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Century's Son by Robert Boswell

Century's Son

by Robert Boswell

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i loved everything about this book. it's wonderfully written and the story touches on so many important and interesting ideas (ethics, death, life after death, family/parenting, love, loyalty, child rape, what it means to live, living by aphorisms). i wish i could write more concretely about this book; there was so much both tangible and intangible that i loved about it but i can't seem to make it cohesive enough to write about. i'll just say: this was a great read; i'm looking forward to exploring more of boswell's books. here's something else i'll say - from the moment i started reading, i knew that i'd love the book, just because of how it was written. even with that, the book kept surpassing expectations, both because of the writing, and also because of the story and the messages he was sending with his characters and their lives.

not a quote that conveys much about the story or it's scope, but that struck me just the same:

"Not heroism, exactly; being in the right place at the right time -- a more important gift to have than heroism, which was only rarely called for. Being in the right place at the right time was in constant demand." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
Peopled by a set of wonderful characters: a married couple--he, a garbage man; she, a political science professor at a university in an Illinois college town; their 20-year-old daughter & her 6-year-old son; the wife's eccentric elderly father (the "century's son"), who claims to have lived the entire 20th century & witnessed many of its key events, including an opportunity to assassinate Stalin; and a number of other richly portrayed lesser characters. The couple's son, then 12, committed suicide years earlier, and the marriage has suffered since. It seems like a sad, uneventful story, but it's one of those fundamentally life-affirming stories because of the wonderful characters & the very keenly observed domestic details, which made me smile in recognition. The intimate details include 4 brief but brilliant passages from the perspective of the family's aging, suffering dog. A brilliant book. ( )
  mbergman | Jan 6, 2008 |
This was a pretty slow read for me, and not particularly uplifting, but I enjoyed it in the end. Especially for readers who enjoyed The Corrections, but don't mind a slower read on other occasions, I'd recommend this. If you can get into it, the writing and the characters make it a worthwhile read. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jun 7, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312422318, Paperback)

Within the confines of a Midwestern college town, Century's Son poignantly explores all that remains unsaid between family members still mourning the suicide of a teenage son. Robert Boswell's novel involves Zhenya Kamenev, a political science professor soured by the tragedy; her union-activist-turned-garbage-collector husband, Morgan, and his thug partner in trouble with the law; her daughter, who has never disclosed who fathered the son she had while a teenager; and Zhenya's father, Peter, who claims to be a century old and is a minor cultural figure since he was once armed and alone with Joseph Stalin, yet chose not to shoot.

Boswell's prose is straightforward and unadorned (which turns out to be a good thing). After a slightly flat beginning, the story is asserted and the novel builds steam. The characters are fallible, and their normalcy spirits this collection of personalities to express a range of emotions with authority. Take, for instance, what the family dog knew:

She had not forgotten Philip. Still she would catch a whiff of him or the things that smelled of him, and she would begin to pace the halls to find him. Anymore, after a few moments, she would stop herself. For a long time she had not known to stop herself, but she knew how to learn, as well as how to grieve.
Century's Son is a moving portrait of a family coping and in crisis, still, after so many years. --Michael Ferch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the small college town of Hayden, Illinois, Morgan and Zhenya have settled into a loveless, stagnant marriage. The suicide of their son, Philip, ten years before has left the pair emotionally dead, lacking even the courage to separate from each other. Their surviving child, Emma, has become a teenage mother and refuses to reveal the identity of her child's father. Into this sullen mix marches Peter Ivanovich Kamenev, Zhenya's exasperating father. His arrival, though it tears at the family, also rejuvenates it.… (more)

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