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 selected for Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Borders Original Voices, and Book Sense (IndieBound) Picks, and was named one of 2007’s best books by author Amanda Eyre Ward.

“[O]ne of the year’s best fiction debuts.”
Entertainment Weekly, The EW 100 Issue

“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 San Francisco Chronicle, Notable Books of 2007

“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.”
Washington Post

“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.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“[T]he novel’s . . . characters slam through life embattled, weary, looking for missing pieces that most often remain missing.”
The Los Angeles Times

“Tender, smart and efficiently told. . . . Raw-boned, heartfelt prose.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“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.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A remarkable, understated novel. . . . Allison has a precocious knack for detail . . . and for plain, old-fashioned storytelling.”
Entertainment Weekly “EW Pick”

“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’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 among generations.”
The State (Columbia SC)

“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

“[The] intercutting of viewpoints and time sequences is stunningly effective. Storylines whirl and ricochet like stock cars swerving along a figure-eight track.”
Dayton Daily News

“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.”
Columbus Dispatch

“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.”
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers

“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 sure hand.”
Narrative Magazine

“[A] small, spare book that manages to be incredibly affecting.”
BuzzSugar.com, The Best Books of 2007

“[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

“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.”
Three Guys One Book

“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.”
Richard Ford, author of Independence Day

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 reading experience.”
Dan Chaon, author of Among the Missing

“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.”
Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama

“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.”
Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

“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.”
Karen Joy Fowler, 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.”
George Singleton, author of You Want More: Selected Stories

“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 love?”
Erika Krouse, author of Contenders

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