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Goodnight, Nebraska [Paperback]

Tom McNeal
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 1999
Randall is a 17-year-old loner who has entered the farm town of Goodnight, Nebraska. It is his last chance to escape events back home - a shooting, a car crash and a family in disarray. Despite his efforts to resist, he is absorbed into this small-town American community.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (4 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552997854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997850
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,125,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

It is July in Nebraska. At McKibben's Mobil Station, prudently situated at the intersection of Highway 20 and Main Street, a lone passenger steps down from the bus. His name is Randall Hunsacker and he has arrived in Goodnight, a small-town Midwestern farming community, to escape events back home - a shooting, a car crash, a family in freefall. He has also come to change his destiny.

Even as Randall resists absorption into the town, he unwittingly becomes a part of it. To someone whose life is born out of tragedy, Goodnight promises a redemption of sorts. But in a country where the second hardest currency is a clutch of impossible dreams, such an outcome is as elusive as a fairytale in a world of nightmares.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim but good 28 Aug 2002
This book captures the grimness of the lives of people who aren't really in control of their destinies and like many let life happen to them, only rarely bucking against the trend. The story is full of flawed (but well-written)characters and everyday mysteries. Having grown up in rural America, I could recognise many of the people, and the lucky and unlucky events which befall them. The author treats the characters and happenings with a dark and subtle humor, reflecting the irony of existence.
I found it a compelling read, and my only real criticism is the ending, where some elements seemed slightly unrealistic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping story of smalltown life 10 July 1999
By A Customer
I picked this book up because i like the cover. Little did i know that when i read it i would be lost in side the words. The book is about a 17 yr old boy moving to goodnight, a small nebraskan town. The story charts the collapse of the village and shows the disintigration of a community. Its written in a very bleak manor, Mc neals writing style is quite distinct. The book is almost emotionless, but it draws you in well. A definate recommend!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad Night 1 Oct 2001
By A Customer
If you enjoy being introduced to characters, made to feel empathy for them, then watch them become monsters and run their lives into the ground, or have them disappear from the plot line altogether with no explanation, then you'll enjoy this book. The writing is above average, but just barely. Frankly, this book made me want to open a vein. If that's what the author had in mind, then bravo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's no classic but it worth a read 26 Feb 2002
...This book is about people who's lives do not end up the way they want but that doesn't mean they stop. Yes it is flawed but so is real life.
I'd say if you like music by Young, Springsteen or Petty, you'll like this book, same sorts of characters and events
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Goodnight is a GREAT book! 23 Aug 2002
By Dianna Setterfield - Published on
I'm not sure what I expected from this novel, but I can say for certain it wasn't much. Maybe because it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust for the past three years, and my excitement for it had all but disappeared. However, now that I've finally read it, I can say with confidence how wonderfully surprising Goodnight, Nebraska is! The writing is flawless, the storyline is compelling, the novel...simply perfect.
Tom McNeal's novel tells the story of Randall Hunsacker and his seemingly dysfunctional life. Beginning in Utah and the shooting of his mother's boyfriend, Randall gets another chance at life when offered free room and board and a spot on the high school football team in Goodnight, Nebraska. While there, in addition to being feared and admired by his teammates, Randall falls in love with Marcy Lockhardt, a beautiful and popular cheerleader. What progresses afterward is a slowly unfolding story of the love, loss, friendship, loyalty and betrayal experienced not only by Randall, but by those that surround him.
I was captivated by this novel and hated putting it down so I could work and sleep. Tom McNeal has captured the perfect small town tapestry, where everyone knows your business and nothing goes unnoticed. Teen angst is only one small part of this terrifically moving story. A novel of surprising depth and honesty -- I loved it!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "When people said Nebraska, I always thought flat..." 4 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Says the FBI agent investigating a murder on the Pine Ridge. He continues, "But you see, it's not flat at all." That's my reaction to this wonderful book. This book has the long view, eyepopping, like the sky overhead, and it has its shorts, up, down again, unexpected. I don't get some other comments as I read them here online. One says McNeal can't draw characters, that these are too broad...I can't believe it! I never cry when I read a book and I found myself crying several times during this novel, not because McNeal was ever melodramatic, or pulling my emotional strings, but because so many of the details were so right! Reactions to grief, reactions to the stark facts of death, reactions to love and attraction and fear, and gossip...I don't care what time people have to leave to get to the football game in Lincoln and that would probably be one detail that might matter to a Nebraskan, but I am one, and I was past caring. This is a real book, by someone I suspect is a very keen and caring listener, so generous it made my heart swell when he wrote so truely, and compassionately; it made me question my own reactions to the rural people I've known in my life, and judged. One reviewer here says that these kind of events would take generations; what do we have in the twisting evolution of characters' lives but those very generations? Those incidents can and do happen and I know they do because I've lived them.
