Very Old Bones
A NovelFrom a Pulitzer Prize–winning author: “An immensely gratifying novel” of an Irish-American clan whose exploits changed Albany forever (The Boston Globe).
When it was built, the Phelan mansion was the only home on the block. In the decades since, countless tragedies have swept through its rambling halls, but no matter how many times its foundations have been rocked, the old house still stands. Now, in 1958, its sole occupants are the eccentric old painter Peter Phelan and his illegitimate son, Orson, who sees all—but says nothing. When Peter invites his remaining family to hear him read his will aloud, it forces the Phelan clan to reckon with the most powerful force in Albany: their own tortured history.
Unveiling a series of portraits inspired by family tragedy, Peter takes the Phelans back into the past, as far as 1887, forcing them to come face-to-face with the origins of the family curse. As the raucous narrative unfolds, Orson does his best to grapple with his roots, and the knowledge that the sins of the past can never truly be washed away.
William Kennedy’s eight-book Albany Cycle is one of the most ambitious projects in modern historical fiction, a kaleidoscopic portrait of a city whose heroes are its corrupt politicians, conmen, and thieves. The Phelans are one of the roughest families in American literature, and also one of the greatest, who “can claim a place beside O’Neill’s Tyrones and Steinbeck’s Joads” (Library Journal).
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- Open Road Integrated Media
“Few Irish-American writers have produced more haunting portraits of their ancestors or the ghosts that possessed them than Mr. Kennedy has in Very Old Bones.” —The New York Times
“Kennedy’s narrator speaks for a grand cast of saints, eccentrics, artists, blackguards and tarnished heroes, all of whose lives come together in this quirky but consistently fascinating weave of a story. Paternity, aesthetics, the toll and virtues of madness, the tortures of religion, the pains and pleasures of sex and marriage, the pressure of history always pushing at our backs—these are some of the motifs that come to life in Kennedy’s pages.” —The Dallas Morning News
“The very best of William Kennedy’s work.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A complex but beautifully shaped saga.” —Publishers Weekly
“The Phelans can claim a place beside O’Neill’s Tyrones and Steinbeck’s Joads as one of the premier families of American literature. . . . If you think the great books are no longer being written, reading William Kennedy will change your mind.” —Library Journal
“In many ways Kennedy’s most mature and profound work.” —San Francisco Chronicle
About the author
William Kennedy (b. 1928) is an American author and journalist. Born and raised in Albany, New York, he graduated from Siena College and served in the US Army. After living in Puerto Rico, Kennedy returned to Albany and worked at the Times Union as an investigative journalist. He would go on to author Ironweed, Very Old Bones, and other novels in his celebrated Albany Cycle, and earn honors including a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a New York State Governor’s Arts Award.