What You Have Left, hardcover 2007, paperback 2008, paperback reissue 2011. click to order.
what you have left
In 1976, on the day of his wife's funeral, Wylie
Greer drops off his five-year-old daughter, Holly, at his
father-in-law's dairy farm on the outskirts of Columbia, South
Carolina. Wylie asks for a little time to clear his head, but thirty
years pass before Holly sees her father again. What You Have Left is about a father and a daughter trying to
make their way back to one another across decades of longing,
uncertainty, and ambivalence--all the while hoping to discover that
what they have left is worth salvaging. Shot through with sly humor and
a knowing sympathy for human weakness, What You Have Left is a stunning debut that explores the weight of history, the nature of loss, and the possibility of forgiveness.
praise for what you have left
What You Have Left was named one of 2007's notable books by the , chosen as an
"EW Pick," and selected for Barnes & Noble Discover Great New
Writers, Borders Original Voices, and Book Sense Picks (now called
The book has been featured in ,
The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco
Chronicle, Booklist, BookPage, BuzzSugar.com, Charleston City Paper,
Charleston Post and Courier, The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Weekly,
City Beat, Cleveland Scene, The Columbus Dispatch, The Dayton Daily
News, The Durham Herald-Sun, The Edmonton Journal, The Independent
Weekly, The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Monthly, INtake, Jackson
Clarion-Ledger, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, MaudNewton.com, Muse:
A Quarterly Journal of The Lit, Narrative Magazine, Ohioana Quarterly,
Oxford Town, The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, The Pittsburgh
Tribune-Review, PopMatters, Poughkeepsie Journal, Psychiatric Services,
Publisher's Weekly, Raleigh News & Observer, Southern Seen, The
State (Columbia SC), ThisWeek Newspapers (Ohio), and on numerous blogs,
including and , who named it one of 2007's best books.
"What You Have Left is a remarkable first novel that glows with
feeling and crackles with surprising insight into the ways that families
shape one another. I love the elegance of Will Allison's prose--he knows how
to write a beautiful sentence but hasn't forgotten how to tell a story
too--and his book shows such wonderful control over complex moods: it's funny
yet thoughtful, heartfelt yet unsentimental, and altogether a rich and rewarding
--, author of You Remind Me of Me
"Will Allison's What You Have Left is written with such vitality, such delicate intensity
and clarity of feeling that I wanted it never to end. A story of fast cars and colliding emotions,
it runs quicker than a dirt-track car on a Saturday night. The characters are heartbreaking, and
absolutely real--good people spinning out of control."
--, author of One Mississippi
"The clarity of Will Allison's prose underscores the small, crucial moments when the
fate of human beings is decided, on the subtle abacus of hope and accommodation,
betrayal and love. He perfectly captures the texture of unstylized American lives."
--, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black
"Mr. Allison's novel is plainspoken and eloquent in the way that
So Long, See You Tomorrow is plainspoken--and eloquent. It's worked up
right out of the American grain and speaks to me, direct and true."
"The death of race car driver Maddy Greer reverberates through the
interlocking chapters of What You Have Left, creating a sharp and
haunting picture of an absence. The prose is precise, the observations
acute, and the emotional range huge. This is beautiful work."
--, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Though the beautifully drawn characters of Will Allison's What You Have Left
do not understand how their lives draft, fender to bumper, upon each other,
the reader can only sit back wondering whether clear driving's ahead, or a
seemingly inevitable disaster. This is a masterpiece in writing, and in
understanding Nature versus Nurture. We understand that Holly's her mother
and father's child whether she wants to be or not, and know that, in time,
the little firecracker Claire will be her own independent-thinking, stock car
driving, wonderfully obsessed person in her own right. Brutally hilarious
and mesmerically tragic, What You Have Left might be the perfect novel.
These characters will be sticking to my ribs for years."
--, author of Drowning in Gruel
"No matter where you're from, Will Allison's novel feels like home,
with characters who challenge, defy and love each other in the ways
that every family must. All that plus stock car racing--what's not to
--, author of Come Up and See Me Sometime
"Tender, smart and efficiently told. . . . Raw-boned, heartfelt prose."
-- (starred review), 03.01.07
"Loss and redemption take center stage in story writer Allison's
beautifully written debut novel. . . . Characters' tension-fraught
relationships are well played, and Allison is adept at navigating a
labyrinthine web of psychological underpinnings. . . . [T]he nonlinear
narrative gives Allison a trove of angles, and he nails all of them."
-- (starred review), 04.09.07
"Allison's quiet prose gets at a mother's raw nerve, a father's
desperate evasions, the daredevil rage of an abandoned daughter, and
the anxiety of a husband curbing his own destructive impulses as he
gauges the risks of love."
--, June 2007
"[T]he novel's . . . characters slam through life embattled, weary, looking for missing pieces that most often remain missing."
--The Los Angeles Times, 06.03.07
"A remarkable, understated novel. . . . Allison has a precocious
knack for detail . . . and for plain, old-fashioned storytelling."
