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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, March 2015 - Where All Light Tends to Go was first described to me as Breaking Bad meets Winter's Bone. I was in the middle of binge-watching Walter White's journey at the time – and couldn't get enough – so had to start reading this book. David Joy's debut, about a young man trying to escape the cycle of violence passed on in his family, is beautifully written and truly haunting. It's dark, gritty, and not for the faint of heart. I can't help but think that Joy – who I'm told is a big fan of audio – will be just as excited as we are to have listener favorite MacLeod Andrews performing his work. —Diana, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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 a fatal mistake changes everything, he's faced with a choice: stay and appease his 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.

©2015 David Joy (P)2015 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Marci
  • portland, OR, United States
  • 03-09-15


Wow this is a great book, I just loved it.
The development of the main character was so deep and thorough, I was completely invested in what happened to him. He was flawed and likable and I really rooted for him.
The other main "character" in this book was the setting of the story. There was a darkness, and a hopelessness, that had such a weight that it brought it's own emotional reaction.
The story, and pace, and interactions were perfect. The story was very centered around the main character and how he interacted with the other characters, but it was done with a great story, good action, and a great pace.
I don't have a single negative critique about this book.
The narrator was ridiculously perfect. I'm not sure I've ever heard a better pairing of a book and a narrator as this one. As an audible listener, the experience is definitely better than reading it. The narrator brought an extra depth to the story.
I highly recommend this book.

56 of 62 people found this review helpful

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So Sad and Dark - Still Thinking About this Story

I didn't know what to expect, but I couldn't let go of the listen once I started. If I had understood what it was truly about, I may not have ever started this book -- which would have been too bad for me. I finished this book a month ago, but still think about it all the time. I feel like I knew the main character so well and rooted for him to escape his hard scrabble life in a hopeless place. Perfect for a book club because I am dying to discuss it with someone.

I listen to lots of violent books because I love thrillers and mysteries. This one had a few scenes that I had to skip over once I got the gist of what was happening. Too much for me to handle.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Heck of a story set in stark, cursed world few see

This especially praiseworthy for a first novel, particularly when I compare to some of the early works of other authors of the Southern lit (noir) ilk, like Daniel Woodrell, whose praise graces the novel's cover. I keep wanting to compare it to a Ron Rash short story (like those in the stellar and sulphurous "Chemistry and Other Stories") expanded and developed further into a rather short novel, which is in no way intended as a criticism.

Written as a first person narrative of Jacob McNeely, apparently 18, around the time of his former classmates' HS graduation. He dropped out of school to help out in the family business, a West Carolina mountain meth mob of which his daddy, Charlie McNeely, is the don. The book revolves primarily around the relationship between Jacob and daddy, their ties to the community (vel non) and particularly to "bulls" (law enforcement officers). The themes include whether one can escape blood and environment ("blood is thicker than water, and I'm drowning in it"), and the irrefutable difference between what's right and what's wrong and how this distinction sometimes gets muddled by a life full of "broken windows."

Jacob's love interest Maggie (his old girlfriend he grew up beside) and their possibly rekindled romance are a driving force in the story and she is symbolic of "a way out of here." And yet, I never could relate to it so much because I felt she was not fully developed and thus their relationship not realized in a way that made me feel despair at the threat of losing it. Perhaps that's what Mr. Joy intended. I did get a sense of the emptiness of a life lived with a daddy don and a momma meth head, with a little dark and *addled* spice of Flannery O'Connor thrown in.

The novel is intriguing and kept me hanging until the end. Mr. Joy employs clear and conversational prose to convey a funereal context. I can't help but believe that if he'd had a little more experience under his belt, he might have more fully explored the story of Jacob + Maggie and have hit a homerun.

I look forward to reading more from this gifted writer. He can tell a hell of a story, with profundity and clarity, set in a stark and cursed world few see aside from on nightly newscasts.

The accent seemed too strong at first, but the narrator quickly recovered and did a really good job.

29 of 35 people found this review helpful

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Hated it. What was the point?

Depressing story. Though I liked the narration. I need a story with a twist or uplifting story. The story of poor Jacob McNeely started at the bottom and actually continued to go lower.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Polly
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 03-29-16

Drugs, Rednecks, Killers, Despair - skip it

I just reread the reviews that prompted me to purchase this book. I am still stunned by the fact that it overwhelmingly received 5-stars.

The story is depressing, and the characters neither interest me nor inspire empathy. If you are offended by the term "redneck" in the title of my review, please understand that this is the kind of terminology found throughout this book. And much worse. Hateful, soulless people screaming at each other and murdering each other, selling and/or using serious drugs, bribing the law, etc.

The romantic part of the story (the one "good guy" character might be able to save his soul with the love of a particular girl) is just adolescent. I think that people who liked the Twilight series would like this - it is almost a Young Adult novel.

But it left me completely cold.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Really great story. Dark and thoughtful

I thought the narrator was great! They story was really good. Good buildup and was full of surprise. I liked the ending.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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David Joy just may be the next Cormac McCarthy

From the first paragragh i was completey captivated by and invested in this novel. It had been in my wish list for some time though i wasnt sold on it until I read the review by Marci from Portland. Once again an Audible reviewer has guided me to a real masterpiece.

