The bestselling author of Stones from the River delivers her most ambitious and dramatic novel yet -- the unforgettable story of an endearing, but also flawed, Italian American family.
In December 1953 Anthony Amedeo's world is nested in his Bronx neighborhood, his parents' Studebaker, the Paradise Theater, Yankee Stadium -- and in his imagination, where he longs for a stencil kit to decorate the windows like all the other kids on his street. Instead he gets a very different present: his uncle Malcolm's family.
Malcolm is in jail for stealing -- once again -- from his last new job, and Anthony's aunt and twin cousins settle into the Amedeos' fifth-floor walk-up. Sharing a room with girls is excruciating for Anthony, despite his affinity for the twins. But the real change in Anthony's life comes one evening when he causes the unthinkable to happen, changing each family member's life forever.
Evoking all the plenty and optimism of postwar America, Sacred Time spans three generations, taking us from the Bronx of the 1950s to contemporary Brooklyn. Keenly observing the dark side of family as well as its gracefulness, Hegi has outdone herself with this captivating novel about childhood's tenderness and the landscape of loneliness. Ultimately she reveals how the transforming power of a singular event can reverberate through a family for generations. With gravity and poise, Hegi turns her astute yet forgiving eye on the essential frailty and dignity of the human condition in this elegant and fast-paced novel.
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.