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Flesh and Blood

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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 b 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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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 b 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.

30 review for Flesh and Blood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    I can't think of much to say about this. It's a novel that won't essentially do Michael Cunningham's reputation as a novelist any harm or any good. The main characters in this three generational family saga interested me rather less than two of the minor characters - a drag queen called Cassandra and a big-hearted mixed-race kid called Jamal. There's a lot of soul searching (too much for me) and a lot of pretty writing but every day I was much more keen to read the Muriel Spark novel I had on th I can't think of much to say about this. It's a novel that won't essentially do Michael Cunningham's reputation as a novelist any harm or any good. The main characters in this three generational family saga interested me rather less than two of the minor characters - a drag queen called Cassandra and a big-hearted mixed-race kid called Jamal. There's a lot of soul searching (too much for me) and a lot of pretty writing but every day I was much more keen to read the Muriel Spark novel I had on the go. This, in comparison, felt like a chore. That said, it's pretty accomplished for a second novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Everything that is trite and heavy-handed in novels is present here: there's an aging patriarch, kleptomania, lots of long descriptions of the way twilight moves across a neighborhood, self-mutilation, child abuse, questions of immigrant identity, questions of gender identity, questions of sexual identity, a whiff of incest, death, AIDS, drug abuse, New York, the suburbs, tract housing, class conflict, shifting American demographics, paeans to urban space, roiling hatreds in families, love, gene Everything that is trite and heavy-handed in novels is present here: there's an aging patriarch, kleptomania, lots of long descriptions of the way twilight moves across a neighborhood, self-mutilation, child abuse, questions of immigrant identity, questions of gender identity, questions of sexual identity, a whiff of incest, death, AIDS, drug abuse, New York, the suburbs, tract housing, class conflict, shifting American demographics, paeans to urban space, roiling hatreds in families, love, generational traits, generational conflict, sentences describing irrelevant objects as if they're sentient -- really, horror upon horror. And I loved every page of this book, deeply and truly. Cunningham's deft touch, his empathy, his love of beauty, all of them are astounding. In life, I sometimes have quick moments of Rolland's "oceanic feeling" -- a sense that there is a unity and order to things, just beyond the grasp of my intellect but within the ken of my feelings. Cunningham must walk around feeling like that all of the time, except his intellect is actually up to the task. Amazing. Novels, even poor ones, have a hand in teaching me *how* to live. There is something deeply moving about reading something that reminds you of the *why.* Five stars!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

    After some thought, I think I might be ready for this review. Right, I’ve read some of Cunningham’s novels before. Three of them. I loved two of them. The third one not that much (reread?). I loved ‘The Hours’, but ‘A Home at the End of the World’ cut too deep. I can feel it still, after all these years. (Specially when it gets really cold!!). I started this book with a really good feeling about it. I just knew it was going to be great. I could feel it. (‘The Goldfinch’, I’m looking at you). And After some thought, I think I might be ready for this review. Right, I’ve read some of Cunningham’s novels before. Three of them. I loved two of them. The third one not that much (reread?). I loved ‘The Hours’, but ‘A Home at the End of the World’ cut too deep. I can feel it still, after all these years. (Specially when it gets really cold!!). I started this book with a really good feeling about it. I just knew it was going to be great. I could feel it. (‘The Goldfinch’, I’m looking at you). And I was right. It was great. Epic, dare I say. So there’s this family, five people. No pets. We follow their lives. So good. Cunningham does it brilliantly. We love these people. We are there. We live the same lives. The writing is just... Stunning. Peaceful. A sense of magic (it’s a kind of magic, magic...Magic!); when you’re going through the pages. Not magic realism, nooo... It’s a just a feeling. Peace and fear. No beginnings and no ends. Everything fits, yet everything crashes. There’s the pain, yes. But there’s beauty, there’s art, there’s family and love. New York and the sky. The light and the ocean. And then there’s pain again. And again. It hurts, yes. But it hurts so good.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mbarkle

    This is my absolute favorite kind of book. It tells the story of a family over three generations, basically. I love the way the author is able to show the dysfunctional nature of the family, by going into each characters' head and describing their often conflicting thoughts. It's very realistic in that way, one minute a person feels one way, the next minute another, and then you see how they decide to act on their feelings. I related to the story quite a bit, I am one of three siblings, born arou This is my absolute favorite kind of book. It tells the story of a family over three generations, basically. I love the way the author is able to show the dysfunctional nature of the family, by going into each characters' head and describing their often conflicting thoughts. It's very realistic in that way, one minute a person feels one way, the next minute another, and then you see how they decide to act on their feelings. I related to the story quite a bit, I am one of three siblings, born around the same time, and with many of the same issues as the characters in the novel. It has all of the themes necessary for a great story, love, lust, fear, illness, loss, prejudice, comfort, addiction, peace and finally resignation. The book I kept thinking about as I read it is The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, although I finished Flesh and Blood feeling much better than I did after The Corrections. Flesh and Blood didn't leave me feeling down at all. I just wanted it to last a little longer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg Giannakis

    Crying in public on your bus home from work I think might be the best sign of a good book. This tore me apart and felt especially relevant what with Pride season upon us. No one can capture humans in all their ugliness and touching banality like Michael Cunningham does. I think I felt the saddest after physically feeling myself leaving the little world and atmosphere the book created. No matter how much you grasp the paperback tightly, to the point that the pages begin to warp slightly, thinking Crying in public on your bus home from work I think might be the best sign of a good book. This tore me apart and felt especially relevant what with Pride season upon us. No one can capture humans in all their ugliness and touching banality like Michael Cunningham does. I think I felt the saddest after physically feeling myself leaving the little world and atmosphere the book created. No matter how much you grasp the paperback tightly, to the point that the pages begin to warp slightly, thinking that'll accomplish everything and anything, the feelings, thoughts and impressions the story leaves you with always dissipate a bit too unremarkably for my liking.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I hate to think that Michael Cunningham is writing the same book over and over, because really, he isn't, but this one seemed like it had his "stock" characters. Strong, but quirky women, a gay man with some guilt over his sexuality, etc. Depressing at the end. Still a fairly decent book, but go pick up At Home At the End of the World for a much better read by him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Davis Aujourd'hui

    So you think you have a dysfunctional family! Try this book on for size. It is a fascinating tale of a family which plays out over several generations. This gives the readers a real sense for how and where family dynamics come from. It is a book that will appeal to many different groups of readers. Gay readers will embrace some of the affirming gay characters not to mention the endearing transvestite. This is a book that speaks about love and forgiveness. This lends the book a spiritual dimension. So you think you have a dysfunctional family! Try this book on for size. It is a fascinating tale of a family which plays out over several generations. This gives the readers a real sense for how and where family dynamics come from. It is a book that will appeal to many different groups of readers. Gay readers will embrace some of the affirming gay characters not to mention the endearing transvestite. This is a book that speaks about love and forgiveness. This lends the book a spiritual dimension. I especially appreciated that since I am the author of a spiritually-themed novel. I am always on the outlook for books that uplift my spirit. While this book will try your emotions, it ends on a hopeful note. If you liked The Hours, you will love this book too. The author writes prose as if it was poetry. He also has an uncanny knack for developing characters that are easy to relate to whether or not you can relate to the conditions of their lives. This book is a powerhouse. I didn't want to put it down. Davis Aujourd'hui, author of "The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude"

  8. 4 out of 5

    James D.

