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Red Sky at Morning: A Novel (Perennial Classics)

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The classic coming-of-age story set during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.


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The classic coming-of-age story set during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.

30 review for Red Sky at Morning: A Novel (Perennial Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    4**** and a ❤ A coming-of-age story set in a small mountain town in New Mexico during WW II. 17-year-old Josh has to become the man of the household when his father goes into the Navy and moves the family from Mobile to New Mexico where they'll be safer. Josh's mom cannot deal with the change in social life and different cultural norms. Josh finds new friends and himself. The first time I heard about this book was when my mother checked it out of the library and I would hear her laughing as she r 4**** and a ❤ A coming-of-age story set in a small mountain town in New Mexico during WW II. 17-year-old Josh has to become the man of the household when his father goes into the Navy and moves the family from Mobile to New Mexico where they'll be safer. Josh's mom cannot deal with the change in social life and different cultural norms. Josh finds new friends and himself. The first time I heard about this book was when my mother checked it out of the library and I would hear her laughing as she read. I kept asking her about it and she read snippets aloud. I could hardly wait for her to finish so I could read it also. Many years later I checked it out of the library and read it again. For a while it was out of print and unavailable, but I'm happy that it's available again. I have my own copy now. ***UPDATE 25Aug12*** Yet another re-read of this favorite. Bradford writes believable teens (and adults), making sense of a world whose rules have changed. I was caught up in the story of Josh and his family, as they tried to make the best of the situation. The setting shields the characters from the war, but war will intrude eventually. In the meantime Josh and his friends maintain some of the innocence of youth, while still stretching the boundaries as they rush head-long towards adulthood. ***UPDATE 24May15*** A challenge to read "your mother's favorite book" in honor of Mother's Day temporarily threw me for a loop. My mother passed away last year and she'd never shared what was her favorite read. (Actually, she didn't read much in the last two decades of her life.) Then I remembered this little gem of a novel. Oh, how we laughed together reading it! Re-reading it and thinking of my mother was a perfect way to meet this challenge. The hardcover copy I got from the library was the "seventh printing" and had no cover art - just a white background with a red and black title. BUT, it did include several author blurbs -including one from Harper Lee! She writes: Red Sky at Morning is a minor marvel: it is a novel of paradox, of identity, of an overwhelming YES to life that embraces with wonder what we are pleased to call the human condition. In short, a work of art. Well, I sure can't improve on that!

  2. 5 out of 5

    El

    Somehow I had it in my mind (solely from the title of the book) that this was going to be along the same vein as Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon or Nevil Shute's On the Beach; I always thought there would be some form of a nuclear attack, so I have put it off for a while, claiming to "not be in the mood" for a nuclear attack story (considering I cried like a baby at the end of On the Beach). I finally picked a copy up from the library and was interested to read in the front cover that it really is a st Somehow I had it in my mind (solely from the title of the book) that this was going to be along the same vein as Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon or Nevil Shute's On the Beach; I always thought there would be some form of a nuclear attack, so I have put it off for a while, claiming to "not be in the mood" for a nuclear attack story (considering I cried like a baby at the end of On the Beach). I finally picked a copy up from the library and was interested to read in the front cover that it really is a story of World War II, and there was a blurb from Groucho Marx - not quite a person I would expect to blurb a depressing book about bombs killing people. The story is about Joshua Arnold, a 17-year-old boy living with his family in Mobile, Alabama. His father is in the Navy and volunteers his work for the war. Josh and his mother leave Mobile for their summer home in Sagrado, New Mexico to wait out the war. Josh goes to school in Sagrado and makes new friends, but the story is not quite that mundane. The friends have whole back-stories that are surprisingly believable and great insights into their character. In the meantime Josh's mother has to fight her Southern aristocratic lifestyle and try to embrace a completely different culture. Josh wants what most 17-year-olds want, which is simply to be a kid; the difference being there is a war going on in which his father is a part, and Josh struggles daily to maintain the innocence of his childhood by not wanting to grow up. As in any good coming-of-age novel, the growing up process is inevitable. This one is considered to be the Catcher in the Rye of the Southwest, but I beg to differ. There is no angst and self-pity in Josh's character. He does not think he is better than anyone; in fact, he is an honest character, open to new ideas and the people around him. He embraces the people he meets, and each one, down to the local thug or the sexually loose high school twins, makes an impact on him. For the first book by a non-writer, it's a great one. Josh Arnold makes Holden Caulfield look like a bigger wuss than I originally thought of Holden.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine Robins

