A great novel, one of the best I have read in many years
With his latest book, Children of Dust, Alabama novelist Marlin Barton has taken his place with the finest Southern writers of our time.
When it comes to understanding the human condition, and its intricate intertwining with the history of our place, there is not a better writer anywhere.
Though the plot itself is intricate and brilliant, it is the sketching of character that ultimately sets Barton’s writing apart. Seldom does a novel have this many characters so fully developed.
This is a great novel, one of the best I have read in many years. I could not put it down, and once finished, I could not stop thinking about what it meant–about history and the human condition, about the bonds that tie us to one another, and about a legacy we cannot escape, no matter how hard we try to deny it.
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Author of Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America and A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s
A thought-provoking novel
The rich, eloquent historical narrative gives voice to the various individuals involved, showing that people need only to understand that history is complex . . . in order to move toward unity.
Children of Dust shows how the unsettled questions from the past carry forward, creating searches for answers generations later
The breaks and turns give a vivid sense of how history is both made and survived.
Ravi Howard, Author of Driving the King and Like Trees, Walking, winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
With riveting prose, Barton proves he is a master storyteller
An immersive story that asks the hardest questions and answers them with powerful and propulsive historical fiction.
Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Surviving Savannah
A captivating third novel
His characters are never caricatures, and they reveal that the greatest mysteries of all lie within the human heart.
In Marlin Barton’s superb new novel, two men, one black, one white, find common cause in an attempt to understand their shared ancestor, Rafe Anderson, and the mysterious deaths of two of his newborn children.
But what makes Children of Dust most memorable is Barton’s refusal to simplify and judge.
Marlin Barton is one of our most underrated writers, and I hope this novel gains him the attention he’s long deserved.
Author of Serena and In the Valley
Marlin Barton elucidates Faulkner’s adage that “The past is never dead.”
In Children of Dust, the past haunts the present, possessing our imaginations and revealing its violence, if not all of its mysteries. This moving literary achievement is a thoughtful reminder of the complexity of race relations and the truths that bind us.
Anthony Grooms, Author of The Vain Conversation and Bombingham, winner of the Lillian Smith Prize
This is a deeply moving tale by a richly gifted writer
I just finished Marlin Barton’s intense and beautifully written novel Children of Dust and am full of admiration for both the book and its author. It’s about many things at once-history, forgiveness, love and endurance-and while it’s never didactic, there are lessons in these pages for all of us.
Steve Yarbrough, Author of The Unmade World and The Realm of Last Chances
This is a story for the times we live in
This is a rich, compelling story told with assurance and an unflinching eye
The serenity of Southern rivers often hides a deceptively strong current, and such is the truth of Marlin Barton’s novel Children of Dust
Strong currents pull at the reader from the opening passages, where a new baby brings the conflicts of race, class, family ties—and possible infanticide—to the forefront. Barton’s lyrical writing and his unwavering honesty draw the reader back in time and place to actions taken that bear fruit through the generations. This is a universal story, but also one very personal to Barton. That connection gives the author power and a hard won understanding of the characters.
Carolyn Haines USA Today bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series
Praise for Pasture Art
A captivating third fiction collection…
…reminiscent of Larry Brown’s gritty Southern storytelling.
This fine assembly of seven short stories and one novella from Barton is set in his native state of Alabama. The well-plotted novella, “Playing War,” has vivid characters including Carrie Fuller, a dental assistant in her 40s, who clashes with her brusque husband, Foster. A lifelong deer hunter, he heads a gang of fellow enthusiasts, including his employee Dale Tilghman. He confides in Carrie’s father, an arthritic retiree, how the hunting accident that killed his older brother, Bruce, came while the bored hunters played “a game of war.” Adding to the tension, Bruce was Carrie’s lover while she and Foster dated. After her father repeats the tale to her, Carrie suspects Foster murdered Bruce in retaliation. Carrie’s investigation revs up the domestic strife, but the author smartly keeps things restrained… read more…
These are savage, haunting stories of devastating rivalry and secret love
Marlin Barton’s Alabama is dangerous as a rattlesnake, dark as a mine, and deep as a well. Electrifying.
Cary Holladay, Author of Horse People: Stories
The stories in Pasture Art rank with those masters of the form
Marlin Barton writes about people in small town Alabama with an unassuming artistry that makes them as real and memorable as the Pennsylvanians of Updike and O’Hara, and the Russians of Chekov.