    Another stunning novel from one of America’s greatest writers. Having being a huge lover of The Hours, both the novel and the adaptation, I’m unsure why it took me so long to get round to reading Flesh & Blood. Cunningham writes of life, and all of its complexities, like no other, whilst crafting beautiful, sparing prose. I couldn’t recommend Flesh & Blood more, should you like to read fiction that explores the human psyche in the context of a family unit, and all of the spaces and emotio Another stunning novel from one of America’s greatest writers. Having being a huge lover of The Hours, both the novel and the adaptation, I’m unsure why it took me so long to get round to reading Flesh & Blood. Cunningham writes of life, and all of its complexities, like no other, whilst crafting beautiful, sparing prose. I couldn’t recommend Flesh & Blood more, should you like to read fiction that explores the human psyche in the context of a family unit, and all of the spaces and emotions in-between.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Flesh and Blood is another masterful work by Michael Cunningham, an incredibly gifted writer. Last year I read A Home at the End of the World, the author’s first novel. I absolutely loved it. Though I have not read his Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours, I have seen the movie based on the book several times; it is one of my all-time favorite films. This book written between the two others just mentioned is nothing short of superb. The novel told from the third person POV chronicles three generation Flesh and Blood is another masterful work by Michael Cunningham, an incredibly gifted writer. Last year I read A Home at the End of the World, the author’s first novel. I absolutely loved it. Though I have not read his Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours, I have seen the movie based on the book several times; it is one of my all-time favorite films. This book written between the two others just mentioned is nothing short of superb. The novel told from the third person POV chronicles three generations of the Stassos family beginning in post-World War II America. Constantine Stassos, a Greek immigrant, marries Mary Cuccio, a striking young woman of Italian heritage. Early in their marriage trouble develops and Mary soon feels she has married below her station. Things rapidly spiral downward in their relationship. They have three children. Susan, the oldest, like her mother is very attractive; ironically she pays a heavy price for her natural beauty. Her father has the disturbing habit of touching her often and for too long, suggesting sexual cravings for her. While outwardly she seems the most conventional and successful of the children, below the surface she is quite unhappy. Billy, the brightest of the three, has a stormy relationship with his father even as a young boy; their relationship becomes especially ugly when he announces he is gay. The younger daughter Zoe is wild, rebellious and reckless. It becomes obvious she is destined to have a troubled future. Add to the mix the romantic relationships of the adult children as well as the next generation of the Stassos family, Ben and Jamal. Each character adds further depth, darkness and occasional humor to the story. Especially memorable and endearing is Cassandra, a drag queen and Zoe’s close friend. The story takes place over nearly five decades, from 1949 through 1995. In addition there is a three page snippet of Constantine’s childhood at the beginning as well as a two page conclusion that looks to the distant future (2035). The two brief chapters act as interesting and effective bookmarks for the main story. Cunningham covers a broad range of issues in the book: a heavy-handed patriarch, an aloof mother, love, death, infidelity, incest, child abuse, drug abuse, kleptomania, generational tension, homosexuality, AIDS, self-mutilation, class conflict, and so much more. I like many people have often thought that I came from a dysfunctional family. The Stassos family takes that concept to a whole new level. Cunningham is a master of prose, creating rich, complex characters and vivid images with his words. The tone of the book is one of melancholy and tragedy. There are no real villains or heroes but rather a cast of characters all with their own flaws. The book took me a longer than normal time to read not because it was dull or difficult. Rather I was captivated throughout the story and hated coming to the last page. I wanted to savor the work and not rush through it. I look forward to reading more of Cunningham’s works. He has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gitte - Bookworm's Closet

    He was a dreamy boy who brought books home from the library, who sought hiding places where she could always find him. Michael Cunningham is one of those authors who almost never fail in delivering stories that are little pieces of art. In Flesh and Blood, we follow the very different members of a family from the 50s to the 90s. The father plays the role of the tyrant provider with a bad temper and misplaced love. The mother wants nothing more than peace among the people she loves, and is a kl He was a dreamy boy who brought books home from the library, who sought hiding places where she could always find him. Michael Cunningham is one of those authors who almost never fail in delivering stories that are little pieces of art. In Flesh and Blood, we follow the very different members of a family from the 50s to the 90s. The father plays the role of the tyrant provider with a bad temper and misplaced love. The mother wants nothing more than peace among the people she loves, and is a kleptomaniac on the side. Susan is the perfect eldest daughter who secretly suffers from her father’s inappropriate love, Billy is a smartass and very intelligent homosexual who constantly fights with his ignorant father, and Zoe falls into the adventures of sex and drugs in New York – and is bff with a drag queen. She lived in New York like Alice, thinking some day she’d go back to the other world. It’s a beautiful little story, where we get under the skin of each family member. We learn to understand their motives and see their individual beauty. We see sides of them they can never show each other. And the writing is impressive – as all of Cunningham’s writing. It was not déjà vu. Billy didn’t feel as if he’d seen all this before. He felt instead that it had been waiting for him, this strange perfection, and now that he was seeing it he was becoming someone new, someone particular, after the long confusion of his childhood. And then we have the brutal darkness underneath, the real malfunction of the family, the abuse and the ruin of a child. The feeling of unjust guilt and the drastic decisions to escape the family and get a new life far away. He wasn’t to blame, not really. She had started it and now it existed, a secret they shared. Saying no would have given it a name. My blog: The Bookworm's Closet

