The Last Street Before Cleveland


The Last Street Before Cleveland

An Accidental Pilgrimage

Joe Mackall

Class in America Series

160 pages


May 2014


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The old neighborhood was the place that Joe Mackall left. It was a place where everyone’s parents worked at the factory at the dead end of the street, where the Catholic church operated like a religious city hall, and where he grew up vowing to get out as soon as he could and to shed his blue-collar beginnings and failed, flawed religion.

When the mysterious death of a childhood friend draws him back to the last street before Cleveland, however, he discovers that there is more to “old haunts” than mere words—and more to severing one’s roots than just getting away.

The Last Street Before Cleveland chronicles Mackall’s descent into his past: the story of how, looking for answers about his lost friend, he stumbles onto larger questions about himself. With clear-eyed candor, Mackall describes the resurfacing of dormant demons, the opening of the old chasms of depression and addiction, and the discovery, at rock bottom, of a flickering faith that casts a surprising light over everything that has come before. Mackall’s is, finally, a story about life—lived and lost, given and earned.




Author Bio

Joe Mackall is a professor of English at Ashland University, as well as a cofounder and editor of the nonfiction journal River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and on NPR’s Morning Edition, and he is the author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish.


"A candid portrayal that oftentimes paints Mackall in a bad light, but he refused to back down from the truth."—Collegian

"Powerfully imagined and poetically told."—George Fetherling, New Brunswick Reader

"The Last Street Before Cleveland is a deeply personal book and one that packs a lot of emotion and power in a slim volume. . . . Well worth reading."—Kevin Holtsberry, Collected Miscellany

"Joe Mackall's The Last Street Before Cleveland is a welcome addition to the necessary literature of America's working class. He gives voice to men we wrongly think of as silent and he respects the enormity of the loss. He shows us, in tender, muscular prose, how glorious and arduous roots can be. In his own journey back to understanding, he complicates the meaning of leaving and finding our deepest homes."—Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family

"Beautifully written—honest, naked, graceful."—Brian Doyle, author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies

"Joe Mackall has written a stunning blue-collar memoir of recovery that goes far beyond the conventional dependency narrative. There is more at issue in The Last Street Before Cleveland than the struggle for sobriety, sanity, and well-being, since his quest isn’t so much a matter of recovery 'from' as it is recovery 'of.' What Mackall recovers is (to borrow Rudolf Otto’s classic title) 'the idea of the holy,' or, as others might put it, 'the overabounding.' The extraordinary account of how this happens adds a new and exciting episode to the variety of American religious experience."—Robert Atwan, editor of the Best American Essays series

Table of Contents

[No TOC]

Also of Interest