Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling Empire Fallsalso named the year's best novel by TimeRichard Russo now focuses, in his first book of short fiction, on a fresh and fascinating range of human behavior. With a fluency of tone that will surprise even his devoted readers, he captures both bewildering horror and heartrending tenderness with an absorbing, compassionate authority.
We warm to these newcomersas to all Russo's charactersalmost despite ourselves. A jaded Hollywood moviemaker uncovers a decades-old flame he never knew he'd harbored. A precocious fifth grader puzzles over life, love and baseball as he watches his parents' marriage dissolve. Another child is forced into a harrowing cross-country escape whose actual purpose he learns only after the fact. An elderly couple rediscovers the power, and the misery, of their relationship during a long-awaited retreat to a resort island. And in the title story, a septuagenarian nun invades the narrator's college writing workshop with an incredible saga.
The Whore's Child
Sister Ursula belonged to an all but extinct order of Belgian nuns who conducted what little spiritual business remained to them in a decrepit old house purchased by the diocese seemingly because it was unlikely to outlast them. Since it was on Forest Avenue, a block from our house, I'd seen Sister Ursula many times before the night she turned up in class, but we never had spoken. She drove a rusted-out station wagon that was always crowded with elderly nuns who needed assistance getting in and out. Though St. Francis Church was only a few blocks away, that was too far to walk for any of them except Sister Ursula, her gait awkward but relentless. "You should go over there and introduce yourself someday," Gail, my wife, suggested more than once. "Those old women have been left all alone." Her suspicion was later confirmed by Sister Ursula herself. "They are waiting for us to die," she confessed. "Impatient of how we clutch to our miserable existences."
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