    Everyone has totemic books, books that mean something to them beyond the words on a page. It's a wonderful thing when a book that is special and meaningful is also funny and terrifically written. Yes, it's a coming-of-age story, set in 1942 in the southwest; it's also shrewd and miraculously observant about people and their behavior, about what happens when cultures bump up against each other. I discovered this book when I was fifteen (a new transplant from a city to a small rural town) and imme Everyone has totemic books, books that mean something to them beyond the words on a page. It's a wonderful thing when a book that is special and meaningful is also funny and terrifically written. Yes, it's a coming-of-age story, set in 1942 in the southwest; it's also shrewd and miraculously observant about people and their behavior, about what happens when cultures bump up against each other. I discovered this book when I was fifteen (a new transplant from a city to a small rural town) and immediately fell in love with it. I've given copies to people over the years, and phrases from the book have worked their way into constant use. It also has the best dead horse scene in literature, a U.S. Army VD training film which is not to be missed, and a scene with an irate father of twins that will blow your socks (and regions nearby) off. I can't see anyone old enough to appreciate it not loving RED SKY.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Eisenberg

    As the father of 3 and 1 year-old boys, I can't dedicate as much time to reading as I used to. I therefore generally try to read books that have been recommended by people whose opinions I respect. But every now and then I stumble across a book I've never heard of, but nonetheless feel compelled to read based strictly on the cover/description. Red Sky at Morning is the latest example of such a book, and I am happy to say that my intuition served me well because it is a gem. Told in the first per As the father of 3 and 1 year-old boys, I can't dedicate as much time to reading as I used to. I therefore generally try to read books that have been recommended by people whose opinions I respect. But every now and then I stumble across a book I've never heard of, but nonetheless feel compelled to read based strictly on the cover/description. Red Sky at Morning is the latest example of such a book, and I am happy to say that my intuition served me well because it is a gem. Told in the first person by a 17 year-old male, Red Sky at Morning is often characterized as a coming-of-age story and compared to novels like Catcher In the Rye and A Separate Peace. I found it exponentially more entertaining and enjoyable than either of those better-known books. Red Sky at Morning is a short book that deals with the complex themes of growing to adulthood and ethnic/racial tension in a humorous and inobvious manner that is easy to absorb and embrace. It features an assortment of vivid and unique characters, and several passages of this book made me laugh out loud. I give this a 4+ rating. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Oh, I love this book. Josh is hilarious, way smarter than he has any right to be, and pretty much always upbeat, which is refreshing. I love The Catcher in the Rye as much as any other smart person who went to public high school and feels alienated a lot, but I'd definitely spend time with Josh Arnold before Holden Caulfield. And we'd eat really delicious food prepared by Excilda and laugh about how stupid racist people are and drink lots of his dad's expensive wine. Oh, I love this book. Josh is hilarious, way smarter than he has any right to be, and pretty much always upbeat, which is refreshing. I love The Catcher in the Rye as much as any other smart person who went to public high school and feels alienated a lot, but I'd definitely spend time with Josh Arnold before Holden Caulfield. And we'd eat really delicious food prepared by Excilda and laugh about how stupid racist people are and drink lots of his dad's expensive wine.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gabur

    Although this book wasn't rich in plot twisters and cliff-hangers, it was inexplicably engaging and addictive. The style was flawless, peppered with rare wit and sarcasm and it is due to it that the book has all my praise. I knew the ending (and pretty much everything in between), as soon as I started reading the book, but the process itself was so much fun!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    One of many books I'd like to re-read. But the regional libraries no longer own copies. Particularly interested in re-viewing setting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    I LOVED this book, once I caught on to the tone of it. When it dawned on me that humor was on each and every page, I was hooked. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. Thanks Lisa! Postal book club round 2016-17