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aidaalkhufash

    I found this book quite depressing. I don't know if it's caused by the writing style or the characters personalities, but something made me so sad and uncomfortable reading it. I like the story though, even if it's disturbing and sad, sometimes a bit strange I'd say, especially the way the characters perceived, viewed and reacted to others, how oftentimes selfish and ruthless they were, not particularly in their behavior, but rather in their thoughts. Seldom, it was hard to read, because I could I found this book quite depressing. I don't know if it's caused by the writing style or the characters personalities, but something made me so sad and uncomfortable reading it. I like the story though, even if it's disturbing and sad, sometimes a bit strange I'd say, especially the way the characters perceived, viewed and reacted to others, how oftentimes selfish and ruthless they were, not particularly in their behavior, but rather in their thoughts. Seldom, it was hard to read, because I couldn't help but think "Are people really like this? Are we truly so greedy and egoistic?" or "Is life supposed to be like this? So hard and unkind?" But now as I'm writing this, I'm finding answers to my own questions when I think about caring and loving people, that no, of course not, it's just the characters in this book. But still, it was a tough book sometimes due to this. On the contrary, the idea of the plot really sparked interest in me, since it's about immigrants, life from scratch, several generations and family life. Even if there's a complete downfall of what was at the beginning whole. Because of this, it reminds me a lot of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, but that book was way more positive and joyful, even despite all the struggles. I understand that it's unreal that their lives would be a fairytale, I wouldn't like it that way anyway, but it was too tragic for me in Flesh and Blood.

  12. 5 out of 5

    itpdx

    This is the fourth of Michael Cunningham's novels that I have read. It is probably the most traditional--following three generations of a family steadily through time. In fact each section is labeled with the year. It is an exploration of an American family in the second half of the 20th century--the move to the suburbs, the 2.6 kids, the generational disconnect, divorce, forming of non-traditional families. I have rated the book four stars but it may be graduated to five. I really like the story This is the fourth of Michael Cunningham's novels that I have read. It is probably the most traditional--following three generations of a family steadily through time. In fact each section is labeled with the year. It is an exploration of an American family in the second half of the 20th century--the move to the suburbs, the 2.6 kids, the generational disconnect, divorce, forming of non-traditional families. I have rated the book four stars but it may be graduated to five. I really like the story and characters and if they are still inhabiting my thoughts in a few months, I will add the star. Cunningham's imaginings of the inner life of children is haunting. His character, the drag queen Cassandra is delightful. He/she (and the characters use both designations)does seem to have a feel for the future and his/her ability to penetrate the family matriarch's fog is fun.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shinji Moon

    Flesh and Blood was one of those books that I didn't realize I was looking for until I read it, devoured it. It was so beautiful in its humanness, in the way the characters weren't trying at all to be anything heroic or anything but what they were. It's heartbreak and it's love and it's pain and it's family and not knowing where you fall in between those categories. This is one of the best books that I've read in a while. I've finished it three days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    Though Cunningham writes beautifully, he hasn't quite figured out how to balance his heavy subject matter with his wildly descriptive prose. The book becomes bogged down by the extreme familial drama that Cunningham creates for his characters. This book is a good read, but you'd be better suited to read "The House," where Cunningham's voice is fully realized.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Harajyuku

