“The memoir of the year… For the sake of all who are precious to you, people, read this book.”

Jesse Kornbluth, HEAD BUTLER & 20SomethingReads

“The memoir of the year.

I’d bet you’ll agree.

If you read it.

Is “Barefoot to Avalon” sad? Try heartbreaking. And not just because David Payne’s 42-year-old brother, George A., dies in a crash in 2000 as he’s helping David drive his possessions to his new home — that’s just the disaster that inspired the book. There are more. Many more: the entire history of the Payne family.

These are damaged people who wreck their lives and wound their kids. The people who come after them swear they’re going to be different. Then they fall into the same destructive behavior.

And it’s not just the Paynes.

Reading about them, you can’t help but think about your own family….

For the sake of all who are precious to you, people, read this book.”

Read the full review



Joe Donahue interviews David Payne on Northeast Public Radio

In 2000, while moving his household from Vermont to North Carolina, 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, flipped over in the road, and died instantly.

Soon thereafter, David’s life hit a downward spiral.

Listen to the interview here.

The New York Times: “… a brave book with beautiful sentences on every page…”


By David Payne

294 pages. Atlantic Monthly Press. $26.

In 2000, David Payne’s 42-year-old brother, George A., died in a highway crash while helping the author move to North Carolina. The accident is the impetus for this fine memoir, not its subject. Although Mr. Payne recalls that horrific event and the terrible grief in its aftermath, he dives headlong into dissecting, with raw candor, his family’s troubled history. There were boarding schools, luxury cars and coveted Wall Street jobs, but these signifiers of the “good life” were ruined by financial failures, intractable resentments, failed marriages, infidelity, suicide, abuse and addiction, and alcoholism (including Mr. Payne’s). He also traces the harrowing effects of George A.’s bipolar disorder and the brothers’ complicated, fraught relationship. This is a brave book with beautiful sentences on every page, but there’s nothing showy about it. Mr. Payne writes with the intensity and urgency of a man trying to save his own life.

–CARMELA CIURARU, The New York Times

Read here.

Charlotte Observer: David Payne’s Reading Riveting…

It’s always a risk to invite my husband along to a reading. Most of the time, he’d rather be watching the Panthers or re-runs of “L.A. Law.” But last week, we were both in for a unusual treat at Park Road Books.

Hillsborough’s David Payne was reading from his memoir about his brother’s death,“Barefoot to Avalon,” and it turned out to be a riveting and enlightening evening…

The memoir, reviewed Sunday on the Observer’s book page, is fantastic. I give it unrestrained kudos.

— Dannye Romine Powell