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Beth Preston

    I just finished one of my favorite books. Again. Red Sky At Morning has been compared to Catcher in the Rye. I think it is so much better. I read CITR maybe twice in the 1980s, but I remember him smoking and roaming around the city aimlessly, cussing and that his sister was named Phoebe and he was concerned that she would turn out like him. Kind of like a not-so-fun Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Again, this is my memory from 20+ years ago. I may feel different now. After skimming a synopsis, I admit I just finished one of my favorite books. Again. Red Sky At Morning has been compared to Catcher in the Rye. I think it is so much better. I read CITR maybe twice in the 1980s, but I remember him smoking and roaming around the city aimlessly, cussing and that his sister was named Phoebe and he was concerned that she would turn out like him. Kind of like a not-so-fun Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Again, this is my memory from 20+ years ago. I may feel different now. After skimming a synopsis, I admit I should probably read it again. RSAM is about a kid whose Dad goes off to WWII while he and his mother end up in Small-Town, New Mexico. Josh does all the things small town kids do, and manages to be charming and funny, yet respectful, not sullen like Holden comes off. This book makes me laugh every time I read it. It seems like every few years I understand new levels in it. I might like this book particularly because it takes place in a world I can imagine, rather than New York, but the protagonist's attitude is positive, he is the sort of person I would have liked to have been friends with when I was in high school.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick O'Hannigan

    There is love and wisdom and sly humor in this book. Richard Bradford takes what could have been an ordinary coming-of-age story and makes it magical by placing it in the context of a culture clash heightened by the compromises of war. Bradford knows that we who too glibly say "southwest" these days would rethink our assumptions if we had moved from Alabama to New Mexico in 1943, the way the Arnold family does here. He also knows what binds us all together in spite of our differences. Very few wr There is love and wisdom and sly humor in this book. Richard Bradford takes what could have been an ordinary coming-of-age story and makes it magical by placing it in the context of a culture clash heightened by the compromises of war. Bradford knows that we who too glibly say "southwest" these days would rethink our assumptions if we had moved from Alabama to New Mexico in 1943, the way the Arnold family does here. He also knows what binds us all together in spite of our differences. Very few writers can address questions of race, class, ethnicity, family, and religion with a light touch, but Bradford is one of those few, and the result is my nominee for "most underrated novel in American literature."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    This book was a wonderful surprise. I bought it while vacationing in New Mexico because I wanted to read something with a local setting, but otherwise I knew nothing about it. The blurb on the back cover characterized it as a "coming-of-age story." OK, so here's what I expected: teenager gets into scrapes, confronts his first great tragedy, and comes out wiser in the end. But I had no idea how FUNNY his book was. This is no glum story, as it is propelled by a number of characters who are witty a This book was a wonderful surprise. I bought it while vacationing in New Mexico because I wanted to read something with a local setting, but otherwise I knew nothing about it. The blurb on the back cover characterized it as a "coming-of-age story." OK, so here's what I expected: teenager gets into scrapes, confronts his first great tragedy, and comes out wiser in the end. But I had no idea how FUNNY his book was. This is no glum story, as it is propelled by a number of characters who are witty and whose company is quite enjoyable. And if you're familiar with the environment of northern New Mexico, the story is even that much more fun.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    This classic coming of age novel is set in 1944-45, a year of transitions for a country, a family and a young man. The 17 year old narrator moves with his mother from Mobile, AL to a small town in New Mexico while his father enlists. As the narrator makes friends and adjusts to his new home, his mother sinks into depression and alcoholism. These accounts of small town bullies and eccentrics, of teenage pranks and first dates, are told with a voice both natural and intimate, leaving the reader wi This classic coming of age novel is set in 1944-45, a year of transitions for a country, a family and a young man. The 17 year old narrator moves with his mother from Mobile, AL to a small town in New Mexico while his father enlists. As the narrator makes friends and adjusts to his new home, his mother sinks into depression and alcoholism. These accounts of small town bullies and eccentrics, of teenage pranks and first dates, are told with a voice both natural and intimate, leaving the reader with a sense of such familiarity that, for a short time, it is possible to forget that this is a novel, not the reader’s own memories.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    This book describes a young man's experiences during WWII as he moves from Alabama to New Mexico for his senior year of high school. It shows his adaptation to a variety of cultural and geographical changes en route to becoming an adult. The war is treated almost as a separate character in terms of the impact it had on the people on the home front. The characters are memorable. The wry wit and satirical humor made me laugh out loud frequently. l found it warm and engaging.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rodger

