Now Available in Paperback, THE OTHER JOSEPH
A masterful depiction of a life driven off the rails by tragedy and sin—a man now summoned by the legacy of a beloved, lost brother to embark on a journey in search toward understanding, happiness, and redemption.
THE OTHER JOSEPH:
Reading Horack’s novel, I thought of Tom Perrotta’s review of Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins — a defense of sorts, in the New York Times Book Review, for the “big, old-school novel.” Though Perrotta acknowledges the daring bouts of recent experimentation . . . he only needs to read authors like Atkinson to remember the immense pleasure and importance of the genre. With The Other Joseph, I felt a similar reinvigoration, as I was reminded of the joys of such a book: poignant character development, sharp dialogue, and — perhaps most notably — witty descriptions.
Memorable characters live on every page . . . Bracketed by stunning revelations, Horack’s luminous tale offers perceptive insights about the elemental connections of family.
The Other Joseph is a poignant and sly magic trick of a book, one that reveals almost all its secrets immediately, only to spend the rest of its surprisingly suspenseful pages making us wonder what really has been revealed. In some ways, this is the novel’s central question: Even when we think know everything, how much do we know?
Knowing up front that the protagonist is doomed doesn't make his loss any easier to bear.
Horack keeps the action moving and the characters believable.
Skip Horack's second novel, The Other Joseph, is a book within a book and an extraordinary homage to brotherly love. It is authentic, poetic and heartbreaking, and the two brothers at its core are impossible to forget and impossible not to love.
Skip Horack's novel The Other Joseph is a fascinating story of redemption where the landscape breathes through every page.
[Horack’s] sense of the American landscape, and his evocation of the ordinary people who struggle to perform extraordinary tasks in order to redeem themselves, is lyrical and sweet. There is a particular theme that winds its way through the novel that is both timely and fearless.
THE EDEN HUNTER:
Horack, the author of a well-received story collection, The Southern Cross, writes luminous, clean prose, holding the fantastically beautiful wilderness steadily in front of us, but also describing a scalping or evisceration with a matter-of-fact directness that reminds us how the terms of that world were negotiated and understood. He has a poet’s tuned attentiveness, but never uses his sentences to preen. Reading his novel, I thought more than once of Cormac McCarthy—not just of the calmly depicted frontier slaughter of “Blood Meridian” but also of the scoured post-apocalyptic vision of The Road. What a pair of American bookends The Road and The Eden Hunter would make—one traversing the ruins of a world that has spent its promise, the other bringing us in just as the whole bitter and doomed business is getting started.
Louisiana-born Horack's novel (after The Southern Cross collection) offers a stylish, fast-paced, historical narrative based on an 1816 slave insurrection. Spanish slave traders enter the Congo and purchase a captured Pygmy named Kau, transporting him to Pensacola, Fla., where he's sold to an innkeeper. Five years later, Kau kills the innkeeper's son and flees into the wilds of southern Florida. Along his wilderness trek, Kau regrets the murder, yearns for his family in Africa, and encounters a "Negro fort" on the Apalachicola River built by General Garçon. The remote fort's ostentatious "genius" commander befriends the diminutive Kau, who is allowed to take an escaped slave as his mate. The American victory in the War of 1812 makes Garçon, an ally of the British, a target of the imminent American invasion. While sympathetic to the slaves' desire to be free, Kau realizes the slim chance for success against the Americans; he's more inclined to follow his heart and "live quietly" in Florida than stand with Garçon. This diminutive man serves as a watchful protagonist in Horack's crisp, vivid tale.
"I'm not a ward of America," wrote James Baldwin in 1963's The Fire Next Time. "I am one of the first Americans to arrive on these shores." In his magnificent first novel, Stanford lecturer Skip Horack follows up his acclaimed short story collection, The Southern Cross, with a tale of one of these first Americans. The year is 1810. A young pygmy named Kau loses his wife, son, and entire village in a battle with enemy tribesmen. Taken prisoner and eventually sold to Spanish slave traders, he survives the middle passage and becomes the property of a Mississippi innkeeper. Kau bides his time, learns English, and finally escapes in 1816—but at such a high emotional and moral price that his flight becomes as much a quest for redemption as for physical freedom. While searching for a patch of forest to call his own, Kau encounters other refugees: Red Stick Creek Indians, religious eccentrics, a regiment of ex-slaves who fought for the British during the War of 1812. As they prepare for their inevitable last stand against the American forces, they invite Kau to join them. "We will inspire songs," promises their charismatic leader, Garçon. But Kau wants more than a meaningful death—he wants a meaningful life. The one that he finally chooses, with all its attendant sacrifices and danger, would surely have made Mr. Baldwin proud. GRADE: A
Stanford lecturer Horack's stylish historical novel about a runaway slave is moving in more ways than one: It's a page-turner that really gets to you.
