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Rails Under My Back

A Novel

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


"Will put Allen in the company of writers such as James Joyce, August Wilson, and Ralph Ellison." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

When it was first published fifteen years ago, Jeffery Renard Allen's debut novel, Rails Under My Back, earned its author comparisons to some of the giants of twentieth-century modernism. The publication of Allen's equally ambitious second novel, Song of the Shank, cemented those lofty claims. Now, the book that established his reputation is being restored to print in its first Graywolf Press edition. Together, the two novels stand as significant achievements of twenty-first-century literature.
Rails Under My Back is an epic that tracks the interwoven lives of two brothers, Lucius and John Jones, who are married to two sisters, Gracie and Sheila McShan. For them, their parents, and their children, life is always full of departures; someone is always fleeing town and leaving the remaining family to suffer the often dramatic, sometimes tragic consequences. The multiple effects of the comings and goings are devastating: These are the almost mythic expression of the African American experience in the half century that followed the Second World War.
The story ranges, as the characters do, from the city, which is somewhat like both New York and Chicago, to Memphis, to the West, and to many "inner" and "outer" locales. Rails Under My Back is a multifaceted, brilliantly colored, intensely musical novel that pulses with urgency and originality.

From Publishers Weekly

03 January 2000 – The charged metaphor of the railroad serves as the spine of this vigorous and imaginative debut, an epic novel chronicling the lives and loves of two brothers, Lucifer and John Jones, and their wives, sisters Gracie and Sheila McShan. Nearly eight years in the writing, Allen's complex, ambitious story of an extended African-American family examines the emotional and spiritual costs of progress and change as the two men grapple with the choices and responsibilities of marriage and parenting. Theirs is a clan always on the move between a big city that's a hybrid of New York and Chicago, Memphis and the West, and the departures and arrivals affect the stability of all, either strengthening the familial bonds or causing chaos and pain. The personalities of the two patriarchs, level-headed Lucifer and restless John, dominate the lengthy, sometimes perplexing narrative. Though different in temperament, the brothers are inseparable, sharing a small flat with their wives at the start of their marriages, celebrating their wedding anniversaries together. Allen tells their stories as well as those of their children, Portia, Hatch and Jesus, in a rapid series of episodes, often recalled in a nonlinear style from different vantage points. The vignettes tell of Sheila and Gracie's upbringing by their kind aunt, Miss Beulah, after they are abandoned by their mother; Lucifer's courtship of Sheila; the brothers' experiences in an unspecified war; the deaths of two of John and Gracie's babies; John's abuse and abandonment of his wife; and Jesus' brutal arrest after a violent confrontation with the family. Allen's multilayered exploration of the themes of abandonment, survival, love, emotional irresponsibility and redemption is original, but his dense, challenging fictional style, intermingling myth, cultural folklore and vernacular language, demands the reader's unflagging attention. For those who stay the course, however, the wondrous journey is rewarding.
Rails Under My Back
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  • R$ 32,90
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: 20 October 2015
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 576 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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