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The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God

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Overview


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 ...

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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Schaffert's disarming second novel is a quirky yet tenderhearted tale of families broken apart, and families that can't seem to come back together. The narrative spins around Hud Smith, a ne'er-do-well who spends his time running between his three part-time jobs: school bus driver, country/western songwriter, and hotel bar crooner. A sad sack with a charm all his own, Hud's still in love with his ex-wife, Tuesday, and remains devoted to their eight-year-old daughter.

Once a happy couple, Hud and Tuesday broke up when their teenage son, Gatling, ran off to join a band of traveling Christian musicians. Although he won't admit it, Hud believes that if he can find Gatling and bring him home, they can be all be a family once again.

The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God showcases Schaffert's uncanny talent for combining the mystical and the realistic. Set in modern-day Nebraska, it nonetheless has a dreamlike quality, reminiscent of both a religious conversion and an alcoholic stupor at the same time. A novel that feels bigger than its loveable characters, this is an evocative story of families and sadness that's as old as the hills and as contemporary as today. (Spring 2006 Selection)

From the Publisher

" Quixotic . . . Schaffert creates a comically mopey little burg full of whimsical dreams . . . [a] treat. The novel also . . . underscore(s) the fragility of life and the passage of time. The novel remains playful yet never far from these shadows. Mr. Schaffert does not take his material lightly. He only makes it seem that way." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God"…doesn't feed us its story as much as it serves a continual stream of delicacies until your head spins. Think of it as the literary equivalent of dim sum. A totally whacked-out yarn about a divorced couple who still haven't quite split up, Schaffert's book is both ruthlessly funny and utterly compassionate about his characters' ridiculous aspirations -- the main character sings country songs in a Ramada Inn, dreaming of making it big -- and tragic limitations.”—Meghan Daum, Salon.com

“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.” —Library Journal, starred

“Schaffert has wit and a lovely writing style.”—Entertainment Weekly

“An unflinching tale of family heartache.”—Out Magazine

“[A] quirky tragicomedy.”—TimeOut Chicago

“Achy-breaky dysfunction drives a messy, funny family drama in this small town Nebraska tale, told in a winning faux-naïve style…film, along with music, plays a wonderful incidental role throughout…Deft, sweet and surprising.” —Publishers Weekly

“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…Schaffert unfolds his characters' hopes, strengths, and frailties in this gorgeous novel...”—Jennie Shortridge, author of Eating Heaven and Riding With the Queen

“An elegantly written olio of country music, heartbreak and gospel singing groups, of children and their tired fathers who may yet have the time and talent to get their lives straight….a cracking good read.”—The Omaha World-Herald

"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."—Gerald Shapiro

“Timothy Schaffert's first book won the Nebraska Book Award in 2003 and charmed major reviewers. This second book is surely destined for a similar response. Schaffert's style is purely his own. His characters are earthy and real, common folk with endearing foibles and vulnerabilities. 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.”—Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review

“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.” —The Lincoln-Journal Star

“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.”—Nebraska Life Magazine

“Engaging.”—Harriet Klausner

“This loopy, relaxed tale…ingratiates itself, along with the hero, into our hearts…The plot bumps along, veering from the surreal - a defrocked priest selling fake "bones of martyrs" at the local drive-in movie - to the mundane, but always beckoning the reader with a gentleness of spirit that puts out the emotional welcome mat…Schaffert has a talent for creating characters for whom one develops an almost immediate soft spot. I caught myself wanting this dysfunctional bunch to get back together, God knows why. When things are finally - maybe - headed in that direction, the plot wanderings become a notch more unusual, but the sweetness can't be held back any longer. Just try to imagine a more endearing picture than three of the family members in the stolen school bus to rescue the fourth.”—The Durango Herald