I compare this novel to the works of Cormac McCarthy, principally No Country For Old Men and All the Pretty Horses because Joy's sense of landscape and directness reminds me of those two great works.

The novel is wriiten in the first person. An 18 year old Appalaicia boy, Jake McNeely tells us his story in real time. His father is a meth dealer, his mother a junkie, yet from the beginning I felt assured he would prove to be a young man of great depth who would rise above all the troubles caused by his family's poverty, hatred and ignorance. The question is, will he?

Because it it is written in the first person the narrator is even more important. MacLeod Andrews is masterful here. Hes a young actor from Louisville, Ky. His performance was as good as any ive experienced on Audible.

Cashiers, NC has become a playground for our country's wealthiest and most powerful citizens. Its a small town Southwest of Asheville near the SC and Ga borders. Its also in the same vicenity where the fugitive bomber and murderer Eric Rudolph escaped a huge federal manhunt for years back in the 90's. There is a stark contrast within the area's population, something the author refers to throughout the story.

Top Author/Novel/Narration Combinations
(In no order, strictly off the top of my head)
McCarthy/No Country For Old Men/ Tom Stecschulte
Beautiful Ruins/ Ballerinie
Portis/True Grit/ Donna Tart
AW Gray/Bino/Joe Barrett
Cameron/ Midnight Plan of the Repo Man/ George K Wilson
Barre/Peter Pan/ Jim Dale
winslow/ DawnPatrol/ Ray Porter
Winslow/ Winter of Frankie Machine/ Ray Porter
Penny/ inspector Gamache series/ Cosham
Alders-Olsen/ Dept Q series/ Malcolm
Nesbo/ Harry Hole series/ Robin Sachs and now John Lee
Stockett/The Help/ lamia, turner and one more i cant think of...
Slaughter/ Coptown/ Kathleen Early
Berney/Gutshot Straight/ Ballerini

36 of 45 people found this review helpful

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'Savagely Moving'

Bam! Bam! Author Mark Rubinstein nailed it with those two words he used to describe this novel: "Savagely Moving." There is a beauty to this novel that revolves slowly outside and around a spinning vortex of violence and hopelessness; it's razor thin shafts of glittering brilliance slicing through a darkness. Shades of Woodrell's *Hillbilly Noir* masterpiece, Winter's Bone, run through the writing and story, and fans of the series "Breaking Bad" might get a sense of Jesse Pinkman. It is atmospheric in a claustrophobic way, where every day is an exhausting struggle for hope.

It's graduation time in the rural North Carolina town of Cashiers. Jacob is a hard-boiled HS drop-out that watches his friends' celebrations with a removed kind of wisdom. The son of a brutal and ruthless meth kingpin, and an addict mother, he has long since given up on his own future and reconciled his role as drug pusher. He knows that dreams are just one-winged birds, in this town corrupted by drugs and violence. His daddy's empire has been built upon destroyed dreams, and that legacy is coiling tighter around Jacob as his daddy tires of the business. But Jacob still has dreams for his girlfriend -- a girl he thinks is destined for more than wallowing in this town. A botched collection leaves a witness that could bring down the family business, and as Jacob's daddy switches into survival mode, Jacob sees how dangerously deep the tentacles of this legacy (and his daddy) really are.

The story is told in the voice of Jacob; always living in this dysfunction, his inner dialogue is a churning kind of logic without emotions that have been nurtured. It is survival and instinct. David Joy turns the language of the Appalachians into a kind of poetry that is raw and tinged with desperation. It fills you with an ache, a desire to take this character out of the pages. The novel is heavy and readable only because you believe nothing can be so disparaging -- there must be some light...but that brightness comes only from excellent writing.

David Joy gives a very admirable debut, which goes without mentioning when compared with Woodrell's work (an author called the "poet of the Ozarks, and a personal favorite). I believe he will be an author to watch, an author with staying power. WALTTG will not be forgotten after the praise and comparisons turn into forgotten lines in unprofessional reviews, and sales have slowed; it will sit on the top shelves with other great books considered important pieces of literature of the American South.

The narration is flawless and mercilessly takes you into Jacob's mind and heart. Recommend for the writing -- and the story if you can handle it.

37 of 47 people found this review helpful

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Great debut

I really enjoyed this story. the author and narrator did an amazing job of pulling the listener into Jacob's violent and crime infested world. Jacob is a true anti-hero who is immersed in a world of crime and violence, however the reader/ listener can't help but hope that he will extricate himself from this terrible life he was born into and escape.

The narration was fantastic but too slow. once I speeded it up to about 1.5x speed it was perfect.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Excellent book

Liked the theme, how the story was narrated as the thoughts of the main character, the universal symbolism of pain, loss, and redemption, as well as the twists and turns that made it suspenseful. Plan to read more of this author AND to see if the narrator has any other narrated audiobooks. Great book and production all the way around.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful