The Weight of This World by David Joy

The Weight of This World

David Joy

"A fearless writer, Joy is willing to go to all the dark places, but his voice and his heart serve as such strong beacons that we’ll follow him and take our chances." -- Megan Abbott, author of You Will Know Me

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Critically acclaimed author David Joy, whose debut, Where All Light Tends to Go, was hailed as “a savagely moving novel that will likely become an important addition to the great body of Southern literature” (The Huffington Post), returns to the mountains of North Carolina with a powerful story about the inescapable weight of the past.

A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he forgive himself for what he saw there. His mother, April, is haunted by her own demons, a secret trauma she has carried for years. Between them is Aiden McCall, loyal to both but unable to hold them together. Connected by bonds of circumstance and duty, friendship and love, these three lives are blown apart when Aiden and Thad witness the accidental death of their drug dealer and a riot of dope and cash drops in their laps. On a meth-fueled journey to nowhere, they will either find the grit to overcome the darkness or be consumed by it.


Advance Galley Reviews

A dark and sad story that compels one to keep reading to see what happens. Graphic violence not for the faint of heart. The book didn't end the way I expected, but after much thought, I'm not sure it could have ended up any other way.

I received an ARC from FirstToRead for an unbiased review of THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD. It's particularly hard to explain the details of this book without spoilers, beyond the blurb already posted about it: "A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he forgive himself for what he saw there. His mother, April, is haunted by her own demons, a secret trauma she has carried for years. Between them is Aiden McCall, loyal to both but unable to hold them together. Connected by bonds of circumstance and duty, friendship and love, these three lives are blown apart when Aiden and Thad witness the accidental death of their drug dealer and a riot of dope and cash drops in their laps. On a meth-fueled journey to nowhere, they will either find the grit to overcome the darkness or be consumed by it." I don't entirely think I knew what I was getting myself into reading the book, which was well written but a little too graphic for me. I think in referring others to it, I will consider those who handle certain scenarios well, versus those who do not (for example, I'm not exactly rushing out to recommend this to any of my friends who've returned home from war and are dealing with PTSD). The development of the three main characters and the intensity of their bonds and loyalty, despite all the ways they continued to fail one another, were a true depiction of human spirit. How we can love someone so much that we never mean to fail them, yet we can never do fully right by them. I loved the epilogue but not the ending...if that makes sense (I'm afraid to say much for fear of spoilers). Part of me wanted so desperately for Aiden, Thad and April to all find their way away from Little Canada, alone or together, having beaten all their demons. Part of me, though, is realistic enough to know that is not how life works. I will absolutely be hunting for other books by David Joy having read this one. So glad I took the time and stuck out the scenes that were hard to stomach.

Excellent!!!!!

Wow! Where do I start? How do I tell you about this tragic and cautionary tale without spoilers? The two main characters, Aiden and Thad, are tragic, Southern Gothic protagonists. The trouble these two men, who are honestly boys who never grew up, get into is a train wreck (figuratively). This novel is not for the faint of heart. There is graphic violence, sex and meth abuse. Am I glad I read it? Unequivocally yes. Would I recommend it? Absolutely yes, but with caveats to the faint of heart mentioned above. This is a book that stays with you and haunts you with the life and tragedy that befalls all of the characters in the book. Happy reading!!

Life is truly just a cycle of emotions, as The Weight of This World proves. This book was dark, and I've read plenty of novels that tend be on the darker side. It immediately starts with death, ends with death, and has death sprinkled throughout the middle. The characters felt real, the dialogue felt natural, and the situations that Thad and Aiden (mostly Thad) got themselves into almost felt like they were retellings of real life events. And as unlikeable as Thad was as a person, you almost feel bad for the guy... almost. In my opinion, the best books are those that make you physically feel things, whether that feeling is pure happiness, crushing sadness, or anything else in between. This book definitely made me go through a cycle of different emotions, and I am better for having read it.

