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A Feather On The Breath Of God: A Novel
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A Feather On The Breath Of God: A Novel

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  344 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
A haunting, heart-rending first novel by an award-winning writer that speaks to the difficulties of forging an identity in a world of different cultures--and to the complexities of familial and sexual love. "An impressive debut."-- "Atlantic Monthly" "A forceful novel by a writer of uncommon talent." "--New York Times Book Review"
Published January 10th 1996 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 589)
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Kasey Jueds
Mar 04, 2013 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What I kept thinking over and over as I read this book is how incredibly true it feels--as if I were looking right through the words to the author's deepest heart. Late in the book, there is a description of a certain kind of sex feeling like not only one's clothes, but one's skin, had been peeled away--and the writing here seemed to me to have the same absolutely naked quality. Spare and strange and heartful, and unusually structured--in a way it's like four separate essays (on the speaker's fa ...more
Daniel Clausen
Feb 05, 2015 Daniel Clausen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-books
Title: Voices of Authority in Sigrid Nunez’s Feather on the Breath of God

Honest. Beautiful. Unique.

Sigrid Nunez’s Feather on the Breath of God is the closest thing I've found to a perfect novel. I suspect I will read this book several times, reverse engineer it, and try to divine its secrets.

Some of the elements are easy to recognize. The book emphasizes fallible memory, fragmentation, free association, and montage--styles that resist attempts to totalize meaning. In my experience, many great
Leah Shafer
Sep 05, 2008 Leah Shafer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My friend Catherine and I recently joined The Writer's Garret here in Dallas and saw the two-hour interview with Rick Moody at Theatre Three last month. It was tremendously enjoyable--his perspective on the craft of writing had me furiously scribbling notes in the dark. But I was sad not to have read any of his novels beforehand (The Black Veil, The Diviners, The Ice Storm). I imagine it would have made the experience all the richer.

On the 27th of this month, Sigrid Nunez is being interviewed a
Susan Carpenter
Jun 26, 2010 Susan Carpenter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love contemporary literature
Recommended to Susan by: I heard about the author. It is her first.
The writing of "A Feather on the Breath of God" is as wonderful as the promise held out by its title: clear, deceptively simple language, with shining threads and dark threads woven through the story of the daughter of two immigrants growing up in New York City. There are four sections: the first is about her father, born in Panama of a Chinese family, never fluent in English, showing love chiefly by his incessant toil. The second section examines the mother, a German immigrant who loves reading ...more
Sep 12, 2008 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite of Sigrid's books!

(I can call Sigrid by her first name because I took a class with her ten years ago at Smith College and plan to keep bragging about it for the rest of my life.)

She has this non-linear, mostly plotless style that takes some getting used to, but her punctuation is amazing (seriously! it inspires me!) and her prose is just so lovely.
This is a beautifully written book. It focuses on the experiences of a daughter of immigrants and the various sections of the book illuminate the experiences of a biracial woman with indepth portraits of her parents, who nonetheless remain a mystery to her. I loved this author's book The Last of Her Kind.
Nov 07, 2014 Shannon rated it really liked it
Sigrid Nunez speaks both to the common experience of the immigrant, the challenges and joys and prejudices he or she faces, as well as her own unique position in her family, in the projects, in her sexuality, and in her identity. With beautiful descriptions about her relationships with her father and mother, as well as her love for and self-expression in the art of ballet, and finally the provocative and eye-opening relationship she carries with a Russian immigrant studying English as a second l ...more
Jan 02, 2009 bookczuk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at thhis year's BookFest-- what a treat to read! I'm not sure I could describe it well, but when reading, I was absorbed in each separate section and character. I picked up the author's second book, as well, and look forward to reading that, soon.

From the Publisher

In this profoundly moving novel, a young woman looks back to the world of her immigrant parents: a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother who meet in post-war Germany and settle in New York. Growing up in a hou
Justin Evans
Sep 14, 2011 Justin Evans rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was really disappointing; I loved Salvation City, which was poised, objective, intelligent and clear. This is rapturous, deeply personal, irrational and unreflective. Now, it just so happens that the book pushes almost every button on my pad of "Things I Dislike." A brief list would include:

* attempts to use language as a metaphysical analogy for everything.
* unnecessary mentions of The Body as metaphysical analogy for everything.
* belief that the real problems of the world are problems of
Apr 26, 2007 liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The protagonist's father is Chinese but from Panama, her mother is German. They can barely communicate with each other, but somehow managed to fall in love in Germany, then out of love in Brooklyn. The book traces her life as she tries to interpret each of her parents' broken English, and her later romance with a Russian-speaking Ukranian gangster immigrant. I enjoyed it because of how it examines how language influences experience, as well as ideas of where home is, and what solace we can find ...more
Gabriel Oak
The novel doesn't have a conventional plot. Instead, the narrator's family life unfolds in a series of narrative fragments, some of them no larger than a sentence, some as long as a few pages. This is both the book's strength and its weakness. On the one hand, Nunez knows how to use the fragment to her advantage, exploiting its indeterminacy and sense of mystery. On the other hand, the narrative voice lacks both motivation and a convincing sense of self-reflection in the end.
Kathleen Wilcox
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Filipa Calado
The voice of the narrator will trick you into thinking this is an autobiography. Which is a sign of the author's skill. This book delves into some serious psychological issues about family, immigration, and language. There are some lovely passages about dancing and the rigorous and detonated life of ballerinas. The whole novel reads like a whisper in your ear.
How do you come to terms with emotionally detached parents, in this case a Panamanian-Chinese father and a German mother, who have lived through the trauma of WWII, never got the counseling they probably should have had, and who never adapted to their new life in America? Well, you will be messed up in one way or another.
I found this book insightful, sensitive, and funny. It highlights how one generations language barriers and cultural differences in temperament and outlook on life can cause co
Mar 28, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book long ago, probably shortly after it first came out and liked it enormously.
Jun 18, 2015 Aleina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most beautifully written pieces of literature I have ever read.
Mar 17, 2009 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of a half Chinese, half German girl growing up in the NYC projects. It's broken up into 4 sections; the first two, covering the lives of her parents and her relationship, are excellent; the third, about her time as a ballet dancer, was kind of boring, but at least it was short; the final section is about her relationship with a Russian junkie/pimp/cab driver--it's hilarious and poignant.

I'm definitely not the target audience for this book, but I enjoyed it. The writing's lyrical, and t
Sep 06, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read forever ago....loved when I read it.
Catherine Bliss
Sigrid Nunez speaks well for how it feels to be a girl and a growing woman. It's surprising to me that she is older than my mother, but describing mental and emotional states that even I can relate to. Sometimes her feminist and literary references date her and sometimes her language is too stuffy for what she's trying to convey, but she's a very down to earth writer. I had that problem where I kept thinking this was nonfiction.
Jan 29, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Sigrid Nunez always writes beautifully. She is especially good at evoking the sense of what it is like to observe another person and to try to understand them. Through sharply observed details, she paints a portrait of her rather painful relationships with her parents, a lover, and her own body. It's a sad, poetic book that skillfully replicates the experience of being privy to someone else's innermost thoughts and feelings.
Feb 24, 2009 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel about a woman growing up in NY with immigrant parents: the dad is half-Chinese and half-Latin American and the mom is German. It's a coming-of-age story about her relationship with her parents, with ballet, and later, with her Russian immigrant lover. Solid but not mind-blowing. I wonder if it's at all autobiographical, coming from an author by the name of Sigrid Nunez?
Jan 08, 2013 Larissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book instantly pulls you in with the first chapter about the authors father. Nunez is able to build a story of a man she barely knows based on her faulty memories, unknown answers and collaged information. The story continues with a look at her mother and then finally at herself. I look forward to reading more from this writer.
Feb 10, 2009 Misha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book both times I read it. It's about a Chinese-German young woman who has an affair with a Russian immigrant with a seedy past. She evokes her parents and childhood so poetically. I think it's semi-autobiographical. Sadly, the library where I work doesn't own it anymore, otherwise I would be talking it up!
Oct 02, 2008 cory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
she's an amazing author. all the books of hers i've read are kind of like memoirs, this one's the closest to her own life, i think. she addresses deep shit in a really matter-of-fact way, and she's got a great ability to get in the heads of lots of different kinds of people. i'll pretty much read anything by her at this point.
Aug 20, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the first part (of four) of this book amazing. I didn't think that the following three sections, while very good, could hold up to the power of the first part. That's why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. But overall it was a beautiful and insightful book, highly recommended. Also, it's a very quick read.
Aug 05, 2012 Brandylien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though this book is classified as a novel, there are a number of autobiographical elements to it (which is not unlike many novels), most identifiably the issue of being mixed race. The narrative is elegant and sparse, much like that of Marguerite Duras's The Lover. The style lives up to and mimics the title.
Nov 26, 2007 Ines rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lit-critters
So I fell in love with that other novel and decided to tackle this one, but it didn't hit home in quite the same way. I think for folks interested in analyzing identity, migration, parent relations (and the sort) - this book is for you. It may have been the wrong book at the wrong time for me.
Felicia Blasi
May 29, 2009 Felicia Blasi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got this book for .50 at a library sale, and it is truly captivating and while I haven't finished it yet, I recommend it.
Now that I'm done w/this novel, I highly recommend it to readers of Joan Didion perhaps; the prose style is similar to Didion's and the effects are quite compelling.
May 28, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character in A Feather on the Breath of God is struggling to find her cultural identity. