Barefoot to Avalon
In 2000, while moving his household from Vermont to North Carolina, author David Payne watched from his rearview mirror as his younger brother, George A., driving behind him in a two-man convoy of rental trucks, lost control of his vehicle, fishtailed and flipped over in the road. David’s life hit a downward spiral. From a cocktail hour indulgence, his drinking became a full-blown addiction. His career entered a standstill. His marriage disintegrated. He found himself haunted not only by George A.’s death, but also by his brother’s manic depression, a condition that overlaid a dark family history of mental illness, alcoholism and suicide, an inherited past that now threatened David’s and his children’s futures. The only way out, he found, was to write about his brother.
Barefoot to Avalon is Payne’s earnest and unflinching account of George A. and their boyhood footrace that lasted long into their adulthood, defining their relationship and their lives. As universal as it is intimate, this is an exceptional memoir of brotherhood, of sibling rivalries and sibling love, and of the torments a family can hold silent and carry across generations. Barefoot to Avalon is a brave and beautifully wrought gift, a true story of survival in the face of adversity.
“An elegy to a brother that plumbs depths beyond depths — a fever-dream of a memoir, a blazing map of familial love and loss, headlong and heartbreaking and gorgeously written.”
— James Kaplan
Back to Wando Passo quivers with authentic life and is so bold in concept and audacious in scope that it seems like the summing up and exclamation point of a great writer’s career. The novel contains everything — from the horror of 1860s rice culture slavery, to the perils of modern love, to the history of rock and roll . . . Payne takes on the whole known world and pulls it off with the deftness of a writer in his prime.”
“If you don’t belong to a book club, start one with this book… the grains of this plot eventually gain an irresistible momentum till it begins to move like an avalanche, crashing toward a spectacular natural disaster and a moral calamity.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“I begin with what may seem a bold observation: David Payne is the most gifted American novelist of his generation. Ruin Creek is the best new novel I’ve read this year. As in Early from the Dance, he sets his literary table on the Carolina Outer Banks, a literary territory as palpable in these pages as. the Salinas Valley in John Steinbeck’s.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“Reading stretches of Early From the Dance is like attending a play in which every line is a curtain line. Payne has the deepest human sympathy for his characters and knowledge of the heart; everyone in this book comes alive… Payne is extraordinarily gifted.”
–The Boston Globe