To those who say this is not a novel, I say shame on you, especially if you are a writer. This book clearly follows the fates of Randall and Marcy, and if you don't realize how other characters come along for the ride in life, then you are not living. This novel is more real than most I've read in a long time....why? Because the writer knows that time is not always as linear as we want it to be, even as Lewis wants it to be, looking at the barest outline of Randall's life to that moment; we want to think so, but thinking so is only one element that is the downfall of Lewis's own marriage.
The shifting points-of-view show McNeal's compassion and his feeling, his genuine concern for his characters. No one in a small town really wants to know what a person feels inside, they want to know the plots and the incidents, hungry for tragedy and perversion, at times even making up what can't be known. In the face of the deepest secrets, the deepest tragedies, however, there is a spirit which rises over all of it, maybe the luckiest of us could call it grace. Tom McNeal write with a great deal of grace.
I read this book with two boys crawling all over me. I took breaks only to feed them, to cuddle or answer their barest needs, and once in a while, I looked over the pages to relish the love and joy I feel for them. This book prompts that kind of reflectiveness. It also kept pulling me right along. It may not be a typically plotted story, but it is the BEST I've read in quite a while.
You don't have to know anything about Nebraska to love this book. If you love "unfrayed" storylines (whatever that might be), read Danielle Steele. If you want to read about real people, with real feelings, real hearts, real tragedies, and real living among all of that, you will want to read this book. It is not a farewell at evening, or the leave-taking, that the title suggests, but a place you want to spend a few hours, a good night, Nebraska or anywhere else in the world with a beating heart.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second Chance in the Sandhills:review of Goodnight, Nebraska 28 Nov 1999
By Stephanie Cox - Published on
Many of us will recognize the fictional town of Goodnight, located in the Nebraska panhandle somewhere between Chadron and Rushville near the Niobrara River. We grew up in, or have close ties to, a place just like it - some small town where the main forms of entertainment are the Friday night high school football games and pheasant hunting, and where folks get curious if you happen to be going down the street in a different direction than usual. Goodnight is where 17 year-old Randall Hunsacker is sent after his life turns wrong in Provo, Utah. Randall has two things going for him: he's a helluva free safety and a hard- working auto mechanic. And then Marcy Lockhardt, the most popular cheerleader, starts to pay him some attention. This novel is Randall's story, but it's also the story of a variety of people from the town, most notably the staid and successful farmer and his bored and disillusioned wife, who become Randall's in-laws. McNeal draws the setting and characters without ever hitting a wrong note. (The football game scene should draw chuckles of familiarity from small town natives.) And the more we come to know these people, the more we see a striking contrast emerge between the men, who find an anchor in routine, and the women, who long for a release from the monotony. McNeal examines his characters' weak spots. As Randall tells his wife, the weak spots are what define us. When that spot gets pushed and everything else about you falls away, what's left is who you are.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars growing up and love on the plains of modern-day Nebraska 5 Oct 2002
By Ronald Scheer - Published on
The treeless, rolling terrain of Nebraska's panhandle and an isolated small town are the setting for this novel, and the uncompromising harsh beauty of this landscape provides an environment for characters whose lives depend much on the ability to withstand solitude and isolation.
Randall, the young protagonist, contracts into a self-protective stoniness as he fetches up here on his own like a shipwreck victim. Marcy, the girl who becomes his sweetheart, strives for a hard-won personal independence from her hard-working farmer parents. Their late-night lovemaking and eventual marriage are an against-all-odds attempt to save themselves from being swallowed up by the indifference of the natural world and the conventional expectations of the small town world they inhabit.
What pleased me most about this book was how often it took unexpected turns. Given the explosiveness of young Randall's character, his insensitiviy, and his distrust of others, his growth to manhood, steady and responsible, is a welcome surprise. So is his loyalty to Marcy and his willingness to regard her as an equal in love and marriage, even letting her leave him for an adventure of her own in California. Her discovery of him asleep in his pickup, parked in the driveway at her apartment house, the smell of rural Nebraska still filling the cab, is a wonderful moment of the bond that holds them together and to their home.

Another long sequence in the novel describes a hunting party that grows progressively unnerving, as some of the more trigger-happy in the group get steadily drunker and more frustrated at the lack of game. There is an ominous threat of trouble as you follow them, page after page, and McNeal waits until much later in the novel to reveal the eventual dark deeds of the day, throwing Randall's future unexpectedly into question for a time.
I think this book compares well with Kent Haruf's better known novel "Plain Song." The landscape and setting are very similar; so are the themes and the evocative language; and the rural and small-town characters are drawn with equal depth, compassion, and psychological realism. I recommend both.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, sometimes bleak, definitely worth reading 4 Dec 1999
By Lori A. Oliveira - Published on
This one caught my attention while browsing and I have added Tom McNeal to my list of "must read" authors. The story was a good one, the characters interesting enough to want to learn more about them. However, the story struck me as somewhat oddly disjointed, I'd find myself really enjoying it and caught up in the character (i.e. the adventures of unhappy Dorothy Lockhardt), only to be abruptly thrown into an unconvincing tale of Marcy's hiatus in an unbelievably portrayed Los Angeles. Overall, the story was a good one and I would recommend it. Tom McNeal shows terrific promise and I look forward to his next effort.
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