Most readers will notice the carefulness of the writing and the lack of mistakes often present in historical fiction. Horack gives the tale authenticity by using accurate details of how a man traverses the forest at night, how he hides a canoe, how messenger pigeons behave in flight. The prose is spare and direct and not bogged down with authorial speculation and literary daydreaming. The Eden Hunter is a solid read and a sign of great things to come from its talented author.
What ultimately separates Horack’s The Eden Hunter from most other contemporary southern novels is its vision of humanity. Though violent, there is a dogged sweetness always limping behind the torture and the killing, moving slowly on its way across the Apalachicola River, drifting south toward the Gulf of Mexico, and finally seizing on the image of a man dancing in his solitary way “for the attention of some heathen god.”
THE SOUTHERN CROSS:
Amid the rich panoply of bayous and barrier islands, the magic and menace of the Gulf Coast is revealed
during a year in which the disillusioned and righteous, deranged and expectant, downtrodden and clever
consider the uncertainty of life, before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Nature, human and Mother,
informs every aspect of existence in Horack's potent world, a microcosm of all that is paradoxically
tentative yet steadfast. In such an inherently hostile but innately delicate environment, men and their
hounds may run wild, but not necessarily free. A devious migrant worker uses sex as a means of escape; a
feisty widow rues time's passage from the lawn of her nursing home; a notorious ex-con toys with the idea
of tenderness. Cast in unfavorable circumstances, characters react in ways that surprise both themselves
and the reader. Season by season, Horack's debut collection finds much to love, more to respect as he
divulges the secrets, traditions, and memories that defy and define this iconic land and its people.
Horack’s writing is beautifully rendered, his descriptions of people and places near-poetry, and he is pitch-perfect his descriptions of Louisiana.
This engrossing collection of short stories, some barely a page in length, is set in the hardscrabble South, along the Gulf Coast just before and after the apocalyptic hurricane season of 2005. But Skip Horack has no moral to preach, no ax to grind. Beyond their artfully evoked and deeply felt sense of place, if these stories are about anything, they are about the characters who inhabit them, easily and profoundly.
With perceptiveness and deep intelligence, Horack inhabits a stunning range of characters young and old, male and female, black and white, and shows them entwined with each other, and inseparable from where they live. The Southern Cross marks the arrival of an important new writer—not only a Southern writer, but an American one. The landscape of these stories is our own, the people in it faces we pass on the highway or hidden in fisheries and farms and crab-picking plants, uniquely American. Horack gives them a voice. Sit up and listen.
The characters, each uniquely interesting, are deeply tied to the harsh Gulf Coast landscape, hurricanes notwithstanding, of swamps and uncertain waters and heat
This is a beautiful — and sometimes disturbing — collection of stories. It has its own voice; it doesn’t conform to any kind of structural requirements you might imagine for the short-story-collection format.
These stories are told from spring through summer, fall, and winter. They explore life, youth, love, passion, disappointment, and death. The southern reader will find an alarmingly authentic glimpse into their neighbor’s lives, and the rest of us will get a taste of a world often misunderstood and mislabeled. Skip Horack is a writer who will forever be on my must read list–I look forward to reading many fine stories from him in the future.
After reading this collection it is difficult not to compare Horack's stories to another of the South's most powerful writers, Larry Brown. In time, these stories may be the introduction to the work of Horack in the same way Facing the Music became an introduction to the work of Brown.
The sixteen stories that form Skip Horack’s Bakeless prize-winning debut collection, The Southern Cross, are tough and lean and proud as the Southern Gulf Coast characters who fill their pages. With restraint, empathy, and an intimate understanding of dramatic tragedy, each piece steadily and surely cuts to the blood-bright bone.
