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Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago, a city in transformation, and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer's relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter. It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day, segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam, but it is also home to some of the country's most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine, finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia. As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother's desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia's best friend, surrogate father, and protector, but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi. Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it's a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner, and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.Show more
A successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family's life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister's death in this mesmerizing, emotionally evocative, and atmospheric literary novel For a Terrebonne, the home place is the safe haven, the convergence of waters, the place where the beloved dead are as real as the living. . . . The only Terrebonne who made it out, Alma thought she was done with Montana, with its cruel poverty, bleak winters, and stifling ways. Hard work and steely resolve got her to Yale, and now she's an attorney in a high-profile Seattle law firm, too consumed by her career to think about the past. But an unexpected call from the Montana police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her into the family trouble she thought she'd escaped. Her lying, party-loving younger sister, Vicky, is dead. The Billings police say that a very drunk Vicky wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the brutal cold. The strong one who fled Billings and saved herself, Alma returns to make Vicky's funeral arrangements and see to her eleven-year-old niece, Brittany. Once she is back in town, Alma discovers that Vicky's death may not have been an accident. Needing to make her peace with the sister she left behind, Alma sets out to find the truth, an emotional journey that leads her to the home place, her grandmother Maddie's house on the Montana plains that has been the center of the Terrebonne family for generations. She re-encounters Chance, her first love, whose presence reminds her of everything that once was . . . and everything that might be. But before she can face the future, Alma must acknowledge the truth of her own life, the choices that have haunted her and ultimately led her back to this place. The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lie still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, it is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.Show more
A masterly collection of new stories from Russell Banks, acclaimed author of The Sweet Hereafter and Rule of the Bone, which maps the complex terrain of the modern American family The New York Times lauds Russell Banks as "the most compassionate fiction writer working today" and hails him as a novelist who delivers "wrenching, panoramic visions of American moral life." Long celebrated for his unflinching, empathetic works that explore the unspoken but hard realities of contemporary culture, Banks now turns his keen intelligence and emotional acuity on perhaps his most complex subject yet: the shape of family in its many forms. Suffused with Banks's trademark lyricism and reckless humor, the twelve stories in A Permanent Member of the Family examine the myriad ways we try,and sometimes fail,to connect with one another, as we seek a home in the world. In the title story, a father looks back on the legend of the cherished family dog whose divided loyalties mirrored the fragmenting of his marriage. In "Christmas Party," a young man entertains dark thoughts as he watches his newly remarried ex-wife leading the life he once imagined they would share. "A Former Marine" asks, to chilling effect, if one can ever stop being a parent. And in the haunting, evocative "Veronica," a mysterious woman searching for her missing daughter may not be who she claims she is. Moving between the stark beauty of winter in upstate New York and the seductive heat of Florida, A Permanent Member of the Family charts with subtlety and precision the ebb and flow of both the families we make for ourselves and the ones we're born into, as it asks how we know the ones we love and, in turn, ourselves. One of our most acute and penetrating authors, Banks's virtuosic writing animates stories that are profoundly humane, deeply,and darkly,funny, and absolutely unforgettable. Russell Banks is one of America's most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.Show more
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