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July 2004
It Was the Goodness of the Place
by Lucinda Dixon Sullivan

From the 2003 first edition, second printing (Fleur-de-Lis Press):

It Was the Goodness of the Place is a book tnat will break your heart and leave you glad that it is broken because you’re all the more alive for the breaking. In luminous language, Lucinda Dixon Sullivan reaffirms the flawed worlds of all our childhoods and gives us hope as resonant as grief.

Gabe Phillips, Clara’s beloved father, is an odd-footed man who ruins his private world through his anger, lust, and arrogance. Yet, he elevates his community through his determination, hard work, and financial acumen in the tobacco business. Despite Gabe’s flaws, the reader prays that Gabe’s ardent efforts to reconstruct what has been shattered will succeed. His earthy, intelligent wife struggles both to achieve an independent self, after she leaves Gabe, and to reclaim the passion of her coupled life. Young Clara, a character as appealing as Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird, but more complex and vulnerable, tries to create a wondrous reality for herself and those she loves—her divorced parents and Nonie, her aging friend and mentor. Against this quartet rages the crazed Ira Truitt, who believes himself to be the right arm of an unforgiving God. To hold them all, Sullivan hand-builds the small towns, tobacco-growing farms, blighted mining communities, and renewing rivers of Kentucky.

Like the old tragedies, this book has its share of violence; through the pity and terror of the story, It Was the Goodness of the Place illumines the inherent worth of human potential.

—Sena Jeter Naslund, Editor, Fleur-de-Lis Press


Lucinda Dixon Sullivan was born and raised in Kentucky. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Louisville Review, the anthology Place Gives Rise to Spirit, and other publications. With her husband, attorney Richard M. Sullivan, she lives in Louisville and Boca Grande, Florida, a flower basket of an island where there is a writer (or an iguana) under every rock.


It Was the Goodness of the Place shimmers along humanity’s fault lines with unerring wisdom, clarity, and grace. Lucinda Dixon Sullivan casts a steady, sure light onto the souls of her characters, revealing hardscrabble patches of pure terror but also verdant landscapes seeded with hope, decency, and redemption. This is a stunning debut.”
—Connie May Fowler, author of When Katie Wakes and Before Women Had Wings

“Lucinda Dixon Sullivan captures the time and place of this novel so brilliantly that I felt as if I had stepped back to mid-century and found a fully realized town called Milan, Kentucky. The plot never loosens its grip and the language is beautiful, tight, and graceful. It Was the Goodness of the Place is a completely wonderful novel and Lucinda Dixon Sullivan is a stunning new voice.”
—Silas House, author of A Parchment of Leaves

“A dispatch from the heartland of the past.... evocative, assured, and unmistakably American.”
—Robin Lippincott, author of Our Arcadia

“Elegant, mesmerizing, a haunting elegy. Lucinda Dixon Sullivan’s first novel, It Was the Goodness of the Place, is a gorgeously rendered tale of passion, murder, public absolution and secret retribution, set gem-like in the rural Kentucky towns of Milan and Hickman. Justice is at the heart of this lucid, poetic novel; love is at its soul. Lucinda Sullivan has given us fiction to luxuriate in, a pure glory to read.”
—Melissa Pritchard, author of Disappearing Ingenue


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