In his fictional Falls, North Carolina-a watchful zone of stifling mores-Allan Gurganus’s fond and comical characters risk everything to protect their improbable hopes from prejudice, poverty, betrayal. Seeking warmth and true connection, they shield themselves and loved ones while creating a rarely-glimpsed world of valor, minor grandeur, side-street heroics.
Muriel Fraser, a poor Scottish-born spinster, is the subject of a John Singer Sargent portrait in the imagination of her devoted grand-nephew. Tad Worth, a young man dying of AIDS, finds ways to restore vitality to old friends and 18th-century houses. Overnight, one pillar of the community, accused of child molesting, becomes the village pariah. And Clyde Delman, ugliest if kindest man in Falls, finds the love of his eight-year-old son jeopardized when troubling family secrets arise. In each of these splendid complex tales, Allan Gurganus wrings truths-sometimes bruising, ofttimes warming-from human hearts as immense as they are local.
“Gurganus is an old-fashioned yarn spinner. . . . [The Practical Heart] reanimates all those familiar truths about art’s power to transform and redeem.” —The New York Times
“As intriguing as it is deadly funny. . . . An entertaining, disturbing, and inspiring book . . . [from] one of our greatest living raconteurs.” —The Atlantic Monthly
“Gurganus’s commitment to the importance of suffering and the power of art to redeem it, so like Henry James’, blows through [these stories] like a cold wind of truth.” —Newsday
“There is no other American writer working from his recipe, and nobody dishing it out with such full-throated gusto.” —The Washington Post