Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's Story (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

"In 1990, George A. Payne was helping his brother David (known to his brother as DP) move from Vermont to North Carolina when he lost control of his vehicle and the attached trailer, and died in the accident. That may be the end of the story, but it’s just the beginning of Payne’s harrowing memoir of sibling rivalry, addiction, and mental illness. It starts with the unhappy marriage of Margaret and Bill, David’s parents and continues to their son George A., who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, losing career and family in the process. And though David finds some career success, it’s not without personal cost; his relationships are torturous and his drinking self-destructive. And all this is while advocating Taoist philosophy; it’s not as easy as it looks to live a simply life, and DP is well aware that his life is one swirling mess of contradictions, especially regarding his relationship with George A.. Barefoot to Avalon is a particularly raw confessional, one that pulls up all the adhesive bandages to uncover the scabs and blisters beneath, but fortunately the hand doing the bandage pulling is also writing some beautiful prose in the process, and that makes it all worthwhile."

— Daniel Goldin

August 2015 Indie Next List

“This memoir is the most courageous book I have ever read. The author takes readers with him as he endeavors to make sense of his relationships with his parents and siblings, mental illness, personal shortcomings, and the journey to becoming a writer. The book leaves readers amazed at how much pain the heart can hold and still emerge peaceful, whole, and full of hope. Payne holds nothing back, and his depictions of events are real and full of all that makes us human, both the good and the bad.”
— Sharon Wheeler (M), Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC


An Amazon Best Book of 2015, A Kirkus Reviews' Best Book of 2015

"A brave book with beautiful sentences on every page."--New York Times

"Piercing...a tour de force."--Los Angeles Times

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. His career came to a standstill, his marriage disintegrated, and his drinking went from a cocktail-hour indulgence to a full-blown addiction. He found himself haunted not only by George A.'s death, but also by his brother's manic depression, a hereditary illness that overlaid a dark family history whose roots now gripped David.

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.

About the Author

David Payne is the author of five novels, including Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street, winner of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award, Ruin Creek, a New York Times Notable Book, and Back to Wando Passo. Payne has taught at Bennington, Duke, Hollins and is a founding faculty member in the Queens University MFA Program.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780802123541
ISBN-10: 0802123546
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Pages: 304
Language: English