The Fall of a Sparrow

The Fall of a Sparrow

By Robert Hellenga

Scribner, Hardcover, 9780684850269, 464pp.

Publication Date: July 1, 1998

"The Fall of a Sparrow", Robert Hellenga's first novel since his masterful debut "The Sixteen Pleasures", proves not only that Hellenga is a dazzling storyteller, but that he also has a profound understanding of the strength and resilience of the human spirit. The new novel, like "The Sixteen Pleasures", links the American Midwest and Italy, but where "The Sixteen Pleasures" explored the sexual and emotional awakening of a young woman, "The Fall of a Sparrow" examines the reawakening of life after a young woman has tragically died.

At the heart of the novel is Alan Woodhull ("Woody"), a classics professor at a small midwestern college, whose beloved oldest daughter, Cookie, is killed during a terrorist bombing in Italy. Seven years after the bombing, Woody finds himself standing in the cemetery where Cookie is buried, convinced that life has taught him all the lessons he has to learn. His wife has left him, and his two remaining daughters have grown up and moved away. Yet a new life, which Woody both longs for and resists, begins with his decision to attend the trial of the terrorists responsible for his daughter's death. And as Woody gradually emerges from his sorrow, returning to Italy and the scene of the tragedy, he also awakens to new love.

As Publishers Weekly raved in a starred review, "a wealth of factors...make Hellenga's] second novel irresistible: resourceful storytelling skills, a lightly ironic sense of humor, a powerful moral vision and plangent insights into the classic theme of suffering and redemption... Hellenga's humane voice, his ability to illuminate the profundities of life in scenes of domestic relationships as well as those set on a larger stage, gives this memorable novel powerful emotional appeal and literary stature."