A powerful novel of a family haunted by the aftershocks of the Vietnam War—from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of a A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.
“You share a war in one way. You pass it on in another.” Passionate student activism brought Robert Quinlan together with his future wife during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War.
But since then, the long-married Florida university professors have grown apart. Their crumbling relationship is mirrored by Robert’s estrangement from his brother . . . alienated by the same controversial war.
Now, with their father—a World War II veteran—lying close to death, the rift in the family is sorely tested when Robert’s brother refuses to put the past aside and return to say goodbye. And when Robert mistakes a homeless stranger for a fellow Vietnam veteran, his unstable presence in their lives will further stir the emotional scars that shattered the Quinlan men . . . and take its toll on those they love most.
“Butler’s Faulknerian shuttling back and forth across the decades has less to do with literary pyrotechnics than with cutting to the chase. Perfume River hits its marks with a high-stakes intensity . . . Butler’s prose is fluid, and his handling of his many time-shifts as lucid as it is urgent. His descriptive gifts don’t extend just to his characters’ traits or their Florida and New Orleans settings, but to the history he’s addressing.” —Michael Upchurch, New York Times Book Review
“Butler moves easily among his characters to create a composite portrait of a family that has been wrecked by choices made during the Vietnam War.” —Beth Nguyen, San Francisco Chronicle
“The story builds its force with great care . . . Its power is that we want to keep reading. The entire journey is masterfully rendered, Butler lighting a path back into the cave, completely unafraid.” —Benjamin Busch, Washington Post
“Butler greatly enlarges our sense of what the Vietnam War cost to a generation . . . Perfume River tells a human story that sums up an entire era of American life.” —Miami Herald
“Butler’s assured, elegant novel . . . speaks eloquently of the way the past bleeds into the present, history reverberates through individual lives, and mortality challenges our perceptions of ourselves and others.” —Publishers Weekly
“A heartbreaking story of fathers and sons and their expectations and disappointments . . . Perfume River is a powerful work that asks profound questions about betrayal and loyalty.” —BookPage