• Groundskeeping

  • A Novel
  • By: Lee Cole
  • Narrated by: Michael Crouch
  • Length: 12 hrs and 48 mins
  • 3.6 out of 5 stars (171 ratings)

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Groundskeeping

By: Lee Cole
Narrated by: Michael Crouch
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Publisher's Summary

A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK • An indelible love story about two very different people navigating the entanglements of class and identity and coming of age in an America coming apart at the seams—this is "an extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations" (Ann Patchett, best-selling author of The Dutch House).

In the run-up to the 2016 election, Owen Callahan, an aspiring writer, moves back to Kentucky to live with his Trump-supporting uncle and grandfather. Eager to clean up his act after wasting time and potential in his early twenties, he takes a job as a groundskeeper at a small local college, in exchange for which he is permitted to take a writing course.

Here he meets Alma Hazdic, a writer in residence who seems to have everything that Owen lacks—a prestigious position, an Ivy League education, success as a writer. They begin a secret relationship, and as they grow closer, Alma—who comes from a liberal family of Bosnian immigrants—struggles to understand Owen’s fraught relationship with family and home. 

Exquisitely written; expertly crafted; dazzling in its precision, restraint, and depth of feeling, Groundskeeping is a novel of haunting power and grace from a prodigiously gifted young writer.

©2022 Lee Cole (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK

Groundskeeping is very fine work indeed from an exciting new voice . . . Given a novel so satisfyingly rich in themes and details, a review can only touch briefly on some of its many virtues . . . Groundskeeping is not only the story of a young man finding his vocation as a writer but also a wrenching examination of class differences, that third-rail topic in American literature, and of our current political polarization, which the narrator addresses with an unusual amount of empathy for the side he opposes. These elements supplement Cole’s nuanced depiction of a love affair between two people with more in common than they initially realize . . . Owen is entirely believable as a developing writer, jotting down his recollections and observations as the building blocks of his project to become an artist and a better human being. Alma is depicted with equal subtlety and generosity; their relationship drives the plot and brings the novel to a fitting conclusion.”Wendy Smith, The Washington Post

“A sterling novel that presages a major career, Groundskeeping puts a fresh spin on the divided self adrift in a divided nation . . . Cole paints in airy watercolors rather than bright acrylics; his touch is light, restrained, but always authoritative and precise. As with Helen Frankenthaler’s canvases, Groundskeeping achieves poise and uplift. But beneath the languid tale of young campus love, he’s playing a shell game: The novel’s not only a forensic examination of our toxic politics, it’s also a sly sendup of literary culture, a conveyor belt of M.F.A. programs and prizes and teaching gigs . . . It’s a thrill—a relief—to read a writer who approaches his male characters with generosity and intuition, steering blessedly free of caricature . . . [An] exacting, beautifully textured debut novel.”Hamilton Cain, The New York Times Book Review

“Scrupulously perceptive . . . Groundskeeping is filled with close observation, detailed shading. It is an absorbing love story, but it is also an examination of class in America, and it captures with sharp insight a moment in recent history.” —Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn 

What listeners say about Groundskeeping

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Boring

'I added this to my list based on CNN Jake Tapper's book list. This is not a bad book, but it did not work for me at all. The writing is OK, but when writing teachers say write what you know, they don't intend you to write about writing. This is a debut novel and seems both tentative and uneven. There were a few wonderful lines, but far from enough to carry the book. This is basically a coming of age story, but the protagonist is 28 and not particularly likable. Nothing much happens and I can't recall having any aha moments or any emotional reaction at all. When the book came to the uneventful end I wondered why it had been written.

The narration was excellent and enhanced the story.

2 people found this helpful

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boring

Nothing happened. I kept waiting for something to happen, it never did. Waste of time.

2 people found this helpful

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Sad sack Owen

It’s well written, with a sharp eye for detail, but the main character is whiny, self-absorbed, judgmental, self-pitying, and indecisive. I guess it takes both courage and skill to write a first person novel where the reader wants to kick the protagonist in the ass the whole time. That ending. Sheesh. I would have preferred a book, rather than Owen’s so-called life.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Story was blah!

Struggled to finish the story. The story was boring and somewhat depressing. would not recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Boring

It amazes me that one can write ad Infinitum in the manner of this novel about the self involved trials and tribulations of writing a novel with all the cliché Accoutrements of homespun drama ( ain’t Kaintuck cute) .. not much there there.: as far as I could see.: however many I think have read this novel and enjoyed.:.. so it is .:

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Unusual setting & story

Written with sensitivity and good character development. A bit too drawn out but leaves the reader wondering at the conclusion.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written

Great characters; compelling story. Lee Cole is a fabulous new author with a unique perspective on the South.

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Just okay

I almost didn't finish the book after reading part 1. I didn't particularly like any of the characters. The story was slow and kind of boring. I wondered why this couple was together

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Disappointing in Every Way

To be perfectly honest, I did not like this book. The audio quality seemed terrible. I never got interested in the characters. I could not follow the plot because I could not tell which main character was speaking. I hope others find this more enjoyable.

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Disappointing

I listened to this entire novel but did not enjoy any of it. It felt as if the author tried to cram every thing he had ever learned from a writing course into this book. Endless details about what people were wearing, music, smoking… I kept kept waiting for something to make me care about the ever suffering narrator. But that moment never came. And then the ridiculous ending. I have enjoyed several of Jenna Bush-Hager’s book recommendations, but I have no idea why she liked this novel. Even the Audible narrator sounded completely bored with his lines.