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A complex narrative that ventures to engage our intellect .

  • Sep 28, 1998
Robert Hellenga offers us not only a well constructed tale of intrigue as played out on a family level, he has obviously spent time with his characters - developing people who are unique, memorable, understandable in their motivation, and well strung on his terse and tense rope of story telling. In the times in which we find ourselves it is refreshing to accompany Hellenga on his journey, his characters' self-exploration, all the while gracing his pages with allegory and metaphor, and the glory of not only the English language but also Greek, Persian, and Italian. The minor weaknesses of this book are so thoroughly compensated for by the sheer joy of his prose. This is a book to read slowly, think through quietly, and finish more enlightend about myriad details we skip in our too rapid daily routine.

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Grady Harp ()
Ranked #98
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this book


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 ...

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ISBN-10: 0684850265
ISBN-13: 978-0684850269
Author: Robert Hellenga
Publisher: Scribner

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