Review: Flesh and Blood — Michael Cunningham

Read: 74
To Go: 26

Book List
71. The Truth About Delilah Blue — Tish Cohen
72. Onstage, Offstage — Michael Buble
73. Various Positions — Martha Schabas
74. Flesh and Blood — Michael Cunningham

I totally screen-capped the Chapters site and cropped out the book cover so that I could showcase the version I read. Don’t judge me.

 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 the contemporary life that will echo in one’s heart for years to come.

Let me just say that I am now a Michael Cunningham convert. Doing this challenge has allowed me to discover some wonderful authors that I’d never heard of before!

I’ll be straight up: this is not a cheerful book. Don’t read it to escape your miserable life. Don’t read it if you want a pick-me-up after a tough day at work. Don’t read it if you’re depressed. However, do read it if you want to be challenged by your literature.

Cunningham is brilliant with describing emotions of his characters — especially the ones they’re ashamed of, like Mary’s undue anger towards her children (seemingly because she has no control over them), and Constantine’s fits of rage. Cunningham is also incredibly talented at examining the roles that people play in their families, and how those roles affect not only them, but the people around them, in years to come. As an added bonus, he managed to represent the LGBT experience without being too stereotypical, and examine racism and homophobia without slapping his readers in the face with it, like an after-school special. Cunningham is too clever for that.

Flesh and Blood has definitely made it into my top ten list of favourite books for the year. Having said that, read it. But don’t expect something light and fluffy.

Next book: whichever one I can fit inside my purse on the way to the movies. Probably True Evil by Greg Iles.

– Kelsey


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