as his previous, but it's still decadently twisted and addictive. The only reason I'm withholding that 5th * is to hold onto what's left of my female dignity and feign consternation. (And, as good as it might be, I have to compare to his previous humdingers.) Pollock is granite, unchanging and unapologetic. Pollock fans rejoice...newcomers to DRP, you've been warned.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Lindsay
  • Valley, Alabama United States
  • 12-29-16

Another great story and presentation

Where does The Heavenly Table rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is in my top 3.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I liked all three of the Jewett brothers.They played well off of each other. Cane and Chimney's devotion to Cob was touching.

Have you listened to any of Kirby Heyborne’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to Kirby before. I think that he does a great job. He contrasts the voices very well. His regional dialects are very good as well.

If you could rename The Heavenly Table, what would you call it?

"The Heavenly Table" is well named. I might try "Long Ride to the Table."

Any additional comments?

Mr. Pollock has become my favorite author. I place him in the rarified air of Cormac McCarthy. I have a difficult time choosing between "The Devil All the Time," and this book as being might favorite audio book. His weaving together of different entertaining plot lines is fascinating. I already look forward to his next book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Bizarre, Captivating and Wanted to keep it going!

If you could sum up The Heavenly Table in three words, what would they be?

Thought provoking!

What did you like best about this story?

The characters are fully developed.

Have you listened to any of Kirby Heyborne’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

First time I have listened to this narrator and he is excellent.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Fiddlers kindness toward the Jewetts.

Any additional comments?

The constant reference to hopes of Heavenly Table when Cobb realizes that the true heavenly table is with the Fiddlers.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The real deal

What a good book. Dark tale centering on the theme of hunger, practical and spiritual. Set in rural Ohio at the onset of WW1, before the post-depression safety net, when circumstances or bad decisions could literally leave you starving.

Loved his first novel, The Devil all the Time. This one's even better. Low key narration perfectly suited to the dark humor. Enjoy!

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Disappointed

Pardon my language, but it the same language found throughout the entirety of this book; perhaps fucking is a metaphor for something else that was lost on me, but from start to finish the story was a rather shallow tale of whore fucking, gay fucking, hand fucking, a big dick, poor female hygiene, blood lust and poverty. If that sounds good to you, then have at it, this book is all of that. Kirby Heyborne could not salvage the thin characters—the endless introduction of absolutely everyone’s back story made them all the more shallow—and despite his vocal character differentiation his voice just didn’t help the story. All that being said; yep. I listened to the whole thing, but I waited in vain for whatever purpose this tale was told. Sorry.

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Just OK. Could not stand the narrator

I struggled to get through this book because I disliked the reading. His voice was too similar across different characters. It made the story difficult to follow and boring to listen to.

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Hard to Categorize

Once again, Donald Ray Pollock hits it out of the park with a truly great book. The writing itself is first rate. Those of us who fully appreciated "The Devil All the Time," will not be disappointed at all. The same high quality writing and dark and unpredictable story is here as well. The book itself is hard to categorize, I call it Southern gothic when I recommend it, but this is not a book for the faint of heart or someone looking for a lighter and more predictable read.

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  • David
  • Bogart, GA, USA
  • 04-21-17

Reminded me of a Robert Altman film

It is a fun read, but there is not really a strong central narrative to bring everything together. Characters are introduced one after the other, described in detail like they are part of a writing exercise, and then drift in and out like celebrities adlibbing their way through a Robert Altman film. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it feels interesting but a little weak.

  • Overall
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Southern Gothic meets Spaghetti Western


From northern Georgia to southern Ohio (a strip that could mostly be considered Hillbilly Country), Pollock takes us with a trio of 3 lowborn, ruffian brothers on the run from the law in a sort of darkly crimson comic caper, a murderous meshugaas (Yiddish for craziness).

While Pollock, Donald Ray that is, deftly introduces a huge cast of characters, providing a mini-character sketch for each as he/she is introduced, it almost seems like he's too ambitious because there are so many characters without any one primary character.

I normally don't enjoy the scatological brand of humour. Yet here Pollock creates one of the most hilarious characters in a young sewage inspector whose equipment is so large he's embarrassed to show it to women (his mom had him checked out by the doctor in puberty to see if something was the matter with the boy). The early 1900s setting reminds of how much things have changed: now that a certain nominee for President of the USA raised the subject due to the smallness of his hands.

This tale is frequently funny; often gruesome, particularly in the dustups the brothers have along their journey; and, sometimes skanky and spicily obscene with a posse of prostitutes camped outside town. One thing it is never: boring.

I fully agree with the assessment of NPR's critic Jason Sheehan: In its bloody, violent and terrible collisions, The Heavenly Table feels like Blood Meridian if Cormac McCarthy had been born with a streak of black humor in him rather than just terseness and rage.


As I said in the heading, the best way I can describe this book: the spawn of Southern Gothic and Spaghetti Western.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful