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Vision of Emma Blau
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About the Author

Ursula Hegi is the author of The Worst Thing I've Done, Sacred Time, Hotel of the Saints, The Vision of Emma Blau, Tearing the Silence, Salt Dancers, Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother's Palm, Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories, Intrusions, and Trudi & Pia. She teaches writing at Stonybrook's Southhampton Campus and she is the recipient of more than thirty grants and awards.

Reviews

Hegi's seventh novel (e.g., Stones from the River; Salt Dancers) is a gripping family epic that spans the 20th century. Beginning in 1894 when 13-year-old Stefan Blau leaves Burgdorf, Germany, for the imagined splendor of the New World, the book charts the twists and turns of four generations. Politics and pathology are central players. Readers will come to know the difficulties of assimilation--a problem heightened by World War II, when German Americans were routinely greeted with derision. They will also meet men and women with a variety of compulsive disorders like overeating and overspending and will witness what it was like for gay men and independent women during the repressive 1950s. Hegi has created a milieu full of sexual energy--the book is often erotic--and has captured both the tension and love endemic to all tight-knit families. Compelling and absorbing, this old-fashioned saga is rife with passion, tragedy, and redemption. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/99.]--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Robert Clark The Washington Post Book World Always vividly imagined and deeply felt...Hegi reminds readers that history inhabits and, yes, haunts us, and must be somehow rendered its due.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Engrossing...a risky story of love and history and an invigorating, memorable story about the power of desire.
Anne Stephenson The Arizona Republic Hegi's characterization is superb, part of a story that is as well constructed as the Wasserburg itself.
Linton Weeks The Washington Post Book World Rife with life and death and magic realism in the tradition of Gabriel Garc a M rquez.

Much as she did in Stones from the River, Hegi creates a social world in microcosm, and, following her characters for almost a century, fashions a saga of hidden loves and destructive obsessions. The fictional German town of Burgdorf, the setting of Stones and Floating in my Mother's Palm, also figures in this novel, the story of a German-American family and their fellow residents in an opulent apartment house set, inappropriately,in a rural community on the shores of New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee. In 1905, Stefan Blau, recently emigrated from Burgdorf, has a vision of a girl dancing in a courtyard (foreshadowing identifies her as his eventual granddaughter, Emma) and resolves to give substance to his dream in a building that he will call the Wasserburg. Stefan's passion for the Wasserburg is also a curse, manifested when both his first wife and his second die in childbirth. Determined not to risk another child, he returns to Burgdorf and marries Helene Montag (sister of Leo, the dwarf Trudi's father in Stones). Helene tricks him and has a child of her own--and survives--but the sibling rivalry among Stefan's offspring, combined with the personality defects they acquire when he reserves all his love for the Wasserburg, will threaten to destroy the family. Hegi uses the story of the Blaus and their tenants and neighbors to examine the social pressures on German-Americans during two world wars, and to contrast the differences in cultural attitudes and behavioral standards. She tends to animate characters in terms of psychological eccentricities (one of Stefan's sons eats compulsively to make up for paternal cruelty; his sister can foresee the future and heal by touching; and the eponymous Emma has the same obsession with the Wasserburg that prevents Stefan from nurturing his family). The eventual deterioration of the Wasserburg symbolizes the family's decay, but the much-signaled curse on the house is finally broken. Hegi's gift for depicting family dynamics and sexual relationships, including the concealed sorrows and tensions that motivate behavior, anchors the narrative, but it is her larger perspective of a family's cultural roots that grants her novel distinction. Agent, Gail Hochman. 6-city author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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