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Norumbega Park: A Novel Hardcover – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Norumbega Park

Norumbega Park, the beautiful, audacious fifth novel from author and playwright Anthony Giardina, follows the lives of Richie [Palumbo] and his family for 40 years . . . Giardina is a master of prose that’s engaging but never seems rushed—he covers four decades in just over 300 pages. But his pacing remains natural and unhurried. His characters are as emotionally rich and complex as any you’ll find in the novels of Richard Ford, John Updike and Richard Yates . . . Like Updike, [Giardina] deals with some uncomfortable themes—much of Norumbega Park deals with the delicate, sometimes awkward intersection of family and sexuality—but he handles them beautifully. And while many authors reflexively lapse into despair and pessimism, Giardina sticks with a truer kind of realism. Things might be bad; they might even be worse than they seem; but there’s always at least a chance of redemption . . . There are countless emotional pitfalls authors can fall into, but Giardina has avoided every one, and the result is majestic—Norumbega Park is one of the bravest, most memorable American novels in years.” —Michael Schaub, NPR


Norumbega Park is a page-turner. Mr. Giardina works with an expansive canvas; every scene is grounded in earthy, evolving characters and takes place at a turning point in their lives. The author has his own ambitions—and he avoids disappointment. We see his characters aggressively mapping their destinies, but we also know that, in the novel's larger scope, every action is subject to the humbling forces of time and chance.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal


“Giardina is an artist who delicately but firmly presses every moment for its truth and passes up every chance for easy sentimentality. There isn’t a false note in this vividly melancholy book.” —Rodney Welch, The Washington Post


“[A] wise and moving novel of social class and family [that] is rife with provocative passages . . . Norumbega Park is a rich and rewarding book filled with wisdom about how we live and how we fail to live, gripped by dreams we can neither fulfill nor forget.” —Chris Tucker, The Dallas Morning News


Norumbega Park is an immensely heartfelt and successful novel: tender, tasteful, intelligent, and touching; rewarding, too, in its insights into the minutiae of suburban, lakeside America; the hollows in people’s lives; illness, suicide, aging; and the failure of love.” —Jim Crace


Norumbega Park is gorgeously intricate, an ‘epic of dailiness,’ as one of the characters refers to her life. It is also an epic of family intimacy sought, avoided, and found. The Palumbos forge one another mysteriously; the mundane actions of one can, at times, inadvertently bring life-changing consequences to another, as love, sex, and yearning for personal destiny draw others into their lives and decades pass. Perhaps this more than anything lies at the heart of a family and the heart of this profound and memorable novel.” —David Rabe


“A graceful novel of an American family struggling to find identity and spiritual meaning in an age resistant—and even hostile—to their fumbling attempts . . . [Norumbega Park] is a superb novel on every level, for Giardina fully fleshes out his characters as he scrutinizes their personal, family and social lives.” —Kirkus, starred review


“Genuine and deeply felt . . . Giardina places clauses side-by-side like blocks, no mortar visible, the lines of the structure straight and strong to create solid fiction that can contain and support all of our human longings.” —Booklist

