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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (160 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Steve Yarbrough Narrator: T. Ryder Smit Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Luke May teaches local history—his lifelong obsession—at his old high school in Loring, Mississippi. Having been mentored by his hometown newspaper’s publisher, a survivor of the civil rights turmoil, he now passes these stories along to students far too young to have experienced or, in some cases, even heard about them.

But when a long-lost friend suddenly returns to Loring, where years ago her family had been shattered by an act of spectacular violence, Luke begins to realize that his connection with her runs deeper, both personally and politically, than he ever imagined. Just children in 1962, they had no sense of what was happening when James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss provoked a bloody new battle in the old Civil War, much less its impact on their fathers’ ambiguous friendship.

Once his daughters leave for Ole Miss, and with his marriage at an impasse, Luke’s investigation of this decades-old trauma soon spills over into his own life. With his parents unwilling, or unable, to help him unlock secrets whose existence he’d never suspected, this amateur historian is soon entirely consumed by an obscure past he can neither explain nor control—a gripping reminder that the past isn’t dead, or even past.

Once again Steve Yarbrough powerfully evokes—as David Guterson put it—“not only historical grief but the grief of our own time.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Steve Yarbrough’s Safe from the Neighbors will take your breath away. Ambitious, funny, sad, smart, and beautifully crafted, it’s everything a novel should be.”

    Richard Russo

  • “Steve Yarbrough is a masterful storyteller—one of our finest—and Safe from the Neighbors is a masterpiece. Through his narrator, Luke May, an endearing high school history teacher in Mississippi, we are left to explore and unravel mysteries and tragedies both past and present—the very public crimes during the Civil Rights Movement and those quiet, private, and intimate injustices within one’s own life and household. This is a spellbinding, powerful novel.”

    Jill McCorkle

  • “Very few writers understand the complex history and maddening social order of the Mississippi Delta. For Steve Yarbrough, though, it’s home turf. He is wickedly observant, funny, cynical, evocative, and he possesses a gift that cannot be taught: he can tell a story.”

    John Grisham

  • “Steve Yarbrough sets a novel against a freeze-frame of our recent past—James Meredith and the integration of Ole Miss—and somehow makes his story and those sorrowful events come out even ‘truer’ than what actually occurred.”

    Paul Hendrickson

  • “Engrossing…Safe from the Neighbors is a perfect example of Flannery O’Connor’s famous formula for fiction: A good story just shows you what some folks will go and do, and do in spite of everything…The result is a satisfying, deftly constructed narrative that contemplates the difficulty with which we shed our ties to history, what we might learn from the mistakes of our forebears (or fail to learn), and just what a complicated and mysterious business cause and effect is…Yarbrough offers us a glimpse of a particular Southern predicament, a context and a persuasive atmosphere for this intricate, absorbing tale.”

    Washington Post

  • “Yarbrough, who has been likened to Faulkner for his attention to Mississippi nimbly illustrates what the past can tell us about the present.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • Safe from the Neighbors is a novel of unusual richness and depth, one that’s as wise about the small shocks within a marriage as it is about the troubled history of Mississippi. Steve Yarbrough is a formidably talented novelist, shuttling between the past and present with a grace that feels effortless.”

    Tom Perrotta

  • “Steve Yarbrough is a writer of many gifts, but what makes Safe from the Neighbors such a magnificent achievement is its moral complexity. Though the novel’s time and setting would make it easy and convenient to do so, Yarbrough never allows his readers a smug, self-righteous superiority. Instead, his characters and their actions make us question what we would or would not have done if that time and place had been our own. Safe from the Neighbors does what only the best novels can do; after reading it, we can never see the world, or ourselves, in quite the same way.”

    Ron Rash

  • Safe from the Neighbors is a tense, spellbinding narrative of marital betrayal written against a background of Deep South racial angst. The prose is beautifully meditative and authentic. Steve Yarbrough writes about Mississippi, about history and loss, with the eye and heart of the native son he is.”

    Tim Gautreaux

  • “Enjoyable and satisfying…Perfectly captures the tenor of the time. Yarbrough’s characters speak with the same laconic beauty Cormac McCarthy’s hard-used Westerners display.”


  • “Following in the footsteps of William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, and others, Steve Yarbrough…writes about the American South with gusto, finesse, and a compelling sense of irony…[A] novel of great depth and complexity.” 

    Santa Barbara News-Press

  • Safe from the Neighbors reads like a mystery, plot driven and racing us to its conclusion. Yet the novel contains the sensibility and psychological acuity we often associate with Russian giants such as Tolstoy and Chekhov.”


  • “One of Yarbrough’s talents is his cinematic ability to paint the Delta South—its people and places—without any of the predictable stereotypes. His writing style is so natural and straightforward and bristly with suspense that you hardly notice his abundant insights into the complicated history of the region.”

    Oxford American

  • “Yarbrough wonderfully displays the social upheaval of a specific era and the often-overlooked complexities of small-town life. He also intelligently wrestles with whether or not actions require condemnation of the whole man or just his actions. The relationships are real: simultaneously complex and simple. They are built out of pain and joy…Reading the novel hurts, but in a way that you know things will be okay.”


  • “Loring is Yarbrough’s Yoknapatawpha County, and he uses what in other hands could be a banal plot to bring to vital life the complicated interplay of cause and coincidence in history and individual lives.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Candida Pugh | 2/10/2014

    " Yarborough's a bit hung up on cheating husbands and distancing wives but he can spin a story and work in any number of complications. The central mystery of this novel, however, never quite achieves resolution and I felt somewhat dissatisfied as I closed the book. Well. OK. As I turned off my Kindle. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Kat | 2/3/2014

    " This book has all the ingredients to make it great: old crime, lots of history, racial tensions, really good writing. Except it disintegrates about 2/3 of the way in. I loved it at the beginning and even thought I found a new favourite author, but then the problems started. (spoiler) The narrator's affair is somehow sad, weird (he had a crush on her mother as a child) and shabby, which perhaps is what the author intended, but it takes the focus away from the mystery and makes the book unattractive and a slog to get to the pay-off which never comes. (I still don't know what exactly happened in 1962.) I do have to say that there were some truly excellent bits: the last section which tries to explain the hero's complex father is v. good. As is the title and its implications. But what a disappointment after such an excellent beginning. I might try another book by this author, though, because he does write v.well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Phillip Thompson | 1/19/2014

    " Yarbrough is the finest working Mississippi writer today, and Safe From the Neighbors continues to prove that point. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Carol Eshaghy | 1/18/2014

    " Part southern history, part mystery. Excellent writing. "

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About the Author
Author Steve Yarbrough

Steve Yarbrough’s honors include the Mississippi Authors Award and the California Book Award, as well as a nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He is a native of the Delta town of Indianola and now lives in Fresno, California.