Very Old Bones

Very Old Bones

by William Kennedy
From 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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