Thank you to Penguin First to Read for an advance e-galley of this book. Bleak. Dark. Sad. But completely engaging from the first page. The characters in this book are all struggling to find their way out of the darkness of their own lives and through the writing you can feel, see, hear, smell and taste right along with them. Their struggles are both individual and collective. It is a story of poverty, addiction, guilt, anger and fear. It is also about friendship, loyalty and love. The circumstances the characters have endured over the years have left them with seemingly no hope of ever breaking the cycle and their addictions drive them to unimaginable acts. The bonds they share are tested to the extreme and the results of those tests are equally extreme. It's not a "feel good" book to say the least - but the quality of the writing is gripping and real and somehow keeps the reader wanting to follow the story to its conclusion. And it was a conclusion that stayed with me after the last page was turned.

This book was so dark and gloomy it seems contradictory to say how wonderful it was. However, it was very readable and really made you sympathize with these two young men whose lives are quickly going downhill. One doesn't care, the other wants something better but is afraid to go for it on his own. The style of writing leads you to feel, taste, smell the despair, drugs, violence. This book will not make you feel good but it will keep you reading.

Oh man, what a story! D. Joy did not 'tread lightly' here, but 'weighed in heavily'! He has written so that the reader can almost feel like they are right in the midst of this.....mess! The reader can almost feel it, smell it, hear it....it is scary real! It's not a 'warm fuzzy' of a book, more like a 'punch in the gut'! For a writer to elicit that sort of almost visceral reaction, must say that he's done some good writing! I'll definitely be looking for more from this author....this being the 1st time I'd read any of his work. He has got to be happy with this book!! I did win an ARC in a First-To-Read giveaway program, in return for my own fair & honest review.

For such a dark book, I enjoyed it immensely. The writing was absolutely beautiful and it had that rare quality of feeling like a story that existed before it was written. It felt like it wasn't a story made, it was waiting to be told. When he was just 12, Aiden watched as his father killed his mother and then himself. He was put in a group home but soon runs away to a hunting camp he knows of in the woods. There he eventually runs into his friend Thad, who tells him he has a trailer he can live in with him. The trailer is on April's (Thad's mother) land and he is allowed to live there, mostly because Thad's mother doesn't want anything to do with him, she just wants him out of her way. The two of them grow up together, and come to rely solely on each other for everything. Theirs is a bond that transcends mere friendship, they are all they have. Thad is deployed to Afghanistan and Aiden stays behind. Aiden and Thad's mother April become lovers. Through Aiden, April finds the one thing she never had, a kind man. Aiden loves her, in his way, both of them getting exactly what they need from one another without any kind of expectations. Things change between Thad and Aiden when Thad returns from deployment in Afghanistan. Thad's experiences there snap something inside him. He's different. Both Thad and Aiden rely on drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of their hard lives, but Thad takes it to a whole new level. When things really begin to escalate we see the differences between Aiden and Thad. Aiden hopes to one day escape his lot in life, while Thad resigns himself to the life he hates. I wanted to blame him for thinking that way, but I couldn't. Aiden is afraid of becoming his father, and fights to rise above the kind of violence that creates more men like him, ones that grow up angry and alone and lost. Honestly, I just wanted to hug him. While reading this book, I kept comparing it to train wreck, not quality-wise, but because even as things spiraled more and more out of control, I just couldn't look away. I needed to keep on reading, but sometimes I just had to put the book down to take a break. It provoked the kind of emotions that left me feeling raw and exposed. There was such heart wrenching sadness in the hopelessness of their situation. It was an unflinching look into a way of life that is so easy to condemn, a life that revolves around drugs, alcohol, and (sometimes extreme) violence. I think it takes an exceptional writer to make a person understand and sympathize with such flawed characters. Their actions were rarely justifiable but were somehow often understandable. I thought it was superbly written. This is most definitely not a book I want to read again, I don't think my heart could take it. I closed the book looking around the room in my house and thinking of the countless people in my life that I know without a doubt love me, feeling very lucky.