    Looking at New Mexico magazine's issue on books, this book was listed as a favorite of most of the people, (authors) interviewed. So we ordered it. It was a delight to read. If you have ever lived in New Mexico or wondered why we New Mexicans are so strange, this is a great read. Warning, you may have some trouble understanding some of the language even though it is all English.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cullison

    Re-read it after 30 odd years, and it was more delightful than I recalled. INCREDIBLY funny and well-written. A true classic. Deserves a place alongside To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher In The Rye, and the best of William Saroyan...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie Reynolds

    I had read this in high school but I appreciated it much more this time. The wry humor and great dialogue make it fun to read, but they are also a little deceiving. The book has real depth and significance beyond the sort of classic coming-of-age story. The vivid descriptions of the fictional town and its surroundings in New Mexico are very appealing. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    A thin story that doesn’t go any deeper than its over-the-top stereotypes and cliches of Southerners and New Mexicans. Skirted the line with its portrayal of Catholics. I wouldn’t call this a classic. Reads like Pat Conroy‘s The Great Santini, but set in the southwest.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christian McKay

    Hilariously dry and playfully insightful, this book came out of nowhere for me. Why don’t more people talk about it? One of the best coming of age stories out there imo

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott Kingery

    I enjoyed this book. The subtle humor and dialog had me laughing out loud at times.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Isathv94

    This coming of age novel does not leave behind a life-changing theme but it does provide good entertainment. The author writes with a witty sense of humor that delivers an insight of the different cultures that inhabit in Sagrado, a remote town hidden in the mountains. This includes a family of hard working Mexicans, a red neck that makes a living by sewing his neighbors, and an extreme philanthropist that brings bad luck to every cause she helps. I enjoyed the dynamic between Joshua and his frie This coming of age novel does not leave behind a life-changing theme but it does provide good entertainment. The author writes with a witty sense of humor that delivers an insight of the different cultures that inhabit in Sagrado, a remote town hidden in the mountains. This includes a family of hard working Mexicans, a red neck that makes a living by sewing his neighbors, and an extreme philanthropist that brings bad luck to every cause she helps. I enjoyed the dynamic between Joshua and his friends, who are all believable characters with down-to-earth personalities. They are not innocent, there is a lot of irony in their dialogue, but they are also not rebellious and are free of any boresome teenage angst. They are mostly just goofballs who try to get by. The only matter that I had with this novel is that, at times, I felt that the every female character was put in the categories of: either a shallow airhead, a whore or a nutcase. Joshua’s mom is a very despicable character. She is an old fashioned racist who does not tolerate the town’s diversity; she is also very weak and cannot run the household without her husband. Bradford redeems himself with the characters of Victoria and Marcia. Victoria is the only member of the Montoya family with the intellectual capacity to go to College. Marcia is the anti-Southern Belle, who is obsess with the gruesome and twisted side of the world. They represent a new generation of females that are opposite to Joshua’s mother. Still, they are only side characters and lack the depth that they deserve.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The best coming of age story you've never heard about. It's probably required reading in New Mexico. Set in New Mexico during the last year of World War II, Josh is a 17 year old living in Mobile, AL and his dad who owns a shipyard finally gets his wish to go to war with the Navy. Rather than leave Josh and his mom in Mobile while he goes off to war he puts them up in their vacation home in the mountains of New Mexico, a place that the wife loathes. Josh is a flexible young man and the tale is f The best coming of age story you've never heard about. It's probably required reading in New Mexico. Set in New Mexico during the last year of World War II, Josh is a 17 year old living in Mobile, AL and his dad who owns a shipyard finally gets his wish to go to war with the Navy. Rather than leave Josh and his mom in Mobile while he goes off to war he puts them up in their vacation home in the mountains of New Mexico, a place that the wife loathes. Josh is a flexible young man and the tale is full of humorous exchanges with his classmates as he adjusts to going to school there for the first time. He knew the town from his many summers there but this was a whole new experience for him. Bradford introduces us to the cultures of the places and the times. Josh's mom is having a hard time living without her husband and her beloved South. She eventually turns to the bottle and a male freeloading friend of the family shows up and won't go away. Lots of interesting adventures in this relocation drama as Josh connects positively with all the local folks. The ending is sort of tragic but it's still a great story that will leave you chuckling from some of the kid's antics. Josh was always a good kid who took on responsibility but he shines during this chapter in his life. I'm sure many students would prefer to read this story rather than Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I was assigned this book for a community college course and my heart sank when I read the description on the back cover - "The classic coming-of-age story about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count." It sounded drippy as hell. But I was only a few pages in when I realized that it was simply a terrific book, greatly entertaining and laced with sardonic humor, while fully living up to the lofty description that made it sound about as fun as a root canal - it really is abo I was assigned this book for a community college course and my heart sank when I read the description on the back cover - "The classic coming-of-age story about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count." It sounded drippy as hell. But I was only a few pages in when I realized that it was simply a terrific book, greatly entertaining and laced with sardonic humor, while fully living up to the lofty description that made it sound about as fun as a root canal - it really is about the enduring spirit of youth and and values in life that count. Bradford writes about fairly heavy subjects (including racism and alcoholism) deftly but also with depth and subtlety, and gives every character (except maybe the sponger Jimbob) their due. A great yarn and a book that prompted me to try my hand at YA fiction, which I had been dismissive of before.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chloe'

