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Late City

About the Book

Late City

A 115-year-old man lies on his deathbed as the 2016 election results arrive, and revisits his life in this moving story of love, fatherhood and the American century from Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler.

A visionary and poignant novel centered on former newspaperman Sam Cunningham as he prepares to die, LATE CITY covers much of the early 20th century, unfurling as a conversation between the dying man and a surprising God. As the two review Sam's life, from his childhood in the American South and his time in the French trenches during World War I to his fledgling newspaper career in Chicago in the Roaring Twenties and the decades that follow, snippets of history are brought sharply into focus. 

Sam grows up in Louisiana, with a harsh father, who he comes to resent both for his physical abuse and for what Sam eventually perceives as his flawed morality. Eager to escape and prove himself, Sam enlists in the army as a sniper while still underage. The hardness his father instilled in him helps him make it out of World War I alive, but, as he recounts these tales on his deathbed, we come to realize that it also prevents him from contending with the emotional wounds of war. Back in the U.S., Sam moves to Chicago to begin a career as a newspaperman that will bring him close to all the major historical turns of the 20th century. There he meets his wife and has a son, whose fate counters Sam's at almost every turn. 

As he contemplates his relationships --- with his parents, his brothers in arms, his wife, his editor and, most importantly, his son --- Sam is amazed at what he still has left to learn about himself after all these years in this heart-rending novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner.

Late City
by Robert Olen Butler

  • Publication Date: September 7, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 080215882X
  • ISBN-13: 9780802158826