Fay: A Novel

by Larry Brown

Hardcover, 2000




Algonquin Books (2000), Edition: 1st, 504 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML: "[Larry Brown was] gifted with brilliant descriptive ability, a perfect ear for dialogue, and an unflinching eye . . . stark, often funny . . . with a core as dark as a Delta midnight." �Entertainment Weekly She's had no education, hardly any shelter, and you can't call what her father's been trying to give her since she grew up "love." So, at the ripe age of seventeen, Fay Jones leaves home. She lights out alone, wearing her only dress and rotting sneakers, carrying a purse with a half pack of cigarettes and two dollar bills. Even in 1985 Mississippi, two dollars won't go far on the road. She's headed for the bright lights and big times and even she knows she needs help getting there. But help's not hard to come by when you look like Fay. There's a highway patrolman who gives her a lift, with a detour to his own place. There are truck drivers who pull over to pick her up, no questions asked. There's a crop duster pilot with money for a night or two on the town. And finally there's a strip joint bouncer who deals on the side. At the end of this suspenseful, compulsively readable novel, there are five dead bodies stacked up in Fay's wake. Fay herself is sighted for the last time in New Orleans. She'll make it, whatever making it means, because Fay's got what it takes: beauty, a certain kind of innocent appeal, and the instinct for survival. Set mostly in the seedy beach bars, strip joints, and massage parlors of Biloxi, Mississippi, back before the casinos took over, Fay is a novel that only Larry Brown, the reigning king of Grit Lit, could have written. As the New York Times Book Review once put it, he's "a writer absolutely confident of his own voice. He knows how to tell a story.".… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bettyjo
if you want to know the mississippi gulf coast and new orleans...read Fay. Larry Brown characters are people you see at the waffle house in Gulfport, MS or at least you used to see before Katrina.
LibraryThing member CatieN
Excellent character development, amazing dialogue, good story. Would have given it a "5" but the 17-year-old virgin turned nympho parts got a little tiresome.
LibraryThing member readingrat
This author develops some of the most incredible characters. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you have finished it.
LibraryThing member HankIII
A friend of mine, knowing that I was a Larry Brown fan, gave me an autographed copy of Fay when it was first published. The first time I read it, I couldn't put it down until I finished it two and half days later. This was the South I had grown up in, and maybe didn't want to talk about, but knew
Show More
wasn't very far away, and closer than I was willing to admit. Fay's journey through the trailers and strip bars and the various characters she interacts with makes this book eerily real. Brown's capacity to draw the reader's interest from the first word of Fay is one of the hallmarks that made him one of the great contemporary Southern writers.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
You can't help but fall in love with Fay...in the beginning. Despite being abused by animals and humans alike beautiful seventeen year old Fay Jones holds out hope she can be friends with either of them. Preferably both at some point in her young life. But for now she is eager to find Biloxi after
Show More
running away from a potentially dangerous and definitely drunk father. With only the clothes on her back and two dollars hidden in her bra, she is uneducated and generous; thoughtful in a complicated and naive way. She'll trust anyone who can steer her in the right direction. You'll find yourself holding your breath as she hitches a ride with three drunk boys back to their trailer deep in the woods. You again become breathless when a cop picks her up and takes her home. Fay's ignorance makes people want to help her and hurt her all at the same time. I must admit, over time Fay's willingness (eagerness?) to fall in with some really bad people grew wearisome. She's either intensely shallow or so stupid she can't help herself. She doesn't recognize when someone is taking advantage of her. When she goes from being a blushing virgin to an easy lay in one week's time I felt myself losing interest in her fate and willing the character I did care about to stay away from her.
Because Brown will make you care about some people. Even Fay.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DonnaEverhart
The beginning of FAY was good, but certain parts happened almost too quickly, too conveniently. I don't want to write any spoilers, so I won't go into detail but just know it has to do with the relationship between Sam and his wife, Sam and Alessandra, and then Fay and Sam.

Stick with it though,
Show More
because you can't help but see how well Larry Brown captures the essence of his characters, their motivations, their inner psyche. In many cases, I found I could think of someone I knew just like Fay, Sam, Chris, Reena and Aaron. Larry Brown really knows how to write about blue collar folks, people who live one day to the next, never knowing what will come along to help them on their way, or hurt them so bad they want to give up. And that too, is what makes his writing work. Because his stories aren't about giving up.

Like FAY. This isn't a story about a girl willing to just accept her lot in life and make the best of it. It's about a girl brave enough to walk away from something terrible, with only the inkling of a plan, no money, and no one to help. It's about perseverance, and hoping for the good in people to come through instead of the bad.
Show Less
LibraryThing member datrappert
In Brown's novel, Joe, Fay is the daughter of the destitute Jones family who runs away after another fight with her father. This book tells us what happened to her. Unlike her brother Gary, Fay is not illiterate, having finished the fifth grade, and she at least knows what a toothbrush is. But
Show More
there's a lot she doesn't know about, such as sex, despite having had to fight her father off twice when he tried to rape her and having also watched another girl have sex with one man after another. She also doesn't know much about smoking and drinking as the story begins, but she makes up for that (and the sex part) pretty quickly. Without any spoilers, just let me say that this is typical Brown in so many ways. It seems to be impossible for anyone to drive and not drink at the same time. And smoke, too, of course. There are scenes here so real they hurt, such as an overturned tanker truck on the highway with the driver trapped inside, perhaps a story with some truth to it from Brown's days as a fireman. As the story proceeds, the anticipation of the next hurt to come is a bit too much at times. The book suffers from being about twice as long as it needs to be, and relies upon Fay making one bad choice after another to drive the plot forward. At first, these bad choices are understandable given how green she is, but as the book nears its conclusion, they appear more contrived by the author to set up a confrontation that isn't necessary.There are also too many loose plot ends that could have been trimmed to improve the story. Nevertheless, you won't soon forget Fay or the two men in her life.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Fay by Larry Brown is an intense coming-of-age story of a young woman who is forced to run away from her backwoods home by the unwanted advances of her father. Unfortunately she is destined to have men constantly watching her and trying to take advantage of her. This is not a pleasant story
Show More
revolving as it does in the degradation and violence toward women but it is a very powerful one. Often labelled as Southern “Grit-Lit” I found that I was quickly caught up in unsavoury situation.

Like watching a car accident, we can see how Fay’s life is constantly going from bad to worse. We would like to root for her but it becomes obvious that as the author ups the tension and speed of the story, it is doubtful that we will see any redemption. Fay is naive and ignorant in that she has never had the opportunity to go to school but on the other hand she is very clever and is trying to improve her life. The men she meets along her way are not helpful, even the state trooper who tries to help her goes about it in the wrong way. Others, like the bar bouncer/drug pusher who deludes himself into thinking that he loves Fay, really just wants to control her.

The author builds his story around a strong sense of place. You can smell the barbecue, the salt of the ocean, the cigarettes and the cheap liquor. I did find that the pacing of the story was a little uneven but this is a Southern Gothic tale that is very dark, dangerous and damned. Violence hovers over every page of this noir thriller that exposes the seamier side of life in the strip clubs and bars of Biloxi, Mississippi. Sadly, we will never see the total potential of this author as he unfortunately passed away in 2004.
Show Less


Original language

Page: 0.3707 seconds