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Flesh And Blood Paperback – May 22, 1996

84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cunningham presents a family saga of an ambitious but frustrated immigrant and the wildly disparate paths his children undertake.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The story of Constantine Stassos freshly examines the American immigrant experience and conflict between generations. He, wife Mary, and three children Susan, Will, and Zoe seemingly embody solid middle-class values. However, Constantine's cruelty, voracious appetites, and questionable business practices poison his marriage and brutalize his children. Through painful quests for independence, personal balance, and community, the Stassos children learn acceptance of themselves and their siblings. Fairly brief episodes, often occuring years apart, recount key moments in the establishment, disintegration, and reconfiguration of the family. Thoroughly realized action, vivid character delineation, and the splendid control of language guarantee both the unity and powerful impact of this successful novel by the author of The Home at the End of the World (LJ 10/15/90). Very highly recommended.
Jane S. Bakerman, Indiana State Univ., Terre Haute
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction ed edition (May 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684874318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684874319
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,532,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By I. Sondel VINE VOICE on January 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Basically there are two kinds of novels, those that detail a specific event (a love affair, a tragedy, etc) and those that just ramble hither and yon telling no specific story. As a rule, I'm not a big fan of novels that ramble. "Flesh and Blood" is a ramble. However, I was totally enthralled from start to finish. This is the story of the Stassos family. It begins in 1939 and ends in the present day. This is the most intimate portrait of a family I've ever read. Each of the characters is fully realized, drawn with a clarity that insists on presenting each as unique and individual. Each possess the basic ambiguities of characte and personality that define us as human beings. No one is without flaw. No one is always right or always wrong. Families love and hate, exhilarate and exasperate, praise and disparage in equal measure. There is joy and there is sorrow. I felt transported as I read this novel. It is one of the best that I have ever read. I couldn't stand setting it down, and couldn't wait to get back to it when I had. What better recommendation for a novel but that it was so involving I felt I was a silent character with a vested interest in the everyday existence of this truly American family? Michael Cunningham, author of "The Hours" and "A Home At the End of the World," is a modern master. READ THIS BOOK.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
An intense family drama which begins in 1935 and ends in 2035, the novel revolves around Constantine Stassos, a Greek who emigrates to the U.S. and eventually marries Mary Cuccio, an Italian girl who also wants to escape her home. He eventually fathers three children--Susan, who marries young to escape her father; Billy, who goes off to Harvard and an alternative lifestyle; and Zoe, who leaves for a hippie life in New York. When the children end up as parents themselves, their children's lives are also traced, as they, too, look for independence and a form of escape.

Filled with passion, as each character tries to define his/her own life, often using love and sex as their springboards to new lives, the characters reflect the eras in which they live. This is both a strength and limitation in the novel: a wonderful sense of universality pervades the struggles of the characters through the various generations, but their specific struggles are typical of their periods and easy to predict.

The characters themselves are well developed, but though they all possess unique qualities and eccentricities, they are also examples of cultural stereotypes. Constantine is an up-by-the-bootstraps success as a developer, but he is less successful as a husband. Mary tries to be the perfect wife and mother and becomes frustrated. Susan, a brittle striver in a tepid marriage, has one perfect child. Billy is gay, and Zoe dabbles in drugs and free love. Constantine's grandchildren are a perfect preppie and an interracial child living in a single parent household.

The most vivid character in the novel ironically, is not a member of the family.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Itamar Ronen on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Michael Cunningham's "Flesh and Blood" is in some ways a unique book. It is not the choice of the subject matter, a gripping family saga that starts with a young Greek immigrant and his Italo-American sweetheart and ends in the mist of the distant future, some 30 years from now. It's not even the vivid characters that populate this saga, characters that are in most cases complex and interesting enough to become almost real in one's mind's eye. What makes this book very special is the narrator voice, a voice that lifts mundane events that happen to regular people to an upper sphere, where those events and protagonists acquire a magic quality that is unlike anything else I read. It is the use of a highly original metaphoric language that enevlops the narrative with something that is almost poetry that makes this book a joy to read. My feeling is that Cunningham (perhaps because of his young age) has a better access to younger characters than to older ones, and in some cases the older characters lose some of their vividness and become more flat. Otherwise - this is an excellent book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on October 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Training his perceptive eye on one family, Cunningham explores contemporary - and timeless - issues of American culture in a voice that combines emotional power with sensitive portrayals of character.
Structured chronologically by year, the novel is organized in sharply etched vignettes, from which patterns of personality emerge. It opens in 1935 with a vivid glimpse of Constantine's hardscrabble life as the son of a Greek peasant farmer, then jumps to 1949, with Constantine, the young immigrant, in love with Mary. "He had a second life now, inside her head. He worried, almost every moment, that she would realize her mistake."
By Easter 1958, Mary, the working class girl from Newark, has three children. Striving for perfection in a cake shaped like a bunny, she is harried by the demands of her family and too little money. When their son, Billy, wakes while she and Constantine are filling Easter baskets, spoiling the surprise of them, Constantine loses his temper. "He might have conquered his own anger if Billy had remained defiant. But Billy began to cry and without quite having decided to, Constantine was shaking him....." The scene grows, Mary frantic, throwing herself over Billy. "Constantine was in a passion now, a crackling white glory. Delirious, he knocked the baskets off the table. Jelly beans sprayed like stones against the walls. Chocolate lambs broke on the floor, plastic eggs cracked open and spilled out the trinkets Mary had hidden inside. He started to ram his fist into the cake."
But instead of destroying the cake, Constantine falls into a passion of regret, begging forgiveness from his son and wife. "She neither welcomed nor recoiled from his touch.
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