Cover image for Somewhere south of here : a novel
Somewhere south of here : a novel
Kowalski, William, 1970-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2001]

Physical Description:
291 pages ; 25 cm
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With his first novel, Eddie's Bastard, William Kowalski brought to the literary scene an engaging and original voice in fiction. With appealingly offbeat characters, a narrative steeped with imagery and threaded with lyricism, and a story filled with unexpected surprises, Eddie's Bastard earned such praise as "a grand debut" (Gail Godwin), "exuberant" (the New York Times) and "appealing" (People magazine), and marked the emergence of an important writer. Kowalski now fulfills that promise in Somewhere South of Here, the tale of a young man's search for the mother he's never met.

As Billy Mann grew up, his only link to the father who died in Vietnam and the mother who deserted him was his hard-drinking grandfather, Thomas Mann, who raised him on a diet of fried bologna sandwiches and mythic tales of the Mann family ancestry. With Grandpa gone, Billy has lost his only known blood relation and sole link to his heritage. The lone clue he possesses to his mother's whereabouts is her last-known address, somewhere in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Propelled by hope and heartache, Billy sets off on a cross-country odyssey from his home in upstate New York.

Arriving in Santa Fe, carrying every possession he owns on the back of his motorcycle, Billy has taken the first step of an intoxicating journey of the heart as he courageously completes his rite of passage into manhood. Filled with vividly drawn characters, each of them with secrets and secret longings of their own,

Billy's world is suddenly rich with possibility -- the chance for love, friendship, and, finally a family to call his own.

Somewhere South of Here is a lyrical exploration of the stories that make up our lives, the redemptive power of love, and the faith that compels us to go on.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Kowalski continues the story of Billy Mann, whose unconventional childhood was chronicled in Eddie's Bastard (1999). That novel concerned Billy's coming to terms with his dead father's family and their legacy of failed opportunities. Now, with his beloved grandfather dead, Billy sets out to find the mother who abandoned him, traveling from upstate New York to Santa Fe, her last known address. What he finds there are the remnants of several more dysfunctional families, his own and those of his girlfriend, a Latina singer and former circus performer who talks to angels. Kowalski's work should appeal to readers who like John Irving. Both writers are old-fashioned storytellers who favor incident-rich plots driven by idiosyncratic characters. Similar to the heroes of Hotel New Hampshire and Cider House Rules, Billy is an intelligent innocent whose wanderings bring him in contact with a host of odd, wounded, usually tenderhearted souls. There is an inescapable sentimentality at the root of all this that will seem cloying to some, moving to others, but on the whole, it is hard to resist the feel-good mood that Kowalski creates. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Kowalski made a good impression with his sentimental first novel, Eddie's Bastard, and continues the story here as he takes hero Billy Mann out to Santa Fe on his motorbike to see if he can trace the mother who gave him away as a baby to be raised by his grandfather. There is no one left in Billy's life except Mildred, his grandfather's elderly companion, who acts like a widow in the wake of his death, and so Billy, now an aspiring writer, feels stifled in his upstate New York hometown. Once in Santa Fe, he meets a sinister Latino neighbor who tells him the girl working at the local cantina may be his sister; through her, Billy finds his mother, dying slowly of cancer in a hospital miles away. He nurses her faithfully in her closing days without ever telling her who he is, starts an affair with Consuelo, a Mexican-born former trapeze artist who is now a singer, quarrels with her, then goes back home and helps Mildred fight off efforts to close down a shelter for unwed mothers she has started in the family's old house. In the end, who should come back, repentant and pregnant, but Consuelo ("`I love you, Beelee.' `I love you, too,' I said. `I know that,' she said.") If all this sounds a little artless, it is. Kowalski has a relaxed, easygoing style, and one or two touching moments shine, but Billy is so utterly without affect, and the other characters are sketched so loosely, that the narrative feels severely underpopulated. This book suffers from a bad case of second-novel syndrome. Agent, Anne Hawkins. 10-city author tour. (Apr. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The eponymous hero of the highly praised Eddie's Bastard is back, still searching for his motherDan odyssey that has landed him in Santa Fe. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.