Janet Maslin
The novel also includes two spectral figures, the Shrock boys, whose murder is announced on its opening page. These ghosts are intermittently summoned, if only to underscore the fragility of life and the passage of time. The novel remains playful yet never far from these shadows. Mr. Schaffert does not take his material lightly. He only makes it seem that way.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Achy-breaky dysfunction drives a messy, funny family drama in this smalltown Nebraska tale, told in a winning faux-na ve style. Divorced and down-and-out in Bonnevilla, Hud, a school-bus driver and popular local amateur balladeer, misses his eight-year-old daughter, Nina, and his ex-wife, Tuesday-a grade school art teacher who was his high school sweetheart-though he's still very much in their lives. Tuesday, for her part, can't seem to break her emotional dependence on the oddly reliable but damaged Hud. Dating isn't going too well for either of them (despite Tuesday's very long-burning torch for widowed Ozzie Yates, who repairs stained-glassed windows for area churches). Tuesday and Hud's 17-year-old son, Gatling, has joined a Jesus-centric band and is touring parts unknown. Tuesday's father, Red, owns the Rivoli Sky-Vue drive-in (recently featured in Film Comment, a sly aside notes); film, along with music, plays a wonderful incidental role throughout. The book opens with the off-camera execution of Robbie Schrock, who murdered his young sons following a divorce; Hud, in an effective echo of the loss of Gatling, may or may not be seeing visions of the boys. Deft, sweet and surprising, Schaffert's follow-up to The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters ends hopefully and features credibly incredible details throughout. (Nov. 21) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In a small, off-center, Nebraska town, Hud, charming odd-jobber and father of two, struggles with the pain of a divorce he doesn't want by plucking out original country and western tunes on an old guitar, staying slightly inebriated on sips of vodka, and entertaining the idle notion of making off with his eight-year-old daughter, Nina. Meanwhile, Hud's little family, such as it is, is missing their teenage son and brother, Gatling, who has run off with an alternative gospel rock band. As grievous as all this may sound, Schaffert's appealing second novel (after The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters) is anything but tragic. 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. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Jyna Scheeren, Troy P.L., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932961126
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Schaffert
Timothy Schaffert is editor-in-chief of The Reader, Omaha's alternative newsweekly.
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Read an Excerpt

A nightlight near Nina's bed lit the room enough for Hud to see Nina sleeping still in a cowgirl costume, still even in boots and prairie skirt and western shirt printed with yellow roses. A straw hat hung on the bedpost. Hud tugged on Nina's skirt and she woke peacefully, too peacefully, Hud thought. "You shouldn't be sleeping next to an open window," he whispered, and Nina sat up in bed and puckered her lips for a kiss. Hud kissed her, then said, "Any creep could come along. Aren't you afraid of creeps?"

"Oh, sure," Nina said, shrugging her shoulders.

"Let's go for a drive some place," Hud said. He opened the window and lifted the torn flap of the screen.

"OK," she said, standing up in the bed, "but first, don't you like my costume? We went to a party."

"It's nice," Hud said.

"I'm Opal Lowe," she said, and Hud was touched that she dressed up like Opal Lowe, his favorite country singer. He'd taken Nina to a county fair a few weeks before to see Opal singing in the open-air auditorium. . . . Nina had loved it and had hummed along as Opal Lowe sang about her man's habits, of how he had liquored her up on Wild Turkey, lit her Old Golds, made her need him like water.

. . . Hud jotted a note in crayon: "I'll be back with her before sunlight, before you even read this," and left it atop the rumpled covers of the bed. Nina crawled onto his back, and they slipped through the torn window screen. He imagined never returning with her, imagined his picture next to her picture on fliers sent through the mail.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2006

    funny, original, refreshing

    A bluesy, darkly comic portrait of a family on the edge. Combines qualities of the Southern gothic tradition with a truly original voice. The characters are rich and authentic, working within a world of gritty, magical realism. Charming, entertaining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2006

    Totally Unimpressive

    Reading 'The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God' was a complete waste of time. All of the characters are either drunk or depressed through the entire book. The story was uneventful, and when the book was over, I felt like it didn't accomplished anything. There were no exciting moments, no disappointing moments... nothing even remotely interesting about this book at all. I was thoroughly disappointed and unimpressed.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A good read

    Hud Smith feels lonely since his wife Tuesday divorced him and he only sees his eight years old daughter Nina sporadically especially when his ex turns vindictive his seventeen years old son Gatling never visits him. He knows Tuesday is not at fault re his boy as Gatling joined the traveling Daughters of God punk-gospel band. Hud realizes he is hurting as he fantasizes running away with his beloved Nina and even commiserates with an executed killer who murdered his wife and children writing mournful country ballads, odes to his woes............. A desperate Hud wants his family back with him. He persuades Tuesday that they must ¿rescue¿ Gatling so they and Nina hit the road in a school bus he ¿borrows¿ in search of their son. As he dreams of reconciliation he knows he must do what is right for his family even if that means no second chance with Tuesday, but that thought is killing him............... Hud is an eccentric protagonist whose ramblings, asides, and actions feel in some ways like a gender bending almost fortyish chick lit make that hunk tale. Hud hurts as he misses seeing his daughter on a regular basis and though he insists he hates Tuesday he knows he also yearns to be back in her life as her spouse. Readers will feel for him though believing he deserves much of the misfortune that has fallen on him that is why this character study is so engaging even when the plot turns soap operaish as Timothy Schaffert obtains dueling emotions from his awed audience............... Harriet Klausner

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