Dan Wakefield, Author of Going All the Way and New York in the Fifties
If readers still care about great Southern fiction, and I hope they do, they should be reading Marlin Barton.
Barton knows his Alabama Black Belt—the place, its people, its history, its language—as well as or better than any writer I know of. His people are haunted equally by fidelity and infidelity, by emotional isolation chosen and not, by possible real aliens as well as the ones they married or gave birth to, and by the deep pain of inexorable love. Their stories will haunt you after you’ve read this book. The anchor novella, a powerful deconstruction of a tragedy that continues to destroy everyone involved even twenty years after the fact, is as much a page-turner as any great crime story, and it’ll make you weep.
Brad Watson, Author of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives: Stories and Miss Jane
A pleasing collection, humane and well-written
Barton is generous and sympathetic toward his characters, no matter how much of a handful they are
Literate, deftly constructed stories of backwoods Alabama.
It wouldn’t be Southern fiction without a nod to Faulkner, and Barton gets a hint in early: He sets a hayrick on fire, synecdoche for a barn, and lets the smoke linger in the swampy air. Then there’s the land, always a central character in southerly writing: pastures, dark soil, brooding forest, river—the Tennahpush, in this case, as real and… read more…
Praise for The Cross Garden
Sixteen-year-old James, just released from an eight-month stay at Hargrove, Alabama's largest juvenile detention center, gazes upon the slow waters of the Black Fork River as if he already understands the history it holds for him. But only Nathan Rutledge, his mother's boyfriend and the closest thing James might ever have for a father, truly understands how bound together he and James are with the river, its darkly wooded banks, and with each other. What follows is a story of hidden shadows; revenge and redemption; the confrontation of James's family, friends, and acquaintances, who in various ways try to ameliorate their own guilt as James struggles with discerning right from wrong, and, finally, the eradication of all that's evil in the story.
An incredible novel that explores the complex relationship between the past and the present…
Barton’s . . . writing is strong yet still, perfectly suited to the characters and the story he tells.
The Cross Garden is an incredible novel that explores the complex relationship between the past and the present and its impact on two generations of Alabama men, both who took a single misstep that informs the rest of their lives. Like the currents that move silent and deadly in the rivers that bisect the lives of the characters, guilt and desire suck and pull at the feet of each character, threatening to take them into a deadly embrace. Barton’s . . . writing is strong yet still, perfectly suited to the characters and the story he tells.
Carolyn Haines, author of The Darkling, the Bones mystery series, and winner of the Harper Lee Award
The Cross Garden is a masterwork. It comes on like the rising tide, quiet, inexorable and overwhelming.
If you still . . . believe in the art of the well-written, this most remarkable and memorable book by Marlin Barton is the one for you.
Robert Olmstead, Author of Coal Black Horse and Far Bright Star
Marlin Barton is a writer to watch.
A gripping literary thriller set in a place so vividly rendered that the novel’s characters seem to spring directly from its soil. Marlin Barton is a writer to watch.
Richard Russo, Author of Empire Falls and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Praise for Dancing by the River
Barton’s voice – direct, lyrical, when it needs to be, tinged with a Southern accent.
…his third book, maybe his best.
I suppose a case could be made that every story ever written is about loss in one way or another—lost love or innocence or some bygone way of life—and that’s certainly true of the stories in Marlin Barton’s new collection Dancing by the River. What’s different here is Barton’s voice—direct, lyrical, when it needs to be, tinged with a Southern accent. What’s different is how convincingly he draws his characters, men and women, young and old. This is his third book, maybe his best.
Michael Knight, author of The Typist and Eveningland
If the only subjects worthy of a writer’s labor concern certain universal truths, which William Faulkner called the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, then Marlin Barton has achieved a noble goal with his splendid second collection of stories, Dancing by the River. Read more…
Southern Literary Review
Barton has proven yet again he is a master storyteller.
Marlin Barton knows people, our histories, our voices, our sad broken hearts, so he knows what we need and is compassionate enough to give it to us in this stunningly graceful collection of connected short stories, which is a river itself, a river fed by rivers, a river peopled by rivers; it’s simply a rich, overwhelming force of a book that often comes at you gently, but before you can perceive the depth, the magic, you are carried away, laughing and then nodding along for the truth of it all.
Jennifer Paddock, Author of A Secret Word and Point Clear
Striking confirmation that Southern short fiction is alive and well.
Marlin Barton has the talent, empathy, and wisdom to reveal the depths of his characters’ hearts. While doing so, he also helps us to better understand our own. It is my hope that this collection brings Barton the wider readership his fiction so richly deserves.
Ron Rash, Author of One Foot in Eden and Serena
Praise for A Broken Thing
An amazing crazy-quilt of a novel.
A novel about the heart, and both its hidden and well-known chambers.
A Broken Thing is an amazing crazy-quilt of a novel, told in multiple voices throughout a tumultuous two-year period of constant, relentless, Alabama-family dysfunction. These characters, Conrad, Laura, and Michael, deal with false biological fatherhood, misdiagnosed motherhood, questionable means-to-ends choices. In the end it is Seth, the youngest narrator, who proves to be the family’s linchpin. Marlin Barton has written a novel about the heart, and both its hidden and well-known chambers.
George Singleton, author of Why Dogs Chase Cars and Work Shirts for Madmen
You realize you know this family. You might even love them.
Marlin Barton writes beautifully about the Southern family—the American family—a broken thing. The lives of the parents bear down on the children and the children’s children in a way that makes you nod your head, yes, yes. Their story will definitely take hold of you and make you care.
Nanci Kincaid, Author of Verbena and Crossing Blood
A lesson in love and truth.
A Broken Thing provides a lesson in love and truth, exploring the discord that arises when both are compromised.
Allison Barnes, Southern Living
An impressive, uncompromising book.
Marlin Barton’s first novel is as relentless as Euripides, or Faulkner, whose As I Lay Dying is its formal model. Its central preoccupation is the sins . . . of fathers and mothers passing into the lives of their offspring. It also reminds us how many people, living and dead, ghost our daily experience, complicating and enriching our choices. Barton includes the dimension of mercy, too—the mutual forgiveness of failures by family members who, finally, find ways to realize they can’t live without each other.
Dabney Stuart, Author of No Visible Means of Support
Marlin Barton has come as close to the heart of the South as any writer of his generation.
Marlin Barton “owns” the Tennahpush Country.
Few indeed are the writers who succeed in creating a distinctive world, or in stamping a portion of the real world as uniquely theirs. Marlin Barton “owns” the Tennahpush Country just as securely as Faulkner does Yoknapatawpha or Hardy his Wessex. Widen this man’s reputation, . . . read this book, and Barton’s other books. . . . Marlin Barton has come as close to the heart of the South as any writer of his generation.
Seabrook Wilkinson, in The Charleston Mercury
Praise for The Dry Well
Marlin Barton is one of the most distinctive new voices in Southern fiction.
The stories are celebrations, connecting us with the living, and with those who have come before us.
I have read with admiration Marlin Barton’s stories in magazines for years. It is exciting to now have them collected in The Dry Well. The stories are so exact in their sense of place and time, phrase and voice, they disturb and delight, and make the past as alive as the present. The stories are celebrations, connecting us with the living, and with those who have come before us. Marlin Barton is one of the most distinctive new voices in Southern fiction.
Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek and Boone: A Biography
A real talent.
Barry Hannah, Author of High Lonesome and Yonder Stands Your Orphan
Each story is an epiphany.
Touching issues of poverty, prejudice, infidelity, and incest, Barton writes with grace and compassion. Each story is an epiphany, presenting a gestalt of events that leads the characters to reinterpret their entire lives in a single moment.
A writer worth watching.
Marlin Barton’s short-story collection reveals him to be a subtle student of literature and humanity and a writer worth watching. . . . He has managed to create his own spot on the map and peoples it with compelling characters.
John Sledge, Mobile Register
A new and resonant and poetic voice in Southern writing.
The dialogue is always perfect, the setting unforgettable.
Marlin Barton writes of the South with the same humanity and degree of accuracy we find in the work of Earnest Gaines, Bobbie Anne Mason, and Larry Brown. The dialogue is always perfect, the setting unforgettable. The Dry Well introduces us to a new and resonant and poetic voice in Southern writing.
James Lee Burke, author of Black Cherry Blues and winner of two Edgar Awards