    (view spoiler)[A kind book. Everyone around is hurting secretly in some untouchable way - let's explore it! Omniscient narrator keeps you well insulated, so that you may see and know supremely, full of mercy. The structure allows for sweet bites of the juicy bits with none of the dull daily rind. Indeed, thanks to Cunningham's intense attention to mundane detail, you extrapolate all the boring beatingless incestless days in between and don't even notice the skipping until you've been in it a whi (view spoiler)[A kind book. Everyone around is hurting secretly in some untouchable way - let's explore it! Omniscient narrator keeps you well insulated, so that you may see and know supremely, full of mercy. The structure allows for sweet bites of the juicy bits with none of the dull daily rind. Indeed, thanks to Cunningham's intense attention to mundane detail, you extrapolate all the boring beatingless incestless days in between and don't even notice the skipping until you've been in it a while and finally recognize the rhythm. However by the time the grandkids rolled in there was a sense of portents, of things coming home to roost. It got a little pat in parts, both writing- and plot-wise, though both were overall good. Sometimes I got tired of being so self-satisfied with my omniscience. All that perfectly defensible criticism aside, I have to speak viscerally for a moment because I actually got one - a visceral moment. The ending fucking triggered me. Drowning is the death I fear most, and that scene was well-written. Jesus - let a girl live. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anya

    “Flesh and Blood” is the multi-generational story of an American family. The story is not a detailed chronological sequence of everything that happened in the lives of the family. Rather, Cunningham narrates key snapshots from the family’s lives- from 1935 to 2035. Cunningham also jumps from character to character; starting from a scene from the family patriarch’s childhood in Greece, to scenes from the patriarch’s childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lives. I found the novel easy to read and quite int “Flesh and Blood” is the multi-generational story of an American family. The story is not a detailed chronological sequence of everything that happened in the lives of the family. Rather, Cunningham narrates key snapshots from the family’s lives- from 1935 to 2035. Cunningham also jumps from character to character; starting from a scene from the family patriarch’s childhood in Greece, to scenes from the patriarch’s childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lives. I found the novel easy to read and quite interesting. A novel to read for those who enjoy familial sagas.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maria Ettlin

    I liked that book very much, the language, the story and the end. Cunningham describes the characters, how they feel, how they react and that they very often don't act the way they wish to. Some parts of the book tell of a time I myself can remember well, when AIDS came up, what people thought at the time of homosexuals. The book describes the lives of people in the 60ties, 70ties and 80ties which might not have been that different to a life in these days although many things have changed. Peopl I liked that book very much, the language, the story and the end. Cunningham describes the characters, how they feel, how they react and that they very often don't act the way they wish to. Some parts of the book tell of a time I myself can remember well, when AIDS came up, what people thought at the time of homosexuals. The book describes the lives of people in the 60ties, 70ties and 80ties which might not have been that different to a life in these days although many things have changed. People searching for love, acceptance, feeling home.

