Cover image for The vagabonds
The vagabonds
Delbanco, Nicholas.
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Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
294 pages ; 24 cm
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The critically acclaimed author ("Old Score") returns with a sweeping family saga that delves into the nature of inheritance and the effect it has one one American family.

Author Notes

Nicholas Delbanco lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The nature of families, their secrets and their strengths, is explored in sumptuous detail and with uncommon insight in Delbanco's intricate, multigenerational tale spanning nearly a century in the life of one ordinary New England family, and dramatizing its momentous encounter with three extraordinary pioneers of American invention. Self-proclaimed as "the vagabonds," Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford were known to travel together in annual treks throughout the American countryside. It was on one such trip to upstate New York that a member of their retinue seduced Elizabeth Dancey. The ensuing pregnancy, when brought to the titans' attention, resulted in the establishment of a stock trust fund that would, three generations later, have resounding impact upon the lives of Elizabeth's grandchildren. Just as Elizabeth's story influences that of her daughter, Alice, so does Alice's life find uncanny parallels in that of her children. Through such an inventive device does Delbanco, whose previous novels include What Remains 0 (2000), spin a mesmerizing family saga that is simultaneously old-fashioned and contemporary, vibrant and refined. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"[M]oney changes things," Delbanco's saga allows, as it slips across generations to examine the bonds of inheritance, fiscal and otherwise, linking three siblings. When the scattered Saperstones-coddled Claire, drifting David and down-on-her-luck Joanna-return to their childhood home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., upon their mother's death, they discover they've been left a sizable sum of money. The inheritance began with a batch of General Electric stock, bequeathed by a cadre of adventure-smitten, self-styled "vagabonds": no less towering figures than Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford. After a cad in Firestone's employ impregnates a young girl in 1916, the three give the shares to provide for her illegitimate progeny. Over two generations, the shares and their intangible presence increase; Alice, the Saperstones' mother, cognizant of her own demons, leaves the trust untouched so that it might fulfill her children's lives in ways she could not. Each child ponders how to channel the windfall into something meaningful: courage, security, a new life. As their futures reconfigure, they draw together in their new history, especially when tragedy undermines Claire's charmed existence. While the vagabonds relished the country's open roads and boundless opportunity-a colorful bit of history animated here-generations later, the Saperstones yearn for a more rooted certainty. Delbanco (What Remains) creates a lyrical narrative showing a palpably American faith in reinvention as he weaves nostalgia-tinged memories into a grittier reality. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Siblings Joanna, Claire, and David Saperstone, now adults, return to their childhood home of Saratoga Springs, NY, to bury their widowed mother. There, they are astonished to learn that they've inherited a sizable fortune-a legacy bequeathed to their grandmother in 1916 by three camping buddies who call themselves "The Vagabonds," otherwise known as Henry Ford, Harry Firestone, and Thomas Edison. This legacy has proved unlucky to two generations of Saperstones. Will it be boon or bane to the third? The Saperstone siblings certainly need the money. Joanna is, at 44, a twice-divorced single mom with an attitude. The middle child, Claire, is in denial over her soon-to-implode marriage, while commitment-phobic David, now 35, has yet to find his place in the world. Delbanco (What Remains) has deep empathy for his characters and their all-too-human foibles, suggesting that it's not only genes that get passed down from one generation to the next but also habits of the human heart. Recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.]-Janet Evans, Pennsylvania Horticultural Soc. Lib., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.