Synopses & Reviews
“A moving portrait of a family united and divided by a tragic loss, a subtle meditation on moral responsibility, and a slyly funny comedy of errors, Century’s Son
is a heartbreaking, ultimately exhilarating novel by one of America’s finest writers.”
—Tom Perrotta, author of Election
“The texture of this replete portrayal of Middle America and its discontents suggests an inspired collaboration between Anne Tyler and John Cheever. Only a handful of Boswell’s contemporaries have written anything better than Century’s Son.”
From Robert Boswell, one of America’s most acclaimed and gifted writers, the story of a Midwestern family riven and bound together by tragedy, love, and circumstance.
In the small college town of Hayden, Illinois, Morgan and Zhenya have settled into a loveless, stagnant marriage. He is a former labor organizer who now works as a garbage collector, and she is a political science professor and the daughter of a prominent Russian émigré. The suicide of their son, Philip, some ten years before has left the pair emotionally dead, lacking even the courage or initiative to separate from each other. Their surviving child, Emma, has become a teenage mother and refuses to reveal the identity of her child’s father.
Into this sullen mix marches the Century’s Son, Peter Ivanovich Kamenev, Zhenya’s exasperating father. A Russian writer and an impresario of history, Peter Ivanovich claims to have had the opportunity to assassinate Joseph Stalin, to have marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the American South, and to have visited a strip club with Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, Zhenya has discovered several inconsistencies in her father’s invented history, and she also discovers the limits of her patience with his neediness and self-dramatization.
Peter’s arrival, though it tears at the family, also re-juvenates it. He forces Morgan and Zhenya to confront themselves, their children alive and dead, and their lives past, present, and future, as lived, as planned, and as imagined. He embraces Emma and her child; he recognizes and exploits all of the small hypocrisies and foibles of daily life. His deceitful, smooth-talking vibrancy invigorates and infuriates everybody around him.
Intricate, beautifully observed, and delicately wrought, Century’s Son confirms Robert Boswell’s position as a peerless chronicler of domestic life.
"The texture of this replete portrayal of Middle America and its discontents suggests an inspired collaboration between Anne Tyler and John Cheever. Only a handful of Boswells contemporaries have written anything better than Centurys Son." Kirkus Reviews
"This is Boswell's best novel since Mystery Ride and yet another installment in his kaleidoscopic chronicle of the odd twists and turns of family life in modern America." Publishers Weekly
"[A] compelling chronicle....Boswell has concocted a richly textured tale of love and loss, anger and forgiveness, and the truth that offers the possibility of redeeming a life." Library Journal
"The first part of the novel suffers from nervous energy, with too many characters and too much plot, but Boswell settles down to furnish a moving portrait of a family both torn apart and united by grief." The New Yorker
is a piercing and visionary novel that explores the surprisingly diverse lives of one midwestern American family. In the years following the suicide of their teenaged son, husband and wife Morgan and Zhenya have settled into a staid and loveless marriage. Morgan is a one-time union leader who is now happy as a simple garbageman; Zhenya is a professor at the local state university, whose balance is about to be offset by the arrival of her famous father, a Russian political dissident-cum-American cultural critic who, among other things, claims to have had the chance to murder Stalin and now celebrates his hundredth birthday.
About the Author
is the author of two story collections and five novels, including Mystery Ride
and Crooked Hearts
. He lives with his wife, the writer Antonya Nelson, and their two children, in Houston, Texas.