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The Long Haul [Paperback]

Amanda Stern
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2003
The Long Haul is about a frozen relationship between a college-aged alcoholic (The Alcoholic") and his codependent girlfriend (the protagonist whose name is never spoken). Shifting between Upstate New York and New York City, the story follows the trajectory of their doomed six-year relationship.
The Alcoholic is a college-town musician-a shiftless, disturbed yet oddly gentle and pathetic figure, he demands fealty and receives it from his girlfriend, who sees no choice but to stick with him for "the long haul."
The protagonist, infatuated both by his irredeemably broken state off-stage and his Cobain-esque charisma on-stage, follows him everywhere. But she can barely apprehend the hollowness inside the two of them, fascinated instead by the trauma she encounters everywhere, an abandoned child, a pregnant junkie, a self-mutilating college friend...and in him.
In an effort to find their way in the world, they drive through an ice-storm, kidnap an abandoned girl, break into a house, make and break the same promises, uncover the futile existence of lost causes, and forsake their own needs. As the redemption they found in the other turns to ruin, these two addicted youths find that extricating themselves from the other is not as easy as sacrifice.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Stern's slim debut, centered on the tumultuous six-year affair between a needy, self-absorbed young musician referred to only as "the Alcoholic," and the unnamed, enabling narrator, paints a rich picture of mid-1990s undergraduate and postcollege anomie. Details of the Gen-X experience-drinking at dive bars; going to rock shows attended by a "United Nations" of "fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, punks, skater kids, techno freaks"-are cleanly rendered, and Stern's tone is a spot-on mix of nostalgia, sympathy and ennui. The story begins with the Alcoholic, a locally successful musician, self-destructing on stage at the unnamed college he and the narrator attend in upstate New York, a victim of his own drunken melodrama. The narrator blames herself-as she will continue to do throughout the novel-convinced that her fib about a former love caused his meltdown. Her slow slide into a depression caused by the Alcoholic's superficial, controlling love, and the Alcoholic's overwhelming need for validation are the forces that drive the narrative. Juxtaposing the couple's life upstate with their later days in New York City, Stern shows the dysfunctional relationship in its moments of light (the first blush of affection; an ill-conceived nighttime quest for a corkscrew) and darkness (fighting; a miscarriage; an attempted rape). Though the narrator is sometimes frustratingly passive, she is also articulate and skillful at telling her own sharp, dark coming-of-age story.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


""Amanda Stern has rendered a powerful impression of confusion, ambivalence, regret, rage, and occasional bliss with an exactitude that is, itself, funny and endearing."

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a sucker punch...but a good one. Oct. 31 2003
Amanda Stern isn't pretty and that's exactly why I love this book. She doesn't cover her narrator's co-dependency, depression, anger, rage (all the fantastic range of emotions) with cheapened exposition, precious images and sing-song prose. Rather, her prose is sharp, short and powerful and the dialogue or sometimes the lack thereof between the unnamed narrator and the "Alcoholic" really tells it all. Engaging, I sometimes winced over several scenes (the heroin needle in the stomach, the attempted rape scene in another story), however, this is the true gift of the writer...the ability to shake me and propel me forward, wanting me to read more. Far from a precious book, this novel sustains, engages and sucks the reader in. Brava! And I cannot wait for the next novel.
On a side note, why is this fantastic book paired with the horrible James Frey novel?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not another hype job Oct. 18 2003
By A Customer
What amazes me about this book is that it's gotten so little attention. In a way, I'm pleased, I'd like to keep Amanda Stern a secret for a while. Unlike the privileged and over hyped women writers in Ms. Stern's generation (you know who i'm referring to) Ms. Stern is the real thing. She has clearly written this novel from her heart. It is brave and courageous and she has guts. I too see the comparisons to Denis Johnson (this is the one article I've found on Stern floating around out there) but she is very much her own stylist and manages to imbue her novel with such substance and free-spirited language that she arguably stands in a class by herself. No comparisons necessary. She is a writer to watch and savor. Let's hope she has a lot more of this in her.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cool now as the french new wave was then. Oct. 7 2003
By A Customer
This book is cool. It's writing is so spare it's complicated. It's one of those books i imagine seeing stuck out of people's back pockets, bent and haggard like it's been through the wash. It's about this Alcoholic, called, just that and his damaged desperate girlfriend, who is actually likeable. Together they swamp through the bilge and actually, truly, make it out. Well, at least one of them does. That's cool they're making a movie of it. I've read this book twice already so I bet I'd see the movie like four times. A MUST READ!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Damn, girl. More, please! Dec 9 2003
By A Customer
I heard Stern read at my college in Nashville. She was stellar, a total rock star. Witty, energetic, enthusiastic and utterly charming, but I hadn't read her book yet. I have since read it and can only say, more! Please! She speaks to my generation (college aged, struggling) with a vibrance and freshness that is ferocious in its orginality of language and brutal in its honesty. She's something else. A must read. A must see her read. This girl has me totally whipped.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stern Punk Oct. 7 2003
By A Customer
Amanda Stern knows how to whip her prose into a real hilarious and dark word froth. The characters might be people you actually know (or ran away from) which gives this novel a real edge and adds to the multiple chuckles of recognition (no small feat). This is one of those books that I really hope they turn into a movie...rumor has it that a representative from Hal Wilner's production company has been talking about optioning it...we can only hope.
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