-- (an EW Pick), 06.08.07
"Allison's engaging debut dissects the guilt and betrayal embedded
in the history of one South Carolina family. . . . Allison clearly
empathizes with his characters' foibles and manages always to find some
measure of humor when they repeatedly let each other down."
"Allison capably explores the enduring bonds that link family together."
-- (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), 06.06.07
"Allison's writing exposes brutal honesty with grace . . .Commendable summer reading."
-- (Indianapolis), 06.06.07
"Allison structures his book well, writes in significantly understated by poignant prose, and keeps the reader rivited."
--Southern Seen, 06.11.07
"Allison . . . takes up the threads of his characters' lives with
patience and a keen eye for the telling detail . . . Highly
"This wonderful little novel packs in heartbreaking emotions with the
mundane, daily struggles . . . This is the type of novel you read in
one sitting, and then you call your loved ones to make sure they know
you're thinking about them."
--Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 06.14.07
"Allison's writing is personal and direct, his characters are
interesting but not quirky, and Southern racing lore adds color . . .
The troubled but ultimately loving relationship between Holly and Lyle,
her solid, much-abused husband, is reminiscent of an Anne Lamott
"[A]n enchanting, winsome look at Southern life . . . [the novel]
concerns the sundry and tenuous bonds of family, with the specter of
auto racing, NASCAR-style, buzzing in the background."
--Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 06.17.07
"Allison's keen ear for his characters' voices and his well-told
tale of a father's 30-year estrangement from his daughter will keep the
"Allison's strength . . . lies in his ability to convey, in a
delicate and kind manner, his characters' goodness, conveyed through
the particulars that teach the universal: small and daily good deeds,
the difficult love of couples and parents, the tricky negotiations
--The State (Columbia SC), 06.24.07
"What makes the novel enjoyable is that it's character-driven. It's
about desperation and obsession in the messy lives of people who are
lovable not for what they do, but for what they believe, what they
fear, what they crave--in short, for being human."
--Indianapolis Star, 06.24.07
"[The] intercutting of viewpoints and time sequences is stunningly
effective. Storylines whirl and ricochet like stock cars swerving along
a figure-eight track."
"One of Allison's greatest gifts is his ability to come at a story
from an original, surprising angle . . . Just as it seems clear where
the story is going, Allison spins it in another direction, one that's
somehow both surprising and inevitable. The moment is stunning . . .
[H]e shows us a landscape that is rocky and difficult but that has its
own sere beauty--the kind that, at the novel's best, can make us forget
for a moment to inhale."
"The moving account tells of a South Carolina family struggling to
survive despite a mother's death, a father's abandonment and a
grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's disease--and a host of risky
behaviors by others left behind."
"It's being hailed as a deeply felt and beautifully written psychological drama . . ."
"Propelled by Allison's spare, straightforward prose, What You Have
Left looks at the often uncomfortable circumstances of facing one's
past mistakes and the peculiar tapestry of American lives in the
late-20th century with keen insight and genuine feeling."
"[T]he book is sincere, heartbreaking, and heartwarming without
ever being sentimental. The characters are so humanly flawed. They keep
disappointing one another--lying, leaving--but they're not looking for
--INtake (Indianapolis), 06.28.07
"[O]ne of the year's best fiction debuts."
-- (The EW 100 issue), 06.29.07
"Allison artfully weaves complex characters (a grandfather bent on
suicide; a female NASCAR driver) with thought-provoking storylines."
--Indianapolis Monthly, July 2007
"What You Have Left . . . is taking readers by storm in 210 unforgettable pages."
--Charlotte Weekly, July 6-12
"The strength of What You Have Left lies in the
relationships among its characters . . . Allison captures the truth and
irony of being part of a family, no matter how broken it is."
"[H]ilarious, tragic, deeply human characters you'd love to sit and have a beer (or a pitcher of Bloody Marys) with. . . What You Have Left is a book readers will want to rush through and savor at the same time."
--, August 2007
"Allison has crafted a novel of southern discomfort, filled with
dirt tracks and fast cars and generations doomed to repeat the mistakes
of their forebears."
--, fall 2007
"As the title suggests, it?s a book about loss, and there is real
sorrow in these pages, but the force of life in Allison?s prose is
exhilarating, and it is a joy to discover a storyteller with such a
--, October 2007
"The story . . . stays with you long after you have closed the book."
--Poughkeepsie Journal, 11.04.07
"Allison has crafted the sort of novel that should find a home in book groups everywhere."
"[A] small, spare book that manages to be incredibly affecting."
--, The Best Books of 2007, 12.23.07.
"[The characters] come to seem like part of your family: you argue
with them, get mad at them, want to comfort them at the same time that
you're holding back an 'I told you so.' . . . [A] wonderful book, full
of heart, crisply written, full of sadness and light."
--Muse: A Quarterly Journal of The Lit, April 2008
"Allison is such a master illusionist that we do not know what he
is doing until he has already opened our eyes—and his is such a
beautiful, empathetic voice that we forgive any legerdemain he may have
used to trick us out of blindness."
"Upon reading Will Allison’s novel, I was struck by how much it felt like an intense fictional cousin to Darin Strauss’ Half a Life."
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