At one point in David Joy’s novel Aiden McCall thinks, “Every year bled into the next, just on and on until the day he’d die, and maybe that was all there was to look forward to anymore. Maybe that’s all there is to this old life, just waiting around to die.” The Weight of This World is the story of three very battered individuals, living together in the North Carolina hills, bound by personal history and tragedy. Thad Broom and Aiden McCall were childhood friends. Thad and his mother April saved Aiden when he escaped from an orphanage and needed a home. Aiden was there for Thad when he returned from Afghanistan, emotionally scarred by what he’d seen and done. April, Thad’s mother, has her own tragic past and is haunted with the consequences. Fueled by their individual histories, drugs and alcohol, things go irretrievably awry when a drug deal ends unexpectedly and Thad and Aiden attempt to make good out of a windfall. It’s here where the reader begins to believe that yes, life is just waiting around to die, especially for these three. The Weight of This World is intense and brutal, sometimes painful to read, but also a testament to love and friendship at all costs.

The Weight of This World by David Joy is a gritty and somewhat dark novel about three people who are trying to escape their unhappy lives. In the poverty-stricken Appalachians, Thad Broom, his mom April Trantham and childhood friend Aiden McCall are attempting to change their lives. Thad is an Afghanistan veteran who is fed up with the snail’s pace of the VA and unable to forget what happened during his tour, he relies on alcohol and meth to keep his demons at bay. April is finally free of her abusive husband but she has been unable to move past the damage wrought by the circumstances of Thad’s conception or her parents’ and the townspeople’s reaction to her unwed pregnancy. Despite his own tragic past, Aiden is trying his best to live an honest life but the downturn in the economy leaves him struggling to find a job. He is also trying to keep Aiden from self-destructing after their drug dealer dies and they make the decision to claim his stash of drugs, cash and weapons. In an ever increasing downward spiral fueled by lack of sleep and too much alcohol and meth, Thad makes a terrible mistake that Aiden desperately tries to fix but can he save his friend from himself? While at one time Aiden had a loving family, Thad was never that lucky. April never made any secret that she loathed her son and with her blessing, her husband set him up in his own trailer on their property when he was a child. After Aiden runs away from foster care, Thad convinces April to make take the necessary steps for him to stay with them and the two boys are thick as thieves even after Thad joins the Army. Aiden remains living on the property and working in construction until the housing market crash puts him out of work. He is still managing to hold it together even though he is not exactly making an honest living. After he returns from Afghanistan, Thad refuses to get help for his PTSD and instead chooses to self-medicate with alcohol and meth. Following the death of her husband, April is making plans for her future that will impact both Thad and Aiden if they come to fruition. After the shocking death of their drug dealer, Aiden and Thad make a split second decision to steal his stash but things quickly go downhill when Thad invites a couple of girls to party with them. Unable to keep Thad under control, Aiden eventually carries through with their original plan to profit off their newfound windfall. However, nothing goes as planned for either men and their situation quickly goes from bad to worse. Will either of them find a way out from under the crushing weight of their bad choices and abject poverty? The Weight of This World is a harsh and violent novel that is a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of life in rural America. The characters are difficult to like (even though it is impossible not to feel sympathy for Aiden) and while they are trapped by their own poor choices, they are also victims of circumstances that are out of their control to some degree. David Bell is a gifted writer who exposes the darker side of life but in doing so, he educates readers about how difficult it is to make a living in economically depressed areas in the United States. A very worthwhile read that is quite thought-provoking and very poignant.

Thank you to Penguin First to Read for an advance e-galley of this book. This book is dark. Very dark. Not generally the type of novel I jump to, if ever, but I was pleasantly surprised by my feelings toward this book. I will say, I was committed to giving this book 5 stars until about I reached 60% into the book, when the stuff of nightmares set in and never wavered. Until a little over halfway, I was hooked on the lives of Thad and Aiden and April, each having suffered terribly from the crappy hand of life that they were dealt. Thad with a mother that never loved him and scarred by the war he fought in; Aiden, who witnessed his father shooting his mother and then himself when he was just a boy, and April, who bore a child from rape, and was beaten to a pulp by the man who promised to take care of her and her ill-gotten son. I felt their suffering, as they lived their despondent lives in a tiny North Carolina town in Appalachia. Goodness and hope never seemed to reach Little Canada, even for Aiden, who tried so hard to do the right thing. What surprised me was that I didn't judge Thad or Aiden for their drug and tobacco abuse. My eyes were opened to how low life can get, and how sometimes, you just have to do what you can to survive, even if that means surviving via an altered mindset due to narcotics and illegal substances. Whatever relieves the pain of reality and one's mind/thoughts for even just a minute. That, I can completely understand and sympathize with. We all know what it is to feel a pain you think will never end. I will say, there is a lot of violence and gruesome death in both humans and animals in very graphic detail. Really horrifying stuff that I was not prepared to read about at 10pm before falling asleep. This is what keeps me from giving this novel five stars, because I almost literally couldn't stomach the brutality. It was difficult to not replay the descriptive violence over and over in my head as I tried to sleep. However, overall, this is a very fast-paced read, and one that I enjoyed reading for the better majority of it. The author is poetic in his writing, David Joy has a beautiful handle of language that I'd definitely be willing to experience again in his existing and future novels.

