Woe to Live On
Set in the border states of Kansas and Missouri, WOE TO LIVE ON explores the nature of lawlessness and violence, friendship and loyalty, through the eyes of young recruit Jake Roedel. Where he and his fellow First Kansas Irregulars go, no one is safe, no one can be neutral. Roedel grows up fast, experiencing a brutal parody of war without standards or mercy. But as friends fall and families flee, he questions his loyalties and becomes an outsider even to those who have become outlaws.
admitted. “Take these with ’em,” Pitt said. He dropped a cloth satchel of mail they’d found when they first took the prisoners. “There’s not a thing of use in here, Black John says. Just home letters and relative talk.” This gift was an outlandish gesture for my comrades to make. “Why?” I asked. “Why give the letters to me?” “Oh,” Arch said, and stammered around on his feet a bit. “Oh, we just figured you might find a thing or two of use in them. That’s all. That’s what we figured.” “I don’t
Jack Bull laughed. His eyes had a lantern glow. “I don’t believe anyone is about to die from my kiss. In fact, she seems to be doing tolerably well.” The widow excused herself swiftly. She got right out of there. I reckon widows feel okay about acts that some maidens might drown themselves over. Anyhow that’s the way I figured it. When she was gone Jack Bull said, “Hey, looky here, boys.” “Where?” I asked. “Right here.” There was a big lump in his britches square between where his pistols
as, “Jake, in the other world do they do this, or that?” If the truth were real important to me, I would need to ’fess up to the left-out detail, which was, I sort of enjoyed playing the role of a man who knew a few of the answers. In the brightness of this day on the hillside I said, “The rebel is a blight on the Yankee man’s will, Holt.” “His will?” “Yes, his will.” I was gesticulating out onto all the hills and timber, and it seemed that plenty of fox squirrels and field mice were
straggled behind me, and there was windblown blood all over. “Not this!” Sue Lee wailed. “Lord, please not this!” In the light he looked bad. His arm was burst at the elbow, and cracked bone and torn meat and blood all showed. His eyes had crawled back in his head, leaving only the fluttering whites visible. “He’ll make it,” I said. I was borrowing confidence on credit from faith. It wasn’t really an attitude I had much of. But I needed it now, so I got it where I could. “I’ve seen worse-shot
evokes a sense of place.” —San Francisco Examiner “Woodrell’s novel is at once intensely literary and wonderfully cinematic… Woe to Live On is in some ways a celebration of the intertwining of American writing and American speech, of the way, since Huckleberry Finn especially (written by Woodrell’s fellow Missourian Mark Twain, né Samuel Clemens), American literary prose hears itself in dialogue with transcribed, unschooled, spoken vernacular. But, ironically, when you pull that speech off the