Only Love Can Break Your Heart : A Novel

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      Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. A time when teenagers roamed wild and free. When sons worshipped God, loved their mothers, and feared their fathers. And when eight-year-old Rocky still worshipped his older brother, Paul--sixteen and full of rebel cool--who was happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick, until one day things went terribly wrong and Paul disappeared. Seven years later, Rocky, now a teenager himself, must reckon with the past after a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, and to their broken family.
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Booklist Reviews 2015 October #2

Titled after a Neil Young song, Tarkington's first novel recounts the coming-of-age of Richard "Rocky" Askew. Rocky is a decent kid who makes bad-boy decisions as he grows up—trysts in an older woman's hayloft, intentional expulsion from Macon Prep for explicit sketches on World Book Encyclopedia pages, just to list a couple. His big half brother, the rebellious heartthrob, Paul, pulls stunts such as abducting Rocky from school one day and leaving home for years only to return unannounced. Due in part to his reputation, Paul is framed for the double homicide of neighbors Brad and Jane Culver. The Askews and the Culvers are hyper, higher-class families burdened with internal dysfunction and unfortunate events; it seems everyone drinks and smokes to cope. From beginning to end, the plotline is intense, never flagging. From the bleeding heart Tarkington stitches on Rocky's sleeve there arises both scandal and rivalry, along with a touch of the paranormal and religious faith. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2015 November #1

When the Culvers move into a long-vacant mansion next to Rocky and his family in a sleepy Virginia town, they set in motion events that will eventually result in two murders, never completely solved. During the intervening years, Rocky grows up idolizing his older brother and learning about the facts of life (both carnal and spiritual) in the shadow of Twin Oaks, and of the family who occupies it. Set in the 1970s, this heartbreakingly effective coming-of-age story about the importance of love in one's life is replete with moments of harsh cruelty and tender love. Beautifully written, it vividly brings to life its Southern characters, landscape, and small-town claustrophobia. Readers will stop and reread paragraphs, not because of confusion but for the pure joy of the language. VERDICT Fans of Kathryn Stockett's The Help will embrace debut author Tarkington's depiction of Southern life at a time of changing social mores. Those who liked Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat will also find much to appreciate here. Most of all, readers who can't get enough of Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, and Brian Panowich will delight in discovering this fine new writer.—Sharon Mensing, Emerald Mountain Sch., Steamboat Springs, CO

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