So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell – A Book Review

After seeing Literary Hub’s “The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Under 200 Pages,” I decided to give So Long, See You Tomorrow a try. After all, it’s only 135 pages.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the author, William Maxwell, hails from Lincoln, Illinois! Lincoln is just a short way south of me along Interstate 55. As a Central Illinois author, I immediately felt as though he was a kindred spirit. Sure, there are some glaring differences between us. For example, he attended Harvard and died in the year 2000. But still.

So Long, See You Tomorrow primarily takes place in Lincoln during the 1920s. Maxwell states it’s an autobiographical novel, so it’s hard to know exactly how much is truth and how much is fiction. By story’s end, you’ll no longer care because you’ll be so engaged with the tale.

In the beginning, So Long, See You Tomorrow is difficult to get lost in. It has an unusual structure in that it jumps around quite a bit in time and geography, and it never allows the reader to get a steady grasp on who’s who. However, at about the halfway mark, the novel adheres to a more traditional, linear pattern and focuses on the primary event of the story. At that point, So Long, See You Tomorrow blazes along and is very difficult to put down.

Though originally published in 1980, So Long, See You Tomorrow felt modern in terms of execution despite being published forty years ago and taking place nearly one hundred years in the past. Maxwell has a clear, controlled voice yet plays with form enough to give him a certain edge. Of course, the story, which revolves around a relationship souring and a murder occurring between two isolated farmers who were the best of friends, is timeless.

If you’re looking for a quick, engrossing read that is not just a good story but a well-written story, I highly recommend So Long, See You Tomorrow. William Maxwell seems to have had a very successful career, so I plan to read more by this fellow Central Illinoisan.

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