    I find this book heartwarming and written with genius. It's a pleasure to read and it's not just because of the well-incorporated and flowing humor, but because Josh has the best narrative voice of any character in any book I've ever read. Emotions of the characters are not necessarily ever stated outright, and yet they are apparent, right there for the reader to access with a little intuition. All of the characters are clearly, in a way that neither disguises nor declares itself outright, deepl I find this book heartwarming and written with genius. It's a pleasure to read and it's not just because of the well-incorporated and flowing humor, but because Josh has the best narrative voice of any character in any book I've ever read. Emotions of the characters are not necessarily ever stated outright, and yet they are apparent, right there for the reader to access with a little intuition. All of the characters are clearly, in a way that neither disguises nor declares itself outright, deeply human. Both the actions and the reactions all seem to click, to make sense.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Olivia K.

    Red Sky At Morning is a beautiful story with beautiful characters. At times, it's almost melancholic, though most of the time extremely funny! I loved that it wasn't heavy and it wasn't over the top - This coming of age story should be read by kids today and not those twilight shits and other young adult dealing with way over-the-top premises. 5 stars!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This book was written in the 60s, but did not find it the least bit dated in terms of writing style, information, characterization or storyline. I also appreciated Bradford's writing style: gentle and witty. A lovely book that provides a lot of insight into the culture of the American southwest.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rita Graham

    A coming-of-age story set in Santa Fe during WWII. The author stressed creating many colorful characters at the expense of plot. I did find the interaction among the southern white, Spanish and Am Indian cultures both interesting and at times amusing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    It would be very easy to just say this book is humorous, but it's more than that. In a gentle way, the author shows us the outcomes of racism, sexism, and classicism set against the background of New Mexico during WWII, as seen through the eyes (and told by) a group of teenagers.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Clyde

    Red Sky at Morning is the best coming of age story ever. The. Best. Ever. That is all.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This is one of my favorite WWII books. I've read it several times, as well as listened to the audiobook. Great writing and great characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louise Clark

    Quite a typical teen boy book. It did make me laugh in some places. The family was very dysfunctional.

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