Living to Tell

By Antonya Nelson
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9780684839332, 320pp.)

Publication Date: June 2000

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Hailed by "The New Yorker" as one of the "Twenty Writers for the Twenty-First Century" and winner of the "Chicago Tribune's" Heartland Award, Antonya Nelson has now written -- in this story of a family coping with the prodigal son's return -- by far her most ambitious and satisfying work to date.

""Only in his head did Professor Mabie call his son a murderer....He did it...with something like hard-heartedness, which was to prevent him from something like total despair.""

None of the Mabie family of Wichita, Kansas, could have imagined that the one son who exuded "the cosmetic loveliness of a saint" would kill his beloved grandmother in a drunk driving accident. But, after five years in prison, thirty-three-year-old Winston is returning to his childhood home and the family he left behind.

For thirty years, this family house has played so many roles in the lives of Professor Mabie (recently retired from the history department), Mrs. Mabie, and their three children; it has represented warmth, foreboding, entrapment, shelter. Now all the Mabies -- including one divorced daughter and two small children -- find themselves back in a home of five grown-ups, where the position of leader, of follower, of protector, shift, depending on the situation.

What has the world taught this son Winston during his punishment? Can his sisters, his mother and father, forgive? Can they learn to speak of clean slates and new beginnings?

"Living to Tell" is the deeply affecting story of a tight-knit clan in the tumultuous year of readjustment following Winston's homecoming. Through the Mabies' wrestling with pregnancy, broken hearts, obsession, redemption, mortality, and forgiveness,Antonya Nelson weaves a rich and true tapestry of family. With a deft, unsentimental touch, she reminds us that our bloodiest battles and our most heartwarming successes take place at home.

About the Author

Antonya Nelson teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, and is the award-winning author of three novels and four short story collections. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Best American Short Stories. She divides her time among Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

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