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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
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
remains a writer worth reading, a talented novelist with a style all his own.”Nebraska Life Magazine
“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