“Tarkington's debut novel feels positively Shakespearean in its sense of family dynamics and the sometimes destructive power of love, but it speaks with the deceptively plain, poignant language of a Neil Young song. Set in the 1980s in a small Virginia town, the book tells the coming-of-age story of Rocky Askew as he copes with fraternal abandonment, dangerous liaisons, caregiving, and one town scandal after another with little help other than his brother Paul's old vinyl collection. Only Love Can Break Your Heart speaks to anybody working to function, however imperfectly, in any type of family.”
— Andrew Hedglin (W), Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS
Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. A time when teenagers roamed wild and free. When sons worshipped God, loved their mothers, and feared their fathers. And when eight-year-old Rocky still worshipped his older brother, Paul--sixteen and full of rebel cool--who was happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick, until one day things went terribly wrong and Paul disappeared. Seven years later, Rocky, now a teenager himself, must reckon with the past after a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, and to their broken family.