Constantine and Mary Stassos strive to embody the American dream. Bringing up a family in 1950s New Jersey, their hopes are channelled through Billy, Susan and Zoe. But as the children grow, move away and affirm their sexual identities, the repercussions of family life permeate their relationships.Constantine and Mary Stassos strive to embody the American dream. Bringing up a family in 1950s New Jersey, their hopes are channelled through Billy, Susan and Zoe. But as the children grow, move away and affirm their sexual identities, the repercussions of family life permeate their relationships.Read Less
Very good. Appearance of only slight previous use. Cover and binding show a little wear. All pages are undamaged with potentially only a few, small markings. Help save a tree. Buy all your used books from Thriftbooks. Read. Recycle and Reuse.
Hey, did anybody notice? This novel was loosely based on Virginia Woolf's The Years. Go read the Virginia Woolf. Originals are often better than remakes. Virginia Woolf had an unquenchable originality. Michael Cunningham writes well but... Speaking of Virginia Woolf, she suicided by drowning herself. By coincidence, a character in Flesh and Blood suicides by drowning himself. Beautifully described by Michael Cunningham. If you want suicide by drowning to be beautifully described, you'll enjoy that scene tremendously. Me, I want writing that speaks to me, not tries to impress me. But if you want an arty novel, go ahead and read this. Then sell or give away your copy.
Feb 7, 2008
The Cherished American Dream Wakes Up
Michael Cunningham's novel spans exactly one hundred years from 1935 to the future of 2035, taking the reader through four generations of the Stassos family. The father, Constantine, as a young Greek immigrant quickly becomes americanized; marries, has three children and becomes succesful in the housing industry, providing his family with the cherished american dream. But as the children grow into adolescence and adulthood it becomes evident that they are not fated to re-create this so-called dream for themselves.
However, one of them tries. The oldest daughter, Susan, marries and attempts to have children but cannot by her husband, so she has a secret affair which results in a son named Ben. It is the eventual death of Ben while still in his teens that brings the book to it's climax.
The youngest child, Zoe, is the wild child, choosing to live in Greenwich Village and partaking in the the culture of drugs and sexuality diversity. She conceives a son, Jamal, by a black man who also leaves her infected with HIV. It is her death, shortly after Ben's, that gives it's book it's deepest poignancy, for sure, with all her faults, was the purest of heart.
The middle child, Will, turns out to be gay which is his father's deepest disappointment and causes the worst strain on his mother, who must referee their battles. It is Will and his future partner Harry who continue raising Jamal afer Zoe's death.
Another character, though not related, becomes an integral part of the family. Cassandra, a street-wise drag queen, befriends Zoe in the Village and eventually intertwines with all their lives, ironically providing a beacon of wisdom. Cassandra dies shortly after Zoe of the same disease.
One inference of the book seems to be that the American Family has not disentegrated as some other writers have suggested, but rather, has morphed into a diverse group of individuals claiming their own identities while still being held together through family ties which cannot easily be broken. But the book comes to full circle when Jamal is projected into the future with a wife and children of his own, whose futures can only be guessed at.
There are some symbols in the book from classical Greece, especially Ben's tragic death at sea, and these suggest some parallels. Life is still the same, and each generation must learn it anew from birth.
This is by far the best contemporary American novel I have read in years. Watch this author and let's hope there is more.
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