Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Hardcover)

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I loved this book!  Pure pleasure right from the start and it delivered all the way to the very end.  Tarkington tells the story of two half-brothers in a small Virginia town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they navigate the respective comings of age (there is 8 years between them).  Narrated by Rocky, the younger of the two, the story tenderly and tangibly weaves its way through the 1970's exploring and reminiscing about freedom, loyalty, first and true loves, disappointment and revenge, replete with the perfect sound track (principally Neil Young) that takes you back to the very place and time.  Tarkington's characters stayed with me a long time; as soon as I finished I wanted to pick it up and start over again.

— Linda McLoughlin Figel

January 2016 Indie Next List

“Tarkington's debut novel feels positively Shakespearean in its sense of family dynamics and the sometimes destructive power of love, but it speaks with the deceptively plain, poignant language of a Neil Young song. Set in the 1980s in a small Virginia town, the book tells the coming-of-age story of Rocky Askew as he copes with fraternal abandonment, dangerous liaisons, caregiving, and one town scandal after another with little help other than his brother Paul's old vinyl collection. Only Love Can Break Your Heart speaks to anybody working to function, however imperfectly, in any type of family.”
— Andrew Hedglin (W), Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS


"Love can make people do terrible things."

Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears.

Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn't forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he's getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors' daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families. After a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, Rocky and his family must reckon with the past and find out how much forgiveness their hearts can hold.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781616203825
ISBN-10: 161620382X
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Pages: 320
Language: English