The Whore's Child: and Other Stories

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9780375411687: The Whore's Child: and Other Stories

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling Empire Falls—also named the year’s best novel by Time—Richard Russo now focuses, in his first book of short fiction, on a fresh and fascinating range of human behavior. With a fluency of tone that will surprise even his devoted readers, he captures both bewildering horror and heartrending tenderness with an absorbing, compassionate authority.

We warm to these newcomers—as to all Russo’s characters—almost despite ourselves. A jaded Hollywood moviemaker uncovers a decades-old flame he never knew he’d harbored. A precocious fifth grader puzzles over life, love and baseball as he watches his parents’ marriage dissolve. Another child is forced into a harrowing cross-country escape whose actual purpose he learns only after the fact. An elderly couple rediscovers the power, and the misery, of their relationship during a long-awaited retreat to a resort island. And in the title story, a septuagenarian nun invades the narrator’s college writing workshop with an incredible saga.

A masterful novelist here extends his versatility and accomplishment, in a collection that demonstrates yet again that “there is a big, wry heart beating at the center of Russo’s fiction” (The New Yorker).

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Review:

In The Whore's Child, Richard Russo's first collection of short fiction, the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-wining author of Empire Falls explores difficult emotional territory while retaining the assured wisdom and humor of his best work. Infidelity, self-reflection, and the fallibility of memory come into consideration in this entertaining and perceptive collection. The book's titular story sets the tone for the whole: an elderly nun crashes a college writing workshop and composes her own life story, sharing the details of her childhood growing up in a convent as the abandoned daughter of a prostitute. As her troubling story unfolds, the class realizes the fictions she has unknowingly imposed upon it. Other stories examine familial relationships and responsibility: the bittersweet "Joyride" follows the desperate road trip of a mother and son, each running from troubles they won't admit to. The collection's best and most lighthearted story, "The Mysteries of Linwood Hart," explores the daydreaming, curious mind of 10-year-old Linwood as he ponders the self-defeating behavior of his family, the desires of inanimate objects, and his perceived place at the center of the universe. Russo surveys these subjects with skilled ease and accuracy, communicating a quiet understanding of his characters and their personal yet universal concerns. Russo, like Flannery O'Connor, has a gift for conveying the absurdity and severity of everyday life with brutal honesty, humor, and compassion:

It was an awful place, but Lin understood it was as perfectly real as every place else in the world, which was large beyond imagining, containing every single place he himself had ever been or never would see in his entire life.
Uncommon in its natural insight, The Whore's Child recognizes the often unwelcome realities of experience and is all the more exceptional for it. --Ross Doll

From the Back Cover:

“An author whose laid-back understatements can be as sharp as other writers’ boldest declarations....the architect of stories you can’t put down.” --The New York Times

“[Russo] has joined those writers who can be said to have coined their own universe.... [He] achieves an emotional balance through his humor and generosity of spirit.” --Chicago Sun-Times

“The most expansive of contemporary writers.” -- The New York Times Book Review

“Straightforward and engaging from the first page... Mr. Russo makes writing short stories seem effortless.” --Wall Street Journal

“These beautifully crafted stories, made more appealing by their rueful humor, are the work of a writer at the top of his game.” –New York Post

“Russo is a master of the small moment as nuclear explosion, the life-changing turn of the screw. His writing is unornate, but as authoritative (and cool) as marble. . . .The Whore’s Child is . . . powerful and moving.” –Atlanta Journal Constitution

“The vigorous comic voice that has always been Russo’s is a great leavening force here. . . . These stories are something to be grateful for.” –Newsday

The Whore’s Child pulsate[s] with real life.” –The New Leader

“[Russo] stands alone as the Stendhal of blue-collar America.” –Esquire

“Russo again proves himself the master of real-life angst with the comic twist. His characters are sometimes funny, often sad, but never pathetic.” –Orlando Sentinel

The Whore’s Child should solidify his reputation....All seven stories are lovely examples of Russo’s wit and compassion.” –Newark Sunday Star-Ledger
From the Trade Paperback edition.

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