In this region, the ties to the land are not always as sure as they are for ranchers or farmers. There is no medicine for a flash flood or a hurricane. There are no pesticides for all those water moccasins because they aren’t pests; humans have encroached on their swamplands and waterways. Horack knows this coexistence—the inextricable link between the rural people of the Gulf Coast and their land—and represents it wonderfully.
This tale of a lost young man plays out in lovingly evoked prose. Landscapes are Horack’s specialty. Whether it’s a Nevada mountain range, a river delta town or Golden Gate Park, the characters are revealed by the way they perceive their surroundings.
A beautiful novel, big-hearted and funny and a brilliant examination of the human connections we seek out.
This exciting, well-plotted sophomore novel from Horack (The Eden Hunter) explores how war affects the lives of two close-knit brothers. . . . Horack delivers satisfying plot turns and shows great empathy for his troubled protagonist, Roy, who only seeks to honor the memory of his big brother Tommy.
Skip Horack is a maestro of building slow-cooking suspense.
It’s a gorgeous book, brilliant and heartbreaking and funny, with characters so well drawn they were impossible to get out of my mind. I can’t remember the last time I read a contemporary novel that had such an instant feel of a classic.
I absolutely was enthralled by this novel, The Other Joseph, by Skip Horack. I just loved it. It does what the best novels do—it makes you think about the world, and family, and legacy, differently. It changes you. About lost brothers—and lost selves—about oil rigs and Russian mail order brides, and the disconnection of love, it's one of the most masterful and haunting novels I've read all year.
There is no underlying tone of heartache in this gripping novel; instead, it is on the surface, within every one of Roy’s thoughts and encounters, and in almost all of his memories.
Meet Adam, the diminutive hero of The Eden Hunter, Skip Horack’s impeccably crafted novel about one man’s search for freedom in a country still striving to define the term.
Kau is a pygmy tribesman forced into slavery from his African home at the turn of the 19th century. After five years, he escapes into the Florida wilds, leaving his mentor and fellow slave, Samuel, and his slave master’s son, Benjamin, with whom he has developed a kinship. Kau intends to live in nature, as he did as a member of the Ota tribe in Africa. Eventually, after numerous encounters along the way, Kau comes across a British fort on the Apalachicola River given to former slaves who were fighting along with the British during the War of 1812. Garçon, who has declared himself the general, takes Kau into their encampment. They intend to hold off the Americans who eventually attack the fort while Kau attempts to leave with others before imminent peril. VERDICT: Horack follows up The Southern Cross, a collection of short stories, with a visceral and authentic account of a distinctive character and his quest for freedom. For some readers, this work may bring to mind Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain or Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Five years after capture and enslavement in the American South, Kau, a pygmy tribesman, manages to
escape. He flees into the wilder territories of unsettled Florida, an area still very much in dispute between
Native Americans and white Americans, between runaway slaves and slave catchers, between black
recruits to the British army to fight the War of 1812 and the white American military. Kau finds himself
caught between cultures and clashes on an odyssey through the Florida swamplands, haunted by memories
of his own tribe and family, struggling to reconcile the alliances and animosities among the warring black,
red, and white tribes he encounters. He meets Native Americans fighting with and against encroaching
white men, a family of freed blacks eking a life for themselves, and a mesmerizing former slave who
commands a fort while leading a doomed mission. What Kau wants is to find a space in the wilderness that
will return him to himself. Horack is masterful in rendering a story of a man whose singularity offers fresh
perspective on a turbulent period in American history in an exceptionally evocative novel.
The Negro Fort, which Horack based on an actual fort in Florida, is doomed, as Kau soon realizes. The Americans can not let it exist. Tragedy awaits. Horack’s narrative is insistent and irresistible. Framed in the context of Kau’s journey, both in space and time and emotion, it’s filled with violence as cultures clash. Kau is one of the most unusual characters to appear in American fiction, a fascinating mix of naiveté and jungle wisdom.
For The Eden Hunter, Skip Horack has moved out of the present moment, a moment that he delineated with grace and precision in his first story collection, The Southern Cross. The Eden Hunter travels back nearly two centuries—to the wilderness of Spanish Florida in 1816. In that milieu, Horack tells the story of Kau, a pygmy tribesman who has been captured and brought to America by slave traders. Kau's escape—and the way this escape intersects with the lives of a group of runaway slaves holed up in a fort on the Apalachicola River—form the backbone of this dazzling and fluid historical novel.
