Excerpt from Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Epitaph

A Novel of the O.K. Corral

by Mary Doria Russell

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell X
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Darcie R.J. Abbene
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

For the Sake of Helen: Princess, Prize
Since I Went Away and Left my Native Land

"You're Russian."

She looked over her shoulder.

He was thin-faced and bent a little to his left, but tall enough to spy on her over the swing doors that separated the Cosmopolitan Hotel's busy lobby from its rarely used music room.

She swiveled on the piano stool and fixed him with a bleary, red-rimmed, adolescent glare. "I'm as American as you are!"

A slow smile. Leaning on a silver-topped walking stick, he stepped inside. "Not 'Russian,' " he said, enunciating more clearly. "You're rushing."

Everything about the man seemed slightly askew. His smile, his posture, his demeanor. With an unhurried stateliness he came closer and handed her a handkerchief.

"Blow your nose, sugar."

Resentfully, she did as she was told. Annoyed to be treated like a child. Aware that wiping snot on her sleeve was not a sophisticated alternative.

Without introducing himself, he placed his hat and walking stick on a small walnut table and sat in the wingback chair beside the piano, casually crossing one knobby knee over the other. "Right hand only. And slow down.

" "Are you a piano teacher?"

"Never mind what I am." He took a slim dark cigar from a flat silver case and lit it with a few short, shallow puffs. "First eight measures," he said through a cough. "Right hand. Slowly."

"It's useless! I could play this last year, but I've forgotten everything. The music just looks like dots again!"

Cigar at a jaunty angle, he leaned on his left elbow and settled into the upholstery. "Just play," he said, lifting his chin toward the piano.

She got a note wrong in the second measure and banged on the keys. "You see? I told you!"

"Start over," he said patiently. Staht ovah, it sounded like. "Give your hands a chance to remember."

Six more attempts. Finally she got through eight measures with just a single muttered "Drat," in the middle. Eyes bright, expecting praise, she turned toward him with juvenile elation.

"Better," he acknowledged neutrally. "Now the left hand. Slowly."

She applied herself to the bass clef. He let her try three times, then placed his little cigar in a heavy crystal ashtray on the inlaid table. Sliding forward on the silk upholstery to the edge of his chair, he paused before getting to his feet. Despite his care, the movement set off an ugly coughing fit and he pulled a stack of clean cotton handkerchiefs from a pocket, selecting one to hold over his mouth. The others were returned from whence they came. When the episode passed, he put the used cloth in a different pocket. Each motion was practiced and nonchalant.

"Let me show you something."

She got out of his way. He sat at the piano and played six notes, right hand only. "That's the refrain. You'll hear those six notes again and again, but Mr. Schumann has varied what follows."

He demonstrated, playing plainly. Quarter notes, without pedal or dynamics. She tried to listen, but she was distracted by his hands. They were elegant but seemed too big for the rest of him. The prominent wrist bones were circled by fraying shirt cuffs so loose, she wondered if he was wearing a slightly larger and more prosperous man's castoffs. The clothing was quietly tasteful but certainly not new.

"Y'see?" he asked. "No need to rush . . . And there are those six notes again . . ."

He played it all the way through explaining the structure and the harmonies. His voice was soft and his diction blurred, but his language was precise. The music had her attention now, becoming clearer with his comments. Then he paused and gathered himself, so self-contained she dared not speak for fear of breaking his concentration.

From Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell. Copyright 2015 by Mary Doria Russell. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is the comedic debut novel of writer Julietta Henderson. It ...
  • Book Jacket: In Search of a Kingdom
    In Search of a Kingdom
    by Laurence Bergreen
    The Age of Exploration in the early modern period, lasting roughly from the 15th through 16th ...
  • Book Jacket: Under a White Sky
    Under a White Sky
    by Elizabeth Kolbert
    You can never go back home...so the saying goes. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer ...
  • Book Jacket: The Barbizon
    The Barbizon
    by Paulina Bren
    Esteemed historian and Vassar professor Paulina Bren brings the legendary Barbizon Hotel to life on ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Of Women and Salt
by Gabriela Garcia
A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Who Said...

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.