The Nightingales of Troy: Stories of One Family's Century

The Nightingales of Troy: Stories of One Family's Century

by Alice Fulton
     
 

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“Outstanding....Alice Fulton reveals herself to be triumphantly at home in the short story.”—Boston Sunday Globe

In 1908, Mamie Garrahan faces childbirth aided by her arsenic-eating sister-in-law Kitty, a nun who grows opium poppies, and a doctor who prescribes Bayer Heroin. "In the twentieth century, I believe there are no saints

Overview

“Outstanding....Alice Fulton reveals herself to be triumphantly at home in the short story.”—Boston Sunday Globe

In 1908, Mamie Garrahan faces childbirth aided by her arsenic-eating sister-in-law Kitty, a nun who grows opium poppies, and a doctor who prescribes Bayer Heroin. "In the twentieth century, I believe there are no saints left," Mamie remarks. But her daughters and granddaughter test this notion with far-reaching consequences. Kitty's arsenic reappears sixty years later in the hands of her distraught niece. A schoolgirl's passion for the Beatles and Melville—a passion both lonely and funny—shapes her life. Each decade is illuminated by endearingly eccentric characters: an anorexic waitress falls for a wealthy college boy in the jazz age...an exuberant young nurse questions science during the Depression...a homely seamstress designs a scandalous dress in the 1950s. The Nightingales of Troy, the first fiction collection by an acclaimed American poet, creates a vividly palpable sense of time and place. Alice Fulton's memorable characters confront the deepest dilemmas with bravery and abiding love.

Editorial Reviews

Sarah Fay
Fulton is an award-winning poet, so it should come as no surprise that vivid descriptions abound…if this collection is any indication, Fulton may be firmly establishing herself in a different genre. She once said she is drawn to the symbolic elements of a poem, how they act as a "pattern of lace held together by tiny joining threads." Her prose, however, might be regarded as a tightly woven blanket. It's exciting to watch Fulton as she finds the right threads with which to create nuanced fiction, firmly bound.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

These 10 linked short stories by MacArthur fellow Fulton track the lives of four generations of women from Troy, N.Y., where "love comes to die." The first story begins in 1908, and subsequent stories are spaced approximately a decade apart, creating a colorful patchwork of the 20th century. In "Happy Dust," a young mother, sick with a wasting disease and about to give birth, finds some relief in a mysterious potion given to her by a fallen nun. A waitress in "Shadow Table" is asked to make a birthday dessert for her lover's long-dead younger sister. In "The Real Eleanor Rigby" a girl infatuated with the Beatles and Herman Melville resolves to give the fab four her first edition of Typee, only to be upstaged by her domineering mother, who scores the two of them a brief private audience with the band. Fulton's strengths are in elaborate detail and delicate construction. And many stories also contain moments of blunt violence and unthinking cruelty, providing the tension at the heart of a book that's rich with feeling for its characters yet willing to expose their faults. (July)

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Library Journal

Set in Troy, NY, this debut novel by acclaimed poet Fulton uses ten linked stories to show how the Garrahan women have struggled with triumph and tragedy over a century. Mamie Flynn Garrahan has five children before she is 30. Her daughter Annie becomes a nurse during the Great Depression, running a clinic in a hotel. Daughter Edna reveals that she's been sending unsigned birthday cards to her sister Charlotte, hoping she'll believe that they are from a former lover. Decades later, Annie's daughter Ruth takes a trip to New York City with her mother and a girlfriend, and they happen upon a hotel press conference for the Beatles. While Ringo, John, George, and Paul hold court for a crowd from their hotel room sofa, Annie accidentally licks an "I Still Love the Beatles" sticker, only to find out that John's creativity medicine was on the back of the sticker. Her response? "I'm a registered nurse, and I have never heard of any medicine being administered on a sticker." A delightful blend of history and storytelling, recommended for all public libraries.
—Donna Bettencourt

Kirkus Reviews
Cornell instructor and poet Fulton offers a debut collection of linked stories of distinctive, resilient women. In 1908, Mamie Flynn Garrahan is facing a difficult birth with nothing but an arsenic-eating sister-in-law, a charm from her mother and doctor-prescribed heroin to help her through it. Just when she's about to give up and die, she pulls herself together and pushes out a baby girl. A farmwife, Mamie doesn't take any nonsense, and her stolidly candid, perspicacious-yet-nonjudgmental voice is one of the great pleasures of this pleasing collection. Fulton offers a complete group portrait of the Garrahan women. As she follows this family through the 20th century, the author changes her tone and her narrative tactics to allow each character to emerge as her own fully realized self. "Queen Wintergreen" is the story of Mamie's mother, contemplating widowhood, her place in her son's crowded household and an unexpected marriage proposal. By telling Peg Flynn's tale in the third person, Fulton is able to offer external observations, but she also allows Peg to retain some mystery. Other stories call for other accents. In "Dorothy Loves Maleman," Fulton demonstrates that she is just as convincing giving voice to a schizophrenic as she is at creating prodigiously sane characters like Mamie. Different perspectives emerge as characters move through each others' stories, and, while each entry works on its own, the readers' experience of these women is enriched by viewing their lives together. Fulton has a poet's economy of language and an ability to choose discerning details. Emotionally satisfying and extremely well-crafted short fiction.
Boston Globe
“From a farm birth in 1908 to an MRI in 1999—Fulton’s stories are sublime distillations, not only of the individual lives they so eloquently describe, but also of the eras throughout which the formidable Garrahan family endures.”
Los Angeles Times
“Boy, oh boy, was it worth waiting for! Four generations...are placed before us...blessed and cursed, saints and lost souls....Enough death and disease to make Angela’s Ashes look like a comic valentine.”
Ithaca Times
A beautiful collection of tales recounting imagined lives and realistic depictions of the 20th century wrapped in perfectly detailed decades....Fulton makes the universal human struggles - the tribulations of birth, death, aging, loneliness, betrayal, altruism and love—and achievements of her characters accessible to a wide audience. Fulton's short stories possess soul with unmistakable sincerity and emotion built from more than fiction alone.— Kathryn Andryshak
Booklist
Starred Review. Every element in this collection of scintillating linked short stories is surprising, pleasurable, and stealthily affecting.— Donna Seaman
Kathryn Andryshak - Ithaca Times
“A beautiful collection of tales recounting imagined lives and realistic depictions of the 20th century wrapped in perfectly detailed decades....Fulton makes the universal human struggles - the tribulations of birth, death, aging, loneliness, betrayal, altruism and love—and achievements of her characters accessible to a wide audience. Fulton's short stories possess soul with unmistakable sincerity and emotion built from more than fiction alone.”
Donna Seaman - Booklist
“Starred Review. Every element in this collection of scintillating linked short stories is surprising, pleasurable, and stealthily affecting.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393079500
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
02/15/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Alice Fulton’s honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. Fulton is the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell University and lives in Ithaca, New York.

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