About the Author

Anthony Giardina is the author of four previous novels, most recently White Guys, and one collection of stories. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine, and his plays have been widely produced. He is a regular visiting professor at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. Giardina lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374278679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374278670
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,963,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Luiz on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norumbega Park tells a terrific story about the four members of the Palumbo family - father, Richie; wife, Stella; son, Jack; and daughter, Joan. At the start of the novel, Richie, an Italian American, stumbles upon a gorgeous old house in the center of a Waspy New England town and decides, striver that he is, that the house is what he needs to capture the American dream. The problem is that the house isn't up for sale. So he befriends the elderly couple who own it and waits for when it will become too much for them. He does get his opportunity when the husband dies, and he manages to convince the couple's adult son that the wife can longer handle the big house on her own. Moving in, Richie is full of hope, believing the house will catapult his family into the kind of success he imagines the previous residents enjoyed. The only problem is that he has two very mixed-up kids. His son, Jack, has no desire to be anything but a high school Lothario. Later, Jack dreams, as his father did, of becoming something more, but it's a great love - the beautiful, remote young Christina - whom he hopes can bring meaning to his life. Richie and Stella's daughter, Joan, is a shy loner who hides out in her room, afraid of the world, and whose only goal is to become a nun. She follows her dream at a tender age before she's done any living. That decision is a great heartbreak to her mother. The novel runs the course of several decades, from when Jack and Joan are children all the way to their midlife crises, when Stella is gone and Richie is borderline senile. Stella becomes most prominent in the middle of the book when we get inside her head as she battles cancer and lets her daughter know she wishes she had been more daring with her life and not retreated to a cloistered abbey.Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norumbega Park: A Novel by Anthony Giardina, with its beautifully natural and intimately penetrating prose, cuts wide open for examination - pulsating, bleeding slices of life. It is an incisive and intuitive exploration of the most private interior landscapes of an ordinary man and his unhurried odyssey of souls searching for all the fulfillment that life should bring, but sometimes does not.

The story begins in 1969 when thirty-nine year old Richie Palumbo, a middle-class, Italian-Catholic family man, finds his dream house in the lovely but rather exclusive, WASP-ish town of Norumbega in the rural outskirts of Boston.

With unrushed and uncluttered pacing, the story advances to the year 2007 while chronicling the hopes, and the hopelessness, of the Richie Palumbo Family. The old house they take possession of in Norumbega serves as a metaphor for the dream Richie pursues for himself and his family. It is his upward drive toward acceptance by a society that really does not want him, his movement toward the vision of respectability he nurtures for himself and his family. It is a place by which he can define and measure himself. It is his means of making life complete: to fill any fracture lines and gaps between himself and community, to mend any family hurts and pains, to repair any personal emotional disappointments and dead-ends, to fix everything accumulated by a life not fully lived and dreams not fully grasped.

Giardina paints the interior lives of Richie Palumbo, his wife Stella, his son Jack and his daughter Joannie with an unflinching, truly empathetic eye and bold, yet sensitive brush strokes of realism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Parrott on November 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
Giardina is a great wordsmith who sets perfect imagery. I could "see" each character but in the end, I knew and understood the trees in Norumbega better than the people who seemed to drift ghost-like across the pages. The first chapter brilliantly captures the same political gamesmanship that is in play in 21st Century offices without losing the milieu of the 1960s in which socially-ambitious Richie Palumbo struggles. That first chapter is the best part of the book. Then, when Richie and Norbert Oakes go fishing, I thought I had hit the dramatic tailwind that would carry me to the finale. This did not happen. I was back to Stella and their children, who have to be the dullest characters in fiction. During the decades after the reader meets the Palumbos, more sad, dissatisfied-with-life people have joined them. A back-cover blurb aptly describes a "vividly melancholy book." And, yes, it is a sorrowful story. Despite the beautiful turn of words, the exploration of American classism, the description of teenage angst, if I had not bought "Norumbega Park," it would have been impossible for me to finish it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Capodanno VINE VOICE on May 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have not heard or seen much written about "Norumbega Park", which is a shame, because this is my favorite novel of 2012 and such a beautiful and well-written piece of literature. Giardina prose melts with the pages as he tells the story of the Palumbo family. We first encounter them on a family drive in the late '60s where father Richie sees the house of their dreams in the Boston suburbs. He is transfixed by the place he wants to live, raise his family and reach his American dream.

Giardina paints a gorgeous picture of the struggle and success of one family over the next 40 years. We see their internal and external challenges to love, grow, succeed and make sense of their lives and surroundings. It is rare that a writer can create such depth and intimacy with so many characters. Giardina pulls off this feat effortlessly and enchants the reader with the near perfect pace of the novel, characters unfolding and drawing the reader ever closer to them, flaws and all.

I haven't read anything else by Giardina, but after discovering this masterful novel, I can't wait to devour more of his wonderful writing.
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