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Sacred time
Ursula Hegi
Adult Fiction HEGI

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A boisterously funny opening is followed by family tragedy in this moving if occasionally manipulative novel by Hegi (Stones from the River, etc.) charting a tumultuous half-century in the lives of a delightful Italian-American Bronx family. Seven-year-old Anthony Amedeo's comfortable life with his caterer father, Victor, and his mother, Leonora, is disrupted when his ne'er-do-well Uncle Malcolm goes "elsewhere" (a family euphemism for prison) and his Aunt Floria moves into the Amedeo apartment with her eight-year-old twin daughters. They arrive just before Christmas 1953, and soon afterwards, one of the twins plunges to her death from an open window. The tragedy will define the lives of everyone in the two families and change them as surely as their Bronx is changing. Even before the accident, trouble was brewing. Leonora, aware that her husband is having an affair, considers divorce and dallies with a much younger man, but reluctantly allows her philandering husband to return. Floria, meanwhile, has long been in love with the best man at her wedding, and after three decades of married life, a trip to her beautiful ancestral hometown in Italy helps her decide to leave Malcolm and marry the best man. It is Anthony, however, who bears the novel's greatest burden. He witnesses his cousin's plunge to her death and lives a smothered life even after he becomes a chef and marries, always under the unspoken cloud of the family's suspicion that he pushed the girl. The novel's final chapters, in which Hegi's characters finally come to terms with their grief, rely too heavily on italicized forays into the past, but even readers who resist the bathos may be gripped despite themselves. (Dec. 2) Forecast: This is something of a departure for Hegi, who usually writes on German themes, but she vividly evokes the Italian-American community of the Bronx, and readers will recognize her skill at capturing the complex dynamics of large families. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In Hegi's latest novel (after Hotel of the Saints), a seven-word exchange between two young cousins takes on dimensions so enormous that their families never really recover. Anthony is just seven years old in 1953 when his aunt Floria and her eight-year-old twins, Bianca and Belinda, move in with his family (Floria's husband, Malcolm, "is elsewhere," i.e., in prison). The beleaguered Anthony's torment at the hands of his bratty cousins escalates until the boy utters a single word that sends Bianca falling to her death. Hegi traces the patch-job done by the survivors in order to get on with life, though crushed by grief and guilt. Anthony's place in the family is forever tainted by his relatives' suspicion that he pushed Bianca. Over the next half-century, protective barriers are erected, marriages fall apart and then are cobbled back together, and each family member searches for something, anything, that looks like peace of mind, if not genuine happiness. Still, this is far from a relentlessly grim tale: Hegi's characters provide much-welcomed comic relief with their absurdly unpleasant quirks, which are exacerbated, not softened, by their shared familial trauma. Hegi puts her readers smack in the center of the psychological morass that results from a child's violent death and offers the promise that rescue, however imperfect, is possible. Recommended for most collections.-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Victor Amedeo
Italian American
Leonara's husband.

Leonora Amedeo
Italian American
Victor's wife.

Anthony Amedeo
Age: 7
Italian American
Victor and Leonara's son.

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