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The Second Coming: A Novel [Paperback]

Walker Percy
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 1999
Will Barrett (also the hero of Percy's The Last Gentleman) is a lonely widower suffering from a depression so severe that he decides he doesn't want to continue living. But then he meets Allison, a mental hospital escapee making a new life for herself in a greenhouse. The Second Coming is by turns touching and zany, tragic and comic, as Will sets out in search of God's existence and winds up finding much more.

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"Splendid...a beautifully textured novel...a distinguished work of art.... Walker Percy's perception luminously lights up obscure depths of experience without at the same time explaining that experience away."--The New York Times Book Review

"What a pleasure . . . His best nook since The Moviegoer . . . and among the most admirable American novels of the past few years."--The New Republic

"He is a beguiling, uniquely gifted novelist who deserves to be read in order and in full."--Newsweek

About the Author

Walker Percy wrote several books of fiction and nonfiction, including the bestsellers The Moviegoer and The Thanatos Syndrome. He was awarded numerous prizes during his lifetime, including the National Book Award, and is considered one of the greatest American writers of our time. He died in 1990.

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The first sign that something had gone wrong manifested itself while he was playing golf. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Beautiful June 22 2004
When I read books, I mark up the text and write in the margins pretty thoroughly, and when I am finished with the book, I go back through and copy down my favorite passages. Usually there is only one or two quotes to write down, but The Second Coming was a different matter. Walker Percy has such extraordinary insights and power with words that passage after passage, with their humor, wisdom, and beauty, pierces straight through me. It took me two hours to copy all of the passages I wanted.
The Second Coming is one of the greatest novels that I have ever read, and that is partly because of the quirky story at its heart. Will Barrett, a rich and successful widower, is trapped in his life, a sort of living death. His big first step begins to happen in the first wonderful episode of the novel when he is playing golf and begins to realize it. "Knowing about what is going to happen is having a chance to escape it. If you don't know about it, it will certainly happen to you." From there, Will begins to try to find how to live his life. The other primary character is Allison, a girl escaped from a mental hospital now trying to find out how to live in a world totally new to her. Together, they embark on a quest to be born again into life.
The Second Coming is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Percy was trained as a physician, and he took those skills to literature. In The Second Coming, he diagnoses American society and tries to find a cure. There is some real wisdom there and most importantly, some real hope. This is a novel that is vastly underrated and one that should not be missed (along with all of Percy's other novels).
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5.0 out of 5 stars If I Could Rate it Higher, I would!!! Feb. 2 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've long been familiar with the name, Walker Percy, and of his well-known relative who helped settle the Mississippi Delta, and was one of the most powerful and wealthy planters in that region. But it wasn't until I finally picked up "The Moviegoer" to figure out why that book is so well-respected, that I finally understood why Percy was considered such a phenomonal writer by those in the know. His style is PERFECT. His themes -- PERFECT. I have never read a writer I am more enthralled with. And I like "The Second Coming," too. This guy, if anything, is UNDERRATED. He is as profound as Faulkner, but EASY TO UNDERSTAND (my 11th grade English teacher always taught that you can be as profound as you wish, as long as you make your writing understandable to EVERYONE, ranging from an educated king, to the lowliest peasant, which is a policy that I have personally tried to follow as a published author myself). The Second Coming is an excellent story that explores human depths that so many novelists don't even begin to reach. I now intend to read everything I can get my hands on that this outstanding writer ever wrote.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You should read this book Feb. 14 2003
By Grapey
Do not think of Walker Percy's work as Southern literature. I say this not because it isn't Southern literature, but because hardly anybody seems to understand what Southern literature is. Percy, himself, noted this.
Think of Percy's work as good books that deal with the South, but more importantly with people -- with what it means to be human.
The Second Coming is one of my favorite novels. It deals with the existence of God, the fecklessness of modern life, and any number of other banal, overworked subjects that you might find in any other contemporary novel, but they are enlivened by Percy's malicious wit (he called himself malicious, though his doing so was simply an instance of his peculiar malice, which is not really malice, though its sting is the same). The response to the question of God's existence is a toothache.
Percy writes in a straight-forward, ironic manner, but where normal irony is double-voiced, Percy's is triple-voiced. One must always ask oneself if one is really getting the joke even when one is laughing out loud.
Don't think of Percy as a Southern writer because you can't help but shortchange him when you do so. He presents himself with a Southern drawl, and a casual wit, but behind this is incisive social and psychological commentary, and behind this is yet another layer.
The Second Coming is a fine novel -- a good love story if you can stand the fact that the lovers are a mental patient and a horny widower. Percy tells fine jokes, and tosses you on your rear every other page. This is enough, but it is not all. You can enjoy this novel if you just want to be entertained, but if you are willing to look for it, there is an undertone of malice that isn't malice, and yet deeper, a still, small voice.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Our cool Dostoevsky"? Oct. 23 2001
My used copy of this book has a quote that refers to Percy as "our cool Dostoevsky," which begins to make sense after reading The Second Coming. I'd previously read The Moviegoer, and while I enjoyed it, it seemed more psychological than the Southern literature with which I was familiar.
The Second Coming did little to change this, incidentally. It's told from the perspective of two people in different stages of losing their minds. It's exceedingly dry and hard to read at some points, but at others it flies by. There is little "redemption" in the Christian sense to speak of until the very last page of the book, but one still walks away feeling cleansed in some way. It's odd, and hard to review.
As another reviewer has noted, the characters do seem to be devoid of emotion at points, but I prefer to believe that this is on purpose--as Percy points out, both believers and unbelievers have lost their way in the South, and, as Allie and Will are caught in between these two groups, it makes sense to have them confused and emotionless at times.
The Second Coming was good enough to make me want to check out some more of Percy's novels, but it wasn't earth-shatteringly good. It's still worth you're time if you're interested in psychology, the South, or religion and how they relate to individuals.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Patient Education...
Memorable book.
Recommended to many people, especially literate patients and family.
An education in the reality of psychosis, ... its cruelty and its wisdom. Read more
Published on July 25 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Percy's most commercial and still brilliant . . .
The Second Coming sold surprisingly well, probably because it features a quirky love story and has one of the most original openings I've ever encountered. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2003 by Hunter Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars The ordinary life
Will and Allie search for...what? Each at some point in his/her journey comes to realize that he finds joy in the "ordinariness" of life---there is a beautiful passage... Read more
Published on June 26 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Stilted, vague and just plain ole boring.
My title for my review sums up how I ended up feeling about this book. I bought this book based on not only the other reviews for this book but also some of the reviews I read for... Read more
Published on May 15 2000 by Minnesota Raven
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly beautiful novel!!
Percy is a brilliant writer to say the least. Here is a tale which has been masterfully concieved and beautifully told. Read more
Published on May 31 1999 by
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book
One of my all-time favorite novels; I've probably read it four or five times. Percy is a writer of intense depth and subtlety. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Faulkner, you'll love Percy
Every time I read this book again I think, "The last 50 pages of this book are the best 50 pages ever written."
Published on Oct. 8 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars The cornerstone of twentieth-century "thinking" ...
THIS is the book that ALL "modern thinkers" of the day have plagarized from, over and over again !! Read more
Published on July 12 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my 5 most favorite in all its forms...
This gentle yet shocking tale of love and awakening moves me each time I read it...Percy is able to evoke a mood which carries this reader along in a diffused southern light,... Read more
Published on July 24 1997
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