Flesh and Blood

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Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995 - Fiction - 465 pages
10 Reviews
In Flesh and Blood, Michael Cunningham takes us on a masterful journey through four generations of the Stassos family as he examines the dynamics of a family struggling to "come of age" in the 20th century. In 1950, Constantine Stassos, a Greek immigrant laborer, marries Mary Cuccio, an Italian-American girl, and together they produce three children: Susan, an ambitious beauty, Billy, a brilliant homosexual, and Zoe, a wild child. Over the years, a web of tangled longings, love, inadequacies and unfulfilled dreams unfolds as Mary and Constantine's marriage fails and Susan, Billy, and Zoe leave to make families of their own. Zoe raises a child with the help of a transvestite, Billy makes a life with another man, and Susan raises a son conceived in secret, each extending the meaning of family and love. With the power of a Greek tragedy, the story builds to a heartbreaking crescendo, allowing a glimpse into contemporary life which will echo in one's heart for years to come.

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Alack! I was ready to believe Michael Cunningham could take on any subject and render it ecstatically beautiful with the sheer power of his prose, but I'm afraid that an "epic saga of three generations" couldn't quite do it for me. I suspect it's because his signature ability to render his characters' inner lives so crystalline, complex and convincing that one becomes intimate with them was attenuated in a novel that spans 100 years and many family members. With just one or two protagonists I could become intimate with, even tender about their conflictedness, their poor choices, or downright unlikeability. In this novel there were just too many viewpoints to identify with; the overall effect was somewhat suffocating -- a conclusion almost literally enacted within the plot, when he suddenly drowned one of the characters just as I was thinking I had gotten to the point where I couldn't tolerate one more minute inside that particular one's head. Back to the small and beautiful, no more sprawling, please! 

Review: Flesh and Blood

User Review  - Robin Bernhard - Goodreads

chronicles the progression of a family as their lives unfold....tragic and real. I just needed to read the entire thing nonstop in the middle of the night as the world stops. Read full review

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About the author (1995)

Michael Cunningham

Flesh and Blood is Michael Cunningham's third novel. His first, Golden States, was published in 1984. His second, A Home at the End of the World, published in 1991, was widely acclaimed and was shortlisted for the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize.

Cunningham has also published a wide array of short stories, including "White Angel" in The New Yorker (1988), "Pearls" in The Paris Review (1982), and "Ignorant Armies" in The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories (Viking/Penguin 1994). He has also written articles for publications such as Esquire, Vogue, and Out including "After AIDS, Gay Art Aims for a New Reality" for the front page of the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times in April 1992.

Having won numerous fellowships from institutions such as the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Cunningham has been awarded for his prose time and time again. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and a Master of Arts from the University of Iowa, Writer's Workshop.

Michael Cunningham currently lives in New York City.

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