A Feather on the Breath of God: A Novel and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy Used
$3.07
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Eligible for Amazon's FREE Super Saver/Prime Shipping, 24/7 Customer Service, and package tracking. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

A Feather on the Breath of God: A Novel Hardcover – January, 1995

21 customer reviews

See all 8 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$0.19 $0.01

Best Books of the Year So Far
Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this luminous debut novel about a young woman of mixed race, Nunez writes with fierce clarity, rare empathy and sharp humor of immigrant dreams and frustrations. The vulnerable, nameless narrator, who grows up in a Brooklyn housing project in the 1950s and '60s, is the daughter of Carlos, a silent, workaholic Chinese-Panamanian father, and Christa, a self-dramatizing German mother, who met shortly after V-E Day in Germany. Moving to New York in 1948, they raise three daughters in a marriage marked by poverty, violent quarrels and Christa's agoraphobia. Through flashbacks, Nunez shows Christa growing up in a Catholic boarding school taken over by the Nazis, while her father, an anti-Hitler protester, is arrested and confined in a concentration camp. The narrator-ignored by her father and dominated by her mother-escapes into a perfectionistic, masochistic world of ballet classes and becomes anorexic. Later, she has a doomed affair with a married Russian immigrant taxi driver with an unsavory past. The novel is marked by uncompromising honesty and the vivid immediacy of Nunez's prose. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

With a subtle blend of fierceness and evanescence, Nunez's debut comments profoundly on the lasting effects of the immigrant experience and the haunting powers of family. The unnamed female narrator tells a four-part story that begins with her father, a Chinese-Panamanian immigrant who moved to Brooklyn at the age of 12 or 13. She understands little about this workaholic who spent most of his time away from home until cancer felled him. Why didn't he ever learn to speak English? Why, in his 30s, did he switch his name from Chang to the Hispanic surname of his mother? Why did he refuse to discuss anything at all with his children? She can't answer these questions. She can merely collect what she does know and accept that it's too late to understand him. Her German-born mother, Christa, was her father's opposite: Full of rage, grace, beauty, laughter, and sorrow, Christa clung to her German heritage and spoke constantly of her past. The book's second section, which deals with her, is about love and nostalgia, about seeing with all her flaws the one individual who most shaped the narrator's life (``I seem to remember my mother as though she were a landscape rather than a person''). The third part is devoted to the narrator's dream of becoming a ballerina, which, as she poignantly states, ``begins with the dream of being beautiful.'' Here she makes some caustic connections between foot binding and toe shoes; she also recognizes that in ballet she sought escape and discipline. The final section revolves around an ill-advised love affair. The narrator examines the theory that no matter how far you go in life ``you must stick with your own class'' and sees in herself the intense desire to please, charm, and provoke desire. A rich, intelligent tapestry of the connections between language, love, beauty, and forgiveness. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (January 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060171510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060171513
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,418,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sigrid Nunez was born in New York City, the daughter of a German mother and a Chinese-Panamanian father, whose lives she drew on for part of her first novel, A FEATHER ON THE BREATH OF GOD (1995). She went on to write five more novels, including THE LAST OF HER KIND (2006) and, most recently, SALVATION CITY (2010). She is also the author of SEMPRE SUSAN: A MEMOIR OF SUSAN SONTAG (2011). Her honors include a Whiting Writers' Award, a Rome Prize, a Berlin Prize, and the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Learn more at www.sigridnunez.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. H. O. on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
The speaker in Nunez's touching novel struggles with issues concerning her cultural identity, her relationships with her parents, and her relationships with men. She constantly deals with how her genes, her parent's cultures, and her upbringing in America have come together to form a cultural identity. As the daughter of a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother, the speaker grows up with two distinct cultural influences. She finds herself pulled in different directions, unsure of what aspect of her should define her cultural identity more, or if it is possible to find a balance between them all. The speaker also reexamines her relationship with her parents and her obsession with ballet through nostalgic memories and insight. Through her writing, the speaker comes to terms with her parents' unhappy marriage as well as the notion that her love of ballet stemmed from a desire for perfection and escape from her dysfunctional family. The reader will find that Nunez spins a memorable story that thoroughly engages the reader, and is a must read for anyone interested in issues concerning immigration, multiculturalism, coming of age in a culture that rewards beauty and thinness, identity, and international relationships.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Trees on October 15, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There were many reasons I felt I had to read this book (my interest in writers even vaguely Latin American being one of them) and I am glad that I did.
My favorite part was definitely "Immigrant Love," the last section of the book, where the narrator has an affair with a Russian immigrant. "He has no curiosity at all about me. After all, I am only a woman; facts about me can't be very important." One of the most honest portrayals of the complexities of human relationships that I have ever read. As a dancer, I found "A Feather on the Breath of God," the third section, interesting and surprisingly foreign to my own experience, but none the less enriching to read. The novel's spare structure makes you feel the necessity of every word on the page.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Paperback
The protagonist writes from the perspective of a childhood bound by the separate histories of her parents: a Panamanian-Chinese father who is sixteen years older than her German mother when they meet on V-E Day in Germany, later moving to America with few financial resources. Two daughters later, they marry and the third daughter, the narrator, is born. After the workaholic father's premature death, the German-born Christa becomes the focus of the next part of the story. Christa is an enigma, a beautiful woman who spurns the interests of men and the friendships of women, proud of her English skills, albeit with the occasional slip of the tongue ("They stood in a motel for a week"). This cross-cultural family remains essentially unassimilated, moving from project to project in New York. Plagued by periods of rage and depression, Christa's home holds no warmth, the daughter stepping lightly through her mother's moods.

Drawn to the ballet at twelve, the girl adores the combined smells of sweat, rosin and Jean Nate: "Everything about the world of ballet responds to the young girl looking to escape real life." And for a time, this is heaven. The authoritarianism is familiar, but in ballet it has purpose, a means of transcending the small world of the projects. Ballet celebrates the female, is dominated by her ability to enact precise turns and intricate moves. Of course, the almost boyish figure of a ballerina activates a horror of pounds, eating disorders feeding on the paranoia of weight gain: "In dance, pain was often inseparable from desirable feelings." Although the narrator doesn't claim an eating disorder, this flirtation with dance is but one more chapter in her life. Eventually, she is teaching an ESL class to immigrants and has an affair with a married Russian, Vadim.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Seung Lee on March 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Deception is not always a bad thing. I've always thought being deceived would cause displeasure, but Feather of the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez is a deception of pleasure. The book starts off with amazingly excruciating detail. This detail in the start tended to lose me at times, but Nunez kicks things up a notch towards the end of the read. This introduction of excruciating detail easily redeems itself by greatly enriching the already intense ending of the book. I truly understood the meaning of the first half, by completing the book. This deception of an excruciatingly detailed book, into an action packed story is great.
In the majority first of the novel, the narrator divides up her childhood into three parts: memories of her father, mother, and herself. Her father did not have much affection toward the family, leaving the narrator with very little memories. The starvation of memories changes her life, leaving her with the ever remaining mystery of her father. It ends up damaging her life, and helps contribute to her corruption. On the other side, her over-zealous Russian mother dominates the family, leaving the narrator too many memories. This imbalanced and corrupted family ends up corrupting the narrator as well. The flood of memories immersed the reader into the narrator's life and explains her decisions in the second half. At first read this part is very drawn out, losing my interest constantly. Luckily the second half is a redemption of this detail.
In the second half, the story is about the reader into her life as an adult, which is fully understood from her corrupt childhood. She dates a Russian immigrant with a family. They connect with each other well, but she ends up leaving him. This exotic behavior sprouts from her exotic childhood.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?