  18. 4 out of 5

    alex

    I feel like A Lot Just Happened and I Do Not Know what I think abt it

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mowey Godoyzki

    i have no words, and so many, for this book.  like his magnum opus The Hours, this is a novel that tugs at my soul and makes me feel present and really there, and experience the elegiac and the fierce chaos of life. if it has joys, which is possible, you will find it in the shadows cast by a flower pot on the windowsill or by taking a book in a park in a warm summer day of March, something as iridescent as that. Cunningham exposes his characters' deepest inclinations and their bottomless pain and i have no words, and so many, for this book.  like his magnum opus The Hours, this is a novel that tugs at my soul and makes me feel present and really there, and experience the elegiac and the fierce chaos of life. if it has joys, which is possible, you will find it in the shadows cast by a flower pot on the windowsill or by taking a book in a park in a warm summer day of March, something as iridescent as that. Cunningham exposes his characters' deepest inclinations and their bottomless pain and despair. again, a huge pang of honest unsentimentality will lick your bones and you would grasp the concept of parallel lives with these characters that he's created. this could very well be a universal truth about families of the world, of humanity, right in this novel.  it shows you how bad and beautiful it can get. it shows you what and how life and living is. how difficult it is to wear the outfits of everday life and show people how you cannot collapse. it's funny, how the words we said to someone we most loved are aimed at hurting them, how the people we most loved are the same people prone to our misgiving and unforgiveness, and it's becoming pretty much the most basic human condition isn't it? it is regretable, but it happens. it happens. on some cases, we live to die, and not. some of us stay here to suffer, wait for a long life of, i dont know, just living and constantly outliving our mistakes and bending the past. but in the end, owning them. so that we have something to be proud of. the back seat of a car has become our most favorite place in the world, with a gin and tonic on our hand while a friend drives, drunk with alcohol and blinding reality. we hope to chase something and die there, call it a Car Ballet, but life would simply not permit us to. we have our futures ahead of us. we still have relationships to fail. because there is a daughter whose job it is to die, and not us. the beatnik, the crazy sibling in the family, who will get it as a sort of consolation. and what happens to us? we stay at the back seat of a parked car. we pass a joint, curse our fathers, get a hard-on, and make long exasperated exhalations on the windshield that say a lot about us. the tired breaths that hang like question marks in the air that will trail the shadows of our adult lives forever. we continue to live.  and this is supposed to be a book review, right? i'm sorry. never mind my sentimental bullshit because the book is not at all like that. having said that, it is the exact antithesis of ticklish. because this book is written by Michael Cunningham. and he doesn't demand respect for every word that he says because you will give it to him generously anyway, spontaneously. that's the magic. because he is never the one who impresses. i would read this book the second time, third, and i would get that same feeling of a hot bubble resting and extending inside me, reaching through my fingertips and the strands of my hair, and i would call it, i dunno, electricity, or maybe inspired consciousness, and i'm going to ask myself relentlessy and hard: what have i been doing in my life? (and i was there, reeling, with a Kleenex on a bedside table while holding this book.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    I liked this book, but I kept feeling like I had read it before. Surely, I'm not that addled post-pregnancy, but there were certain scenes that just felt completely familiar whereas I had no recollection of other scenes or characters. I had read & loved The Hours many years ago, and there are similar themes, so maybe that's it? At any rate, the book is well-written as I would expect from Cunningham, but the family's saga seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in - immigrant be I liked this book, but I kept feeling like I had read it before. Surely, I'm not that addled post-pregnancy, but there were certain scenes that just felt completely familiar whereas I had no recollection of other scenes or characters. I had read & loved The Hours many years ago, and there are similar themes, so maybe that's it? At any rate, the book is well-written as I would expect from Cunningham, but the family's saga seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in - immigrant becomes successful, marriage, physical abuse, adultery, divorce, sex, betrayal, drugs, the gay son, a cross-dresser with a heart of gold, homophobic father, racist father, tragedy, death, inter-racial grandchild, AIDS, and finally coming to terms. At times, it is a beautiful, intimate portrait of an American family, but the ending felt completely rushed and tacked on to tie up all of the loose ends.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lavinia

