Perfume River (Hardcover)

Staff Pick Badge
Perfume River By Robert Olen Butler Cover Image
Special Order - There is a small chance we can get this title

Staff Reviews

At once lyrical and driving, Butler's newest novel returns to an imagined landscape that has held sway over his work in the past, the Vietnam war and its hold on the lives and memories of those across three generations. A novel of reflection and refraction, the narrations deftly follows characters whose lives are propelled by the influence of memories as their thoughts drift and swirl between the present and the past. An aging professor is pulled between the regret he feels for killing and his deep need for approval from his dying father. His brother, who deserted to Canada, feels the pull of familial ties cut decades before. His wife, who protested the war, remembers the soldier she once met, bright eyed and eager for a new life, and considers the subtle ways the war has shaped their lives ever since. And a chance encounter with a drifter, the disturbed son of an abusive vet, threatens to bring the violence of war home to them.


— Chris Lee


From one of America's most important writers, Perfume River is an exquisite novel that examines family ties and the legacy of the Vietnam War through the portrait of a single North Florida family.

Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian, teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam-war protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert's own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy's father, a veteran of WWII, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again, when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father's bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.

About the Author

Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of sixteen novels, including Hell, A Small Hotel, and the Christopher Marlowe Cobb series. He is also the author of six short story collections and a book on the creative process, From Where You Dream. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and received the 2013 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802125750
ISBN-10: 0802125751
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Pages: 272
Language: English