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The Fall of a Sparrow, Robert Hellenga's first novel since his masterful debut The Sixteen Pleasures, proves not only that Hellenga is a dazzling storyteller, but that he also has a profound understanding of the strength and resilience of the human spirit. The new novel, like The Sixteen Pleasures, links the American Midwest and Italy, but where The Sixteen Pleasures explored the sexual and emotional awakening of a young woman, The Fall of a Sparrow examines the reawakening of life after a young woman has tragically died.
At the heart of the novel is Alan Woodhull ("Woody"), a classics professor at a small midwestern college, whose beloved oldest daughter, Cookie, is killed during a terrorist bombing in Italy. Seven years after the bombing, Woody finds himself standing in the cemetery where Cookie is buried, convinced that life has taught him all the lessons he has to learn. His wife has left him, and his two remaining daughters have grown up and moved away. Yet a new life, which Woody both longs for and resists, begins with his decision to attend the trial of the terrorists responsible for his daughter's death. And as Woody gradually emerges from his sorrow, returning to Italy and the scene of the tragedy, he also awakens to new love.
As Publishers Weekly raved in a starred review, "a wealth of factors...make [Hellenga's] second novel irresistible: resourceful storytelling skills, a lightly ironic sense of humor, a powerful moral vision and plangent insights into the classic theme of suffering and redemption....Hellenga's humane voice, his ability to illuminate the profundities of life in scenes of domestic relationships as well as those set on a larger stage, gives this memorable novel powerful emotional appeal and literary stature."
Review: Robert Hellenga's superb debut, The Sixteen Pleasures, took the reader to 1960s Florence--a place of floods, fine art, and erotic discovery. His new novel, The Fall of a Sparrow, also opens in Italy, now transformed by the onslaught of terrorism. By 1980, this state of emergency even reaches the U.S., destroying one Midwestern family. Seven years later, Alan "Woody" Woodhull, popular classics teacher at a small Midwestern college, has yet to recover from the loss of his daughter Cookie in a Bologna train station bombing. Under financial pressure from his estranged wife (who's about to enter a convent) and in increasing professional peril (thanks to a high level of self-destructive behavior), he decamps for Italy, intent on bearing witness at the trial of his daughter's killers. The proceedings don't come off as Woody had planned. He does, however, encounter a series of richly drawn Italians--including the father of one terrorist--who are quick to share the benefits of their classical, sensual culture. (Caveat lector, this is a big, big book, and any attempt at synopsis conceals rather than discloses its ample treasures.)
The Fall of a Sparrow is a study in narrative, cultural, and psychological chaos. Woody does his level best to make meaning out of senselessness--in particular, the death of his daughter, but also the subsequent breakup of his family: "Cookie's death was like a cable, binding us to the past," he thinks. "Sometimes we'd think we'd slipped the cable and were running free, but then we'd be brought up short, like a dog that forgets it's on a chain." Again and again, he strives to break free, through literature, music (the blues), sex, and the strength of love. But what he has to learn, and what the book ultimately imparts, is that the past is not to be forgotten or surmounted but absorbed. In addition to his subtle psychological portraits of Woody and his remaining daughters, Hellenga also excels when it comes to the large scale. With his widescreen vision, he creates memorable, almost inhabitable slices of Italian--and American--life.
Title: The Fall Of A Sparrow
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: Used: Good
Book Description Hardback. Book Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # GOR004379695
Book Description Prentice Hall & IBD 27/07/1998, 1998. Book Condition: Good. Will be shipped promptly from UK warehouse. Book is in good condition with no missing pages, no damage or soiling and tight spine. There may be some dog-eared pages showing previous use but overall a great book. Bookseller Inventory # 9053-9780684850269
Book Description Scribner. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Very good condition - book only shows a small amount of wear. Bookseller Inventory # G0684850265I4N00
Book Description Charles Scribner's Sons. Hardcover. Book Condition: VERY GOOD. Very Good copy, cover and pages show some wear from reading and storage. Binding may have light creases. Lots of life left in these pages. Bookseller Inventory # 2772705610
Book Description Scribner. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Nice condition with minor indications of previous handling. Bookseller Inventory # G0684850265I4N00
Book Description Charles Scribner's Sons. Hardcover. Book Condition: GOOD. book was well loved but cared for. Possible ex-library copy with all the usual markings and stickers. Some light textual notes, highlighting and underling. Bookseller Inventory # 2807081451
Book Description Prentice Hall & IBD 27/07/1998, 1998. Book Condition: Very Good. Shipped within 24 hours from our UK warehouse. Clean, undamaged book with no damage to pages and minimal wear to the cover. Spine still tight, in very good condition. Remember if you are not happy, you are covered by our 100% money back guarantee. Bookseller Inventory # 6545-9780684850269
Book Description Prentice Hall & IBD 27/07/1998, 1998. Book Condition: Good. Shipped within 24 hours from our UK warehouse. Clean, undamaged book with no damage to pages and minimal wear to the cover. Spine still tight, in good condition. Remember if you are not happy, you are covered by our 100% money back guarantee. Bookseller Inventory # 2341-9780684850269
Book Description Charles Scribner's Sons. Book Condition: Good. . Very Good dust jacket. Gifter's inscriptions inside. Bookseller Inventory # S23A-00415
Book Description Charles Scribner's Sons. Book Condition: Good. . Good dust jacket. Bookseller Inventory # SB07G-00649