The First Thing
and the Last
A Novel by
Allan G. Johnson
"This beautiful, brave, and liberating book is a triumph of the spirit. Engrossing and exquisitely written, it shines with rare courage and a tender, life-saving wisdom that comes only through facing the darkness we suffer or inflict on others. It is a marvelous story whose characters I am glad to have in my life."
Joanna Macy, Author, World as Lover, World as Self
“Allan Johnson's illumination of the mind of a woman recovering from horrific abuse and loss is miraculous, carried by a story that is both gripping and inspiring. It is a stunning achievement."
Jean Kilbourne, Creator of the award-winning film series, Killing Us Softly
"Allan Johnson's writing is moving, insightful, and deeply human. He takes us inside painful lives with courageous truth-telling, yet at the same time takes us inside of characters who can heal and thrive. This is a novel that rings true, and that we need urgently to take into our hearts."
Lundy Bancroft, Author of Why Does He Do That?
The First Thing and the Last portrays an extraordinary woman who is brutalized – but the abuse becomes her sorrow and not her identity in Allan Johnson's complex, masterful, and exacting understanding of such a woman's life. His ability and willingness to see so deeply, to portray a woman and her story so profoundly, takes our breath away. Welcome this extraordinary and most original novelist to the ranks of American literature.
Deena Metzger, Author of Writing For Your Life and The Other Hand
In the middle of a horrific night, Katherine Stuart barely escapes being murdered by her abusive husband in the kitchen of their suburban Boston home. In the aftermath of utter loss and devastation, Katherine is sought out by Lucy Dudley, an elderly woman living on a family farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, who reads about Katherine in the news and is drawn to her by a closely guarded history of her own. Katherine, unable to bear the accusing eyes of her family, accepts Lucy's invitation to come to Vermont, setting in motion a deepening relationship between the two women that frames a universal struggle to heal and reclaim what severe trauma takes from people's lives.
Over a period of nine years, The First Thing and the Last was rejected sixty times by commercial publishers, many of whom were unwilling to publish a novel about domestic violence, no matter how compelling the story or how well it was told. Three editors were turned down by their editorial boards because of concerns about how to make a commercial success of a novel that realistically portrays domestic violence. One editor was overruled by her publisher who declared that he didn’t know why a woman would stay with a man who beat her up. Another editor, after being turned down by the board, wrote, “I genuinely hope you find someone brave enough to take this on.” Which turned out to be the independent literary publisher, Plain View Press.
The First Thing and the Last was featured in the January 25, 2010 Publishers Weekly semi-annual issue highlighting notable first works of fiction.
Allan G. Johnson has worked on issues of social justice since receiving his Ph.D. in sociology in 1972. His work on men’s violence against women began in 1977 as a Rape Crisis Service volunteer. He has authored research, testified before legislative committees, consulted with national and state organizations, and served on the board of the Connecticut Coalition against Domestic Violence. His nonfiction books include The Gender Knot and Privilege, Power, and Difference. He is a nationally known speaker on issues of race and gender, including violence against women.
For more on his work, visit his website at www.agjohnson.us