Hardcover, 256 pages
|Never Back Down
by Ernest Hebert
In this, Ernest Hebert's most autobiographical novel to date, Jack Landry, haunted by dreams of a tragedy that occurred centuries before he was born, is introduced as a promising high school baseball player from the mill town of Keene, New Hampshire. A young boy when the novel opens in July 1953, Jack and his best friend, Elphege Beaupre, devise a motto to live by: Never back down, never instigate. It's a rule of stubborn passivity Jack will follow to the end of his days.
Unconsciously burdened by his French-Canadian heritage, hemmed in by his working-class parents' submission to authority, the church, and a life of hard work, young Jack still has big dreams. Yet his warring values and desires lead to two mistakes in his youth that will color the rest of his days. The first causes great harm to his first and only love, a half-Cajun Gulf Coast girl (and the boss's daughter). In a world where one is asked to take responsibilities for actions but perhaps not suffer the consequences, Jack punishes himself. Following the tenets of Catholicism, he embarks on a lifelong penance to atone for his sin. The subsequent renunciation of his dreams appears to be Jack's second mistake. But is it?
Hebert is a master storyteller who, in addition to creating memorable characters and gripping narratives, does not shy away from the big questions. In Never Back Down, he raises more than a few: At what price, success? Is redemption possible? Can one live by a motto? What does it mean to take responsibility? The portrait Hebert gives us of Jack Landry's life of menial labor, joie de vivre, and a love that just won't die not only raises these questions but answers them as well.
Ernest Hebert lives in New Hampshire and teaches writing at Dartmouth College. His novels include The Old American and the acclaimed six-volume Darby series.
Praise for Never Back Down
Ernie Hebert's novels don't just capture New England; they've become a part of it.
One of New England's best writers.
He writes with a grace, precision, and humor that makes one feel he will do for the hinterlands what John Updike did for the suburbs.
—New York Times
Hebert infuses this, his tenth novel, with his unique blend of wisdom, wonder, and practicality. . . . Not a writer to shy away from hard subjects that matter, Hebert manages to blend esoteric exploration into compelling realism.
Hebert's homespun storytelling is a wonder to behold.
Like all of Hebert's books, "Never Back Down is a heck of a good story. . . . Hebert's Book reaffirms my belief that Hebert is New England's greatest living writer.
Never Back Down is a truly great American novel.
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