This book very accurately depicts how The Weight of This World takes it's toll on the characters. Thad Broom has returned from war and had a tough childhood with his disconnected mother, April. Aiden McCall witnessed the death of his parents and was left to make his way through life with Thad. The book is extremely dark but very well written. While the three characters were not at all likeable or relatable, their actions as the story progressed seemed very plausible. This book would make for a good discussion of the effects of "nature vs. nurture."

On the plus side, the characters are not New Yorkers filled with angst. Instead, THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD delves into a different dysfunctional sphere, that of the Appalachians. The cast of characters fit the required stereotypes of hopeless losers, so much so that you feel as if they lack dimension. Thad Broom joins the army because that's what poor men in North Carolina's mountains do, in the eyes of those who don't actually know anyone who signed up. His pal Aiden, adrift in the world, joins him on a meth-fueled bender but you don't really gain any insight into why the men have turned to drugs. Granted, Thad has to take something to self-medicate because he was injured and the Veterans Administration does nothing to help the injured vets, so there's a "ripped from the headlines" excuse. What's left? The usual residue of domestic violence, rape and slut-shaming, that sort of thing. No depth, just reasons you'd find in reading scholarly studies into such matters. How much further can the dysfunction in this novel go? Aiden is having off with Thad's mother. We're deep in the mentally deranged woods here, but the author is painting a picture and it all fits, if only because intellectuals tell us that starting at Point A brings you to Point B. The action is profoundly violent, as one would expect in the world of drugs and drug selling and nothing-to-lose. This book is not for everyone, to be sure. And yet the prose is so pretty that you can't help but read, although not necessarily for the narrative. I skimmed a great deal, gliding over the surface of a story that did not quite pull me in because too much did not ring true. Events happened in a way that followed the formula, or maybe I'm just reading too much these days and I tend to analyze too much. In a way I enjoyed the book because the author writes so well, and then again I did not care for it much at all. I'm quite on the fence with this one, debating the worth of the words as opposed to the content.

"The Weight of This World" hits the ground running. Twelve year old Aiden hears 'I love you' for the first time from his father moments before he is orphaned, all this on the first page. After a short stint in the foster care system, Aiden comes to live with his best, and only, friend Thad. Thad has been exiled from his mother and step fathers house to a trailer on the edge of their property. His step-father can't stand the sight of him. He 'drinks until he can't stand anymore and then beats his wife until she can't stand either'. Cut to Aiden and Thad's twenties worst case scenarios. Aiden has racked up quite a criminal record & Thad has a host of injuries and nightmares from his deployment to Afghanistan. Thad and Aiden play well into the excuse of being victims of poor circumstance. They shamelessly use their theft and crimes to fuel their booze and drug binges. They blow every dime they have and barely scrape by. Aiden desperately wants to leave behind Little Canada and the life that they lead to salvage something worth living for. Thad can hardly function without numbing himself from the actions he took in the name of war. A unique situation presents itself that they may escape their hellish bed they've made for themselves to lie in. Secrets are revealed, tragic turns and the boys are faced with just how far they are willing to go to try and get justice. Joy effortlessly brings these drug-addled characters to life. While it is nearly impossible to feel anything but disgust for them, I was very interested in seeing how things turned out. This wasn't necessarily a book I could not put down, it was too cringey for that. They were more than a few times I had to turn away. Though I always came back for more. I had to read the train wreck that is their lives to its end and it was worth it.