    I was kind of inconsistent while reading Flesh and Blood (4 weeks, weekends only), so the ups and downs the book has (or so I think) might have to do a lot with that. It's hard to make a book unputdownable for almost 600 pages, but all in all I loved it. I loved certain characters, I despised others (isn't that what the family sagas are all about?), I loved Constantine's beach house, I loved Cassandra's warm heart and Zoe's tangled hair. I loved Ben to pieces and the whole sailing/swimming episo I was kind of inconsistent while reading Flesh and Blood (4 weeks, weekends only), so the ups and downs the book has (or so I think) might have to do a lot with that. It's hard to make a book unputdownable for almost 600 pages, but all in all I loved it. I loved certain characters, I despised others (isn't that what the family sagas are all about?), I loved Constantine's beach house, I loved Cassandra's warm heart and Zoe's tangled hair. I loved Ben to pieces and the whole sailing/swimming episode broke my heart and left me sobbing. The more I think about it, the more I believe Cunningham is my favourite author, yet people prefer to recognize the names when they ask you this (who's your favourite writer, that is), so I keep on saying I have no favourite author rather than having to explain myself afterwards.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Michael Cunningham is getting be be a favorite writer of mine. So far I've read The Hours and A Home at the End of the World, both novels have been made into decent films. Flesh and Blood deals with three generations of a Greek-American family. It starts in the 30's and ends around 1995. This family will remain in my thoughts for quite awhile. THe head of household, Constantine and Mary could have been my parents. So many of the references made me think of my own dysfunctional family. This will Michael Cunningham is getting be be a favorite writer of mine. So far I've read The Hours and A Home at the End of the World, both novels have been made into decent films. Flesh and Blood deals with three generations of a Greek-American family. It starts in the 30's and ends around 1995. This family will remain in my thoughts for quite awhile. THe head of household, Constantine and Mary could have been my parents. So many of the references made me think of my own dysfunctional family. This will ring true for anyone who has a distant father and a mother who had to pick up the slack. Issues of abuse, AIDES,incest, homosexuality, extended families,even drag queens get thrown into the mix. With over 60 years of investment into the characters, you can't help but be moved when slowly but surely things beyond your control happen to them. My tears were flowing by the end. Worth a read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Strange to say, but what I really enjoyed about the book was its structure - the journey from 1935 to 2035 in multiple perspectives. Cunningham writes us an unhappy family being unhappy in its own way but managed to leave me with a lot of compassion for his characters. Clearly, Cunningham loves, loves, loves language. When writing of his favorite topics, sex and death (flesh and blood) his imagery veers close to the territory of magical realism. Very different from the cultural context of One Hu Strange to say, but what I really enjoyed about the book was its structure - the journey from 1935 to 2035 in multiple perspectives. Cunningham writes us an unhappy family being unhappy in its own way but managed to leave me with a lot of compassion for his characters. Clearly, Cunningham loves, loves, loves language. When writing of his favorite topics, sex and death (flesh and blood) his imagery veers close to the territory of magical realism. Very different from the cultural context of One Hundred Years of Solitude, but look for the same themes - the garden imagery, madness, loneliness, forbidden lust, and the whole family saga thing. One Hundred Years of Solitude, however, does not have any spitfire drag queens.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    5/5. The ultimate contemporary family drama, IMO. It's hard to be objective, though, when so much of this is representative of my own immediate family: Greek father, Italian-American mother, gay middle child (yours truly), older sister, and a younger sibling who marched to his own drum until, sadly, he couldn't. Throw in a decades-spanning narrative told from multiple perspectives, and this is pretty much pitched right to my wheelhouse. Cunningham can do no wrong in my book, but I will always pr 5/5. The ultimate contemporary family drama, IMO. It's hard to be objective, though, when so much of this is representative of my own immediate family: Greek father, Italian-American mother, gay middle child (yours truly), older sister, and a younger sibling who marched to his own drum until, sadly, he couldn't. Throw in a decades-spanning narrative told from multiple perspectives, and this is pretty much pitched right to my wheelhouse. Cunningham can do no wrong in my book, but I will always prefer his pre-Specimen Days output. This one ranks right at the top. Flesh and Blood > The Hours > A Home at the End of the World > Specimen Days > By Nightfall > The Snow Queen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    I read this book over the course of three days becasue I needed to get to the end. I couldn't put it down, and yet, it was too fast. There is so much in there that it deserves another read. Oddly enough, the reason I picked it up in the first place, because it has GBLT themes, is not what I remember most about it. That storyline is not the one that stands out in my mind. It's a great book. Read it. Twice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    This book broke my heart. Cunningham is a modern master of the English language, and he knows exactly how to rise intense emotions without falling into the traps of sentimentality or easy pathos. It's a hard, powerful novel, centered around a dysfunctional family that has a very unique story and yet seems to be metaphoric of all families. It's really all about love, and acceptance, and tolerance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    The prose is lush and so affecting, generally gorgeous, with occasional tendencies toward the over-stylized. Michael Cunningham, you achieve the epic with this multi-generational account of a family's fleeting thrills and secret pains; however, your license to introduce characters as a swarm, storm, chaos, or riot of anything is revoked.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Riffle

    It had been a long time since I had read FLESH AND BLOOD, though Cunningham remains one of my favorite authors. I remember enjoying this book the first go around - but loved it this time. Immensely engrossing and satisfying, no one delves into the minds of his characters with such poetry and insight as Cunningham. And this epic family saga is perhaps one of his most underrated novels. Read it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    On a few occasions when I went to hear Michael Cunningham speak, all the questions from the audience were about The Hours and A Home at the End of the World. Why does Flesh and Blood get so little airtime? This is a beautifully written and totally engrossing family saga that I didn't wanted to end. I love Cunningham's depth of empathy for his characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Leis

    Personality of characters were similar to those in the Hours (which I enjoyed reading), but in this book, they began to get on my nerves. Book dragged on for tooo long, but I stuck with it until the end, and overall was glad I finished it.

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