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Sacred Time

Sacred Time

A Novel

  • reading group guide
The bestselling author of Stones from the River delivers her most ambitious and dramatic novel yet -- the unforgettable story of an endearing, but also flawed, Italian American family.

In December 1953 Anthony Amedeo's world is nested in his Bronx neighborhood, his parents' Studebaker, the Paradise Theater, Yankee Stadium -- and in his imagination, where he longs for a stencil kit to decorate the windows like all the other kids on his street. Instead he gets a very different present: his uncle Malcolm's family.

Malcolm is in jail for stealing -- once again -- from his latest new job, and Anthony's aunt and twin cousins settle into the Amedeos' fifth-floor walk-up. Sharing a room with girls is excruciating for Anthony, despite his affinity for the twins. But the real change in Anthony's life comes one evening when he causes the unthinkable to happen, changing each family member's life forever.

Evoking all the plenty and optimism of postwar America, Sacred Time spans three generations, taking us from the Bronx of the 1950s to contemporary Brooklyn. Keenly observing the dark side of family -- and its gracefulness -- Hegi has outdone herself with this captivating novel about childhood's tenderness and the landscape of loneliness. Ultimately she reveals how the transforming power of a singular event can reverberate through a family for generations. With gravity and poise, Hegi turns her astute yet forgiving eye on the essential frailty and dignity of the human condition in this elegant and fast-paced novel.
Choose a format:
  • Touchstone | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743255998 | 
  • September 2004
List Price $16.99
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Reading Group Guide

SACRED TIME by Ursula Hegi
Reader's Group Guide

At the core of Sacred Time lies a single, tragic event that transforms the lives of all its characters. How does Bianca's death impact each character? Can you envision how their lives might have been different had tragedy been averted?
As a boy, Anthony believes that men don't exist unless they are married. What leads him to this conclusion, and how does the idea continue to guide him, even as an adult?
Do you hold Anthony responsible for Bianca's death, as he does? What set in motion this awful sequence of events?
Anthony describes how his family tells stories "with great passion, listening with equally great passion while one of us would take one thread of a story and spin it along...." Why is it best when the stories are already familiar? How does Bianca's death affect the family stories?
How does Leonora both belong into the Amedeo family and remain isolated? Where does this distance come from?
Why does Leonora blame her inability to bring another child to term on her body's selfishness? How has her father's violent legacy shaped her?
The image of Leonora and Floria dancing reverberates throughout the novel. What does the dancing mean to Anthony? To his aunt and mother? To the men in the family? Where do you think the disconnect between Leonora and Victor lies? Were you surprised when they decided to get back together? Why do you think she decided not to restore the weddi see more

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About the Author

Ursula Hegi
Photo Credit: Gordon Gagliano

Ursula Hegi

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.

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