Summary and book reviews of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert

The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God

by Timothy Schaffert

The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God
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  • Paperback:
    Nov 2005, 256 pages

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Book Summary

A blithe and redemptive seriocomic love story filled with country music, the ghosts of Halloween, and an ironic brand of down-home religion.

Newly divorced and feeling the pain of separation from his family, Hud Smith channels his regret into writing country-western songs, contemplating life on the lam with his 8-year-old daughter, and searching cryptic postcards for news of his teenage son who has run off with The Daughters of God, an alternative Gospel-punk band of growing fame. Then he finds himself inching toward reconciliation with his ex, tossing his whole talent for misery into question as they head off in a borrowed school bus, hoping so very tentatively to bring the entire family together again.

In this endearing misadventure that threatens to turn out right in spite of it all, Schaffert writes a thin line between tragedy and hilarity, turning wry humor and a keen sense of the paradoxical onto characters who deserve all the tender care he gives them.

1.

To get through the afternoons that wound into early evenings, driving a school bus along long country roads and driveways, Hud kept slightly drunk. He sipped from an old brown root-beer bottle he'd filled with vodka. There'd been a few times in the past when he'd gotten too drunk, when he'd swerved too much to avoid a raccoon, and even once a sudden hawk swooping too low. He made himself sick to think how he'd once nearly driven the rickety bus in all its inflammability into an electrical pole. He knew what an ugly notoriety such an accident would bring him. The whole world, Hud thought, likes to mourn together and hate together when it can.

There was a man in town named Robbie Schrock, who, like some fairy-tale hag, had murdered his own two boys with rat-poisoned candied apples he'd dropped into their Halloween sacks. When the children died, Robbie Schrock cried on the TV news and blamed the neighbors, and the whole little town cried with ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

While much of America's reading public suffers its way through the latest selection from Oprah Winfrey's book club, Mr. Schaffert's obscure little treat is also ready for group discussion.....With one tip of the hat (through "Hud") to Larry McMurtry and another that ought to go to Richard Russo, Mr. Schaffert creates a comically mopey little burg full of whimsical dreams....[He] does not take his material lightly. He only makes it seem that way.

Nebraska Life Magazine

What makes it work is Schaffert's deep understanding of (and compassion for) his characters, with all their irrationalities and contradictions. Though the plot allows Schaffert to display his sharp sense of irony and humor, ultimately it is the characters themselves that drive the story. Hud, for example, may be a lousy husband and father, but he means well and loves his children in his own fumbling way...Schaffert...remains a writer worth reading, a talented novelist with a style all his own.

The Lincoln-Journal Star

Poignant...This splendid new book echoes the wacky humor of Schaffert's first book - The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters - and yet both treat seriously the complexity of family ties that persist against all odds.

Publishers Weekly

Achy-breaky dysfunction drives a messy, funny family drama in this smalltown Nebraska tale, told in a winning faux-naive style...film, along with music, plays a wonderful incidental role throughout....Deft, sweet and surprising.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Laced with hope and an aching sweetness, it is as whimsical and smile-inducing as its title. Readers will fall for Hud, his family, and the one-off inhabitants of the quirky little town from page one owing to Schaffert's homey yet elegant and precise prose. The only reason to put the book down is to make it last.

Author Blurb Jennie Shortridge, author of Eating Heaven and Riding With the Queen
The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God is an honest and unflinching story of families unraveled and the heartache and joy only loved ones can spark in each other. With skill and tenderness, Timothy Schaffert unfolds his characters' hopes, strengths, and frailties in this gorgeous novel, revealing the crazy-quilt fabric of humanity.

Author Blurb Gerald Shapiro
I can't get over the delight of Tim Schaffert's new novel, with an instantly appealing cast of characters that won my heart so quickly and thoroughly. And the ending, as sweet and transcendent as any I can remember, lifted me right out of my chair.

Author Blurb Midwest Book Review - Laurel Johnson
Schaffert breathes life into his characters with a delicate touch, lending a poignant dignity to even the oddest misfit. The result is life boiled down to its heartiest essence....[The book] is often humorous, yes, but thanks to Schaffert's story telling style it is not a cruel parody of life's rejects. These are lives made up of large and small failures, joys, and negotiations. And Schaffert makes them shine. Highly recommended.

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