One may be tempted to compare Horack's writing to Tom Franklin or Larry Brown, especially The Southern Cross, which chronicles the wayward lives of marginal Southerners. But The Eden Hunter calls to mind the old masters like Melville and Conrad and Hemingway, especially the way Horack draws rich drama from the conflict and beauty of nature.
You won’t be able to put this one down . . .
This is a world we enter into fully, led as we are by atmospheric prose, compelling characters, an unsparing vision of the world as it is. We emerge from reading these stories, amazed by the places we've been and the things we've seen; surprised by the imagined blood on our hands, the butterflies on our shoulders, the fish swimming in unexpected waters. Welcome, Skip Horack, Louisiana storyteller of uncommon talent.
This collection vividly depicts life on the pre- and post-Katrina Gulf Coast. In "The Journeyman," Clayton, reluctantly preparing to head out for a three-month stint of work in South America, meets a young girl, Kenyatta, who warns him that God and Jesus are going to punish the people of New Orleans and destroy the city. Amused by her earnest warning, Clayton chuckles and thanks her for the heads up. In "The Redfish," Luther, recently released from prison after a wrongful murder conviction (he has committed murder, just not the one he was convicted of), gets tangled up with a no-good woman and ends up bound and gagged with his now-ex-girlfriend's mother in her trailer as Katrina approaches. In "Junebelle," June, a reclusive widow unhappily stuck in a Baton Rouge retirement home after her well-meaning daughter installed her there, avoids interaction with the other residents and spends much time in fond remembrances. Throughout, water is a force, at times standing in for death, at others for peace and beauty. Horack takes in a wide swath of varied characters and finds the common humanity in their struggles.
Anyone who crafts characters as vital, funny, and heartbreakingly human as Skip Horack does in The Southern Cross deserves a "Hot Damn!" slap and a "Roll Tide!" whoop. (It will be noted by this Alabaman reviewer that Horack is Louisianan, but several of the stories in this collection take place in Alabama.) His voice morphs seamlessly as he inhabits the lives of: a grad student aimlessly chasing sturgeon and love, a stripper toying with a not-so-saintly evangelical preacher, an ex-con thrust into the heart of a hurricane, a lonely rabbit breeder forced to kill his plague-infested animals, and a disillusioned poet in search of lost ancestors (to name a few), all scattered about the Gulf Coast in 2005—before, during, and after Katrina. Horack's prose illuminates the shadows around us: One character, tentatively descending into a mud cave deep in a Baton Rouge swamp, realizes that "though it is dark at first, a few steps more and he can't believe what he is seeing, what he has been missing this whole time, these worlds within worlds."
This spare, detached treatment distinguishes Horack's work from much Katrina literature, most notably Tom Piazza's 2008 novel "City of Refuge," a fecund epic-and a specifically New Orleans book - set in the heart of it all. But it's also of a piece with the sensibility of his characters, their conflicts ... even his lean prose itself. And it makes "The Southern Cross" particularly effective as a short-story collection, which can work both intimately and ephemerally. The lives here are strangely dual: at once totally fragile and disinclined to change. They may be swept away by a storm; as easily, a storm may barely register. Horack has wisely realized that there is a story, and maybe even a better one, in what isn't changed by catastrophe.
In their errors and screw-ups each of Horack’s characters reveals a shade of humanity that is alternately confounding and surprising. Why do we act the way we do? Maybe we’re all just who we are, and there’s no changing that.
A great collection of chapters that tell assorted stories occurring right before, during and after Katrina.
With memorable characters and interesting plots, The Southern Cross should make a favorable impression on its readers. But plot or character is not the star here, language is. Precise, informative, evocative, surprising, the language of these stories shines with hard brilliance. We hear how a rabbit farmer talks. “I was her husband,” he says, explaining himself to a young cop, the past tense exposing his sad loss of self. In “Borderlands” we read of one girl that “a pool of girls absorbed her like a bead of mercury.” The protagonist of the closing story “fished the back, dead-end waters above North Pass, stretching small nets along the trespasses and washout gaps where bayous bled into the swamp.” Horack is a new, vigorous voice, not loud but splendidly clear.