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The Vagabonds: A Novelby Nicholas Delbanco
"This is an interesting premise: that three earthy, liberal, middle-aged people, living at the beginning of the 21st century, will literally inherit the legacy of three captains of industry and invention from the beginning of the 20th. Unfortunately, it never becomes much more than a good idea. Delbanco writes in run-on, present tense sentences that have a certain poetry, but can also have a soporific effect." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
"It doesn't matter, really, if what we inherit is money or debt, a set of cats or cutlery or a portrait of grandfather Aaron. What matters is the way we deal with what's been left behind."
From critically acclaimed author Nicholas Delbanco comes a novel about a family with a mysterious inheritance and a secret tie to history...
Born and raised in Saratoga Springs, New York, the three Saperstone siblings have drifted apart and lead very separate lives. On Cape Cod, Joanna manages a B&B and a teenage daughter, feeling vulnerable and alone. In Ann Arbor, Claire flirts with becoming an interior decorator while coming to terms with a personal betrayal. And in Berkeley, David carves a niche as a Web designer — yet he yearns to be a painter.
Suddenly, these middle-class and ordinary lives will come together again in an extraordinary way.
The death of their proud, spirited mother draws the Saperstones home to the New York resort town of Saratoga Springs. Gathered again in the family's ramshackle cottage, they discover a stunning legacy from 1916. Almost a century ago, the legendary "Vagabonds" — captains of industry Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, inventor Thomas Edison, and naturalist John Burroughs — came to this town during one of their road trip adventures. Here they encountered a beautiful young woman, whom they would burden with a scandalous secret and a dazzling windfall.
Now, when decades later this inheritance comes to the three Saperstones, it will utterly transform them — not so much for the riches it brings, but for how it will reconfigure the past they share...and a future they had thought beyond their grasp. Arresting in its poignancy and indelibly original, The Vagabonds is a brilliant marriage of a truth stranger than fiction and a fiction filled with transcendent truth.
"'[M]oney changes things,' Delbanco's saga allows, as it slips across generations to examine the bonds of inheritance, fiscal and otherwise, linking three siblings. When the scattered Saperstones — coddled Claire, drifting David and down-on-her-luck Joanna — return to their childhood home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., upon their mother's death, they discover they've been left a sizable sum of money. The inheritance began with a batch of General Electric stock, bequeathed by a cadre of adventure-smitten, self-styled 'vagabonds': no less towering figures than Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford. After a cad in Firestone's employ impregnates a young girl in 1916, the three give the shares to provide for her illegitimate progeny. Over two generations, the shares and their intangible presence increase; Alice, the Saperstones' mother, cognizant of her own demons, leaves the trust untouched so that it might fulfill her children's lives in ways she could not. Each child ponders how to channel the windfall into something meaningful: courage, security, a new life. As their futures reconfigure, they draw together in their new history, especially when tragedy undermines Claire's charmed existence. While the vagabonds relished the country's open roads and boundless opportunity — a colorful bit of history animated here — generations later, the Saperstones yearn for a more rooted certainty. Delbanco (What Remains) creates a lyrical narrative showing a palpably American faith in reinvention as he weaves nostalgia-tinged memories into a grittier reality. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The nature of families...is explored in sumptuous detail and with uncommon insight in Delbanco's intricate, multigenerational tale....[A] mesmerizing family saga that is simultaneously old-fashioned and contemporary, vibrant and refined." Booklist
"In The Vagabonds, Nicholas Delbanco continues his lifelong exploration of what can be inherited and what must be left behind, in a story that cuts across the generations and regions of American life. Wholly absorbing and wonderfully detailed, The Vagabonds sets forth a tension between rootedness and rootlessness, stasis and kinesis, and in doing so tells us a great deal about what we are given by those who precede us." Charles Baxter, author of the National Book Award-nominated The Feast of Love
"Too busy a story makes for a tepid read: Delbanco's latest skims the surface without grabbing hold." Kirkus Reviews
"Delbanco has deep empathy for his characters and their all-too-human foibles, suggesting that it's not only genes that get passed down from one generation to the next but also habits of the human heart. Recommended." Library Journal
About the Author
Nicholas Delbanco's writing has earned him widespread recognition and many literary honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. He served as founding director of the Bennington Writing Workshops and, since 1985, has directed the MFA Writing Program at the University of Michigan, where he also administers the prestigious Hopwood Awards. Nicholas Delbanco makes his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and their two daughters.
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