At times I cringed away from these characters. They're rough around the edges to say the least. That being said, while the characters weren't really likable, the author did a great job fleshing them out and making them seem human. Nothing that they did seemed out of character or dramatic for them and the novel just keeps following their faced-paced, downward spiral until they come out different at the end. I don't want to say better, because they haven't suddenly become stellar people. But they did come to some realizations and grew as characters. I sympathized with Aiden's longing for a family. Something so simple for a lot of us was the one thing he craved more than anything else. The descriptions were crisp and easy to picture. I appreciated how the author held back on the gore. Some nasty things happen without every gritty, bloody detail being described and I have to admit that choice kept me from loathing one of the characters completely or putting down the book.

This book is definitely not a pick-me-up. The story is dark, depressing, and leaves the reader feeling hopeless about life. Although I enjoyed the writing and the character development, the plot was often uneven, and I despised the ending of this book. Some people may enjoy this read, but it simply was not for me.

I was profoundly moved by this novel. The writing is elegant, while evoking a far-from-elegant setting. The characters are deeply tragic.

Aiden and Thad are lifelong friends who live in rural North Carolina and have thus far survived a hardscrabble life in their 20 + years of living. This novel had me gritting my teeth due to the degree of oppression suffered by the characters, their poor choices fueled by drugs, and all of the violent descriptions. One has to give credit to the author who is able to sustain the constant level of despondency throughout this read. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

This book definitely went into the darkness. There was a lot going on in this story. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book in the beginning, but soon I couldn't stop thinking about what was going to happen next. It really showed how the characters were shaped. I enjoyed this book.

The title of this book couldn’t be more appropriate. Thanks to Joy’s writing, I could feel the weight of the world that these characters, Thad, Aiden and April, were carrying around with them. The character development was fantastic and I found myself hoping they would be able to turn their lives around. In their own way, each of the characters hits their so called, breaking point and have a choice, do I continue on with my current self-destructive path or is it time to make a change. Make no mistake about it this is a dark story, with drugs, alcohol, sex and murder. I was uncomfortable at times, and pondering quitting the book but decided to continue on in hope of a more uplifting ending. This is not the kind of book I usually gravitate towards but I believe in reading outside the box at times and am glad I did.

Two hooligans who would not be likeable in the real world, but compelling characters in this story. I'm not a fan of tons of detail when reading but the author really used detailed imagery to his advantage. There were a couple of editorial errors, for example, what is a jar of Maybelline? When you wonder why people behave as they do, this story is a great example of what happens in life that forms the people we are. My feelings toward the three main characters changed constantly. One minute I hated them and wanted to tell them to get it together. Then I felt such sympathy for them. Really enjoyed the book!

This book was not what I was expecting it to be and not exactly my normal genre. Still, the writing was excellent and it sucked me in. I read it in one sitting.

I was given the opportunity to read this book from First to Read. The story is very tragic, the characters are so lost and love starved. Their lives taken over by drugs and booze to deaden the pain of every day life and memories of military service. While I usually don't choose to read books like this, the writing was fantastic. Every thing feels so real. I felt shame, frustration, revulsion and sympathy. The two boys were thrown out into the World when they weren't able to survive. Unfortunately, this happens in our world, too. I just wanted the characters to finally find some hope for something better. I could not stop reading this book once started. The title was so appropriate. Even though it is dark, I can recommend this book to any reader. It really gets you thinking !! Book Clubs would have plenty to discuss.

I could not out this book down once I started reading. The subject matter was grim and sad, however the writing was so fantastic that I could not begin to leave it behind. Aiden and Thad go through their lives of hardships with each other, however a tour of duty has left Thad with a hole where his heart used to be. There are drugs, alcohol, and murder in this book, however it all comes from a true place of pain from the world that exists for the boys. I would really like to read more from this author.

Our pasts help to shape who we are and how we develop, but when your past is a heavy burden to bear, it can be difficult to function, as in The Weight of This World by David Joy. Aiden McCall watched his father shoot his mother and then himself, thrusting a shocked Aiden into a group home at an early age, until he ran away and met Thad Broom. Thad lived with his mother April and grew up not knowing who his father is but he was able to find some semblance of order for his life when he was in Afghanistan with the army. Struggling to make ends meet in a down-turned economy, Thad and Aiden witness the accidental death of their drug dealer and they take the opportunity to take possession of money, drugs, and guns that would otherwise be looted or locked up by the police. What they do after they have these things determines the course the rest of their lives takes - either down a dark path or away from the problems plaguing their personal lives as well as their small mountain town. Dark and unfortunately realistic, this well-crafted narrative was like a trainwreck that you can't help but watch unfold. Despite the dramatic introduction of Aiden, it was difficult to care about these characters, particularly due to their drug use, until they were developed with more of their past laid out for reference to help explain their actions, which started to speak volumes for who they ultimately were, at which point I started to care a bit more about them. As the the characters realize that their chance at success is in leaving this place, it was frustrating to see them stick with the cyclical choices that keep them from progressing forward from their pasts. Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

A moving novel about two hardscrabble characters trying to manage to navigate through a relentlessly brutal world. David Joy's writing is fresh and lyrical.

The weight of this world has weighed heavily on the shoulders of the three main characters. Thad is back from a tour in Afghanistan and can’t come to terms with the horrific event that happened there. His mother, April, has her own secrets and violent past that she’s battling to get out from under. And Aidan watched his father kill himself and Aidan’s mother when he was a child. There’s no honest work to be found so Thad and Aidan find some dishonest work and both turn to alcohol and drugs to get through their days. When their drug dealer violently dies, his drugs and money are theirs but only if they can stay away from the meth long enough to figure out what to do with it. Doesn’t sound too cheery, does it? This is a very dark book but that isn’t what bothered me about this one. We each have our own demons to bear and while some people’s demons may be worse than others, we all have choices to make in life. We can choose to blame our rotten luck and we can blame our stupid choices on others. But in the end, those choices are ours to make and we really only have ourselves to blame for them. This author didn’t seem to see it that way. In reading the glowing reviews of this book, I expected to feel great compassion for these characters. They certainly had been through a lot and I tried to feel compassionate for them. But while I felt sympathy for them, I also felt turned off by them and their choices. I now read those glowing reviews and wonder how the writers of those reviews could have read the same book as I did. At one point Aidan says, “Perhaps God just had it out for certain folks and he’d been borne one of the unlucky ones.” That’s pretty much the theme of the whole book. So why am I giving it even 3 stars? The writing is really beautiful. Here’s one random example taken from an Advanced Reading Copy so the wording may change in the final edition: “They crawled along the edges of great cairns, stones the size of houses balanced with an unfathomable gravity as if they’d been set just so by the hands of some watchmaker god.” The beauty of the language the author uses in some places contrasts sharply with the rough, coarse language used elsewhere. If these characters could have looked around them at the beauty that the author was describing instead of wallowing in their miserable pasts, their spirits would have lifted. While I found the book unpleasant to read, it really is a brilliant lesson on why you shouldn’t let the weight of the world weigh you down. Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world. ~ Helen Keller

This book had me hooked from the opening paragraphs. I was drawn to the descriptions of the hill country juxtaposed against the hopelessness of the lives of the protagonists. All three of the main characters are severely damaged at different times of their lives two of which believe if they just get off the mountain, life will change for them. And one believes he can never leave. I found the book engrossing and felt the energy build to the end.

This is a well written novel that I could not put down. It takes you through the lives of three people from a really small town and the events that shaped their lives. I can't help but think things would have turned out better, for Thad at least, if the VA would have given him adequate care when he came home from the war. It's a story with no happy ending. My heart broke for all three characters. I would definitely suggest this book! Thanks First to Read for allowing me to preview it!

I really disliked all three of the main characters in this book... but I could not put it down! At times I wanted to slap some sense into them. A few pages later I wanted to hug them. I really enjoyed it and will definitely read more from Joy.

This is a rather tragic book. Well written, but sad. I happen to enjoy dark books though. I liked this one, but might not be to everyone's taste.

A compelling and harrowing novel that I could not put down. Set in the backcountry mountains of North Carolina, the story follows two boys, Thad and Aiden, who become friends as children and remain close as the years pass. The common thread of childhood trauma and abandonment ties their lives together, but when Thad returns from war suffering from PTSD and drug-induced psychosis, Aiden is also sucked down the rabbit hole. A story of the burdens of the past and how the past can haunt our present.

 


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