THE DEATH OF NORA RYAN by James T. Farrell
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On that winter day in 1946 that Nora Dunne Ryan has her massive brain hemoplagia, she's just been to church where ""she prayed for her children and her grandchildren, for her living brother and sister, and for her dead parents and dead husband, her dead brothers and sister, her dead children, for her son-in-law and her daughters-in-law, for the companies for which her children worked, for Mrs. Carney, for Chicago, and for America."" Nora has given birth 15 times. After her heart attack, she took off 25 pounds but now she's in a coma because of her stroke, and her surviving children are gathering around her bedside in Southside Chicago. Among her chief mourners is son Eddie, the famous author who writes fine, naturalistic novels--just like this one, the second in a Dunne family trilogy, a book with more tension and tragedy than its predecessor, The Dunne Family. Nora's is a repulsive death that gives Farrell one of his strongest plot situations: a scattered family compacted and brewing for ten days in the almost snowbound house while Nora lies popeyed and twisted with paralysis. The central focus, of course, is on Eddie, correcting galleys for his new novel Bernard Cleary (Farrell wrote Bernard Clare), an author (like Farrell) who writes his characters over and over again but can't escape them. An ecstasy of silences, the cumulative moods, and talk, talk, talk--swaying the reader with Farrell's infinite pity for family life, the endless debts that even the grave does not cancel. A talent reborn and overflowing.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday