Title: The Houseguest
Publisher: Dutton, New York
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition
First printing, January 2000, stated; full number line. Signed by the author on the title page: "Agnes Rossi." Book is tight, square, and unmarked; the dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $23.95); "Autographed Copy" sticker on front panel. Brodart protected. Bookseller Inventory # 003377
Synopsis: "[The Houseguest] is an exquisite gem of a book with a new delight in every line. Insightful, enthralling, and ultimately triumphant."-Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland
The year is 1934 and Edward Devlin, recently widowed and a disillusioned veteran of Ireland's struggle for independence, leaves his small daughter, Maura, behind in Ireland and heads for America with not much more than his memories and a lingering desire for his beautiful dead wife. His one tenuous connection is to a man named Fitzgibbon, owner of a silk-dyeing mill in Paterson, New Jersey. Fitz greets his fellow Irishman with hospitality, inviting Edward into his home and, ultimately, setting up a chain of events that will cause Fitz to lose everything and Edward to gain all he dared not hope for.
Moving from a small town in the north of Ireland to Depression-era Paterson to the New Jersey Shore, The Houseguest is an eloquent and morally complex novel that perfectly captures the rhythms of grief, hope, and humor that are indelible parts of the Irish-American experience.
"A richly gifted writer, a dazzling ventriloquist. Rossi convinces you that her characters are real, that they have come to life, grabbed you by the lapels, and begun to confess their lives."-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times(on The Quick)
"Rossi is a true Scherazade, and the more ambitious she is, the better she is . . . Ripping."- Vogue (on Split Skirt)
Review: The Houseguest begins with a death in rural Ireland, a young wife killed by tuberculosis. Agnes Devlin leaves behind an emotional, flaky husband and a 6-year-old daughter headed for a life of neglect. As Agnes Rossi's fine third novel opens, the girl hears her father screaming in whiskey grief. "She wanted the noise, the trouble, whatever it was had them shouting and slamming doors and starting cars in the middle of the night, to stop. She wanted to go on sleeping. Stop it, please. God, please. And then, to her surprise and intense relief, quiet. She waited. Was it going to last?" Later, she is driven to the house of her spinster aunt, a woman who thinks giving a girl an orange to eat is spoiling her.
Much of The Houseguest concerns the widower Edward, who leaves behind Ireland for America as the Great Depression looms. Happily, Fitz, an old acquaintance, offers him a room in his house in Paterson, New Jersey. Soon Edward is in love again--this time with Fitz's wife, Sylvia--and his grief subsides, replaced by self-involved, desperate infatuation. One night, when the husband his away, the two go dancing:
Edward felt all the dreariness of the last months working its way out of his system. The smoky air, the effect of the guzzled whiskey, the fullness of Sylvia in his arms, healthy Sylvia who moved so well, the sound of swing, its exuberance that seemed hard-won, grounded, that was in no way trivial, a kind of wise liveliness, like genuine laughter in the middle of a bad time.Even as Edward forgets the daughter he left behind, the reader never does, and that is what's so masterful about The Houseguest. As Rossi explores the narcissism of both love and grief, and the way lovers become a circle of two--with no place for a pathetic, precocious child--she reveals herself a gifted storyteller. Judging from this elegant, searing novel, seen from several viewpoints, this author has a million tales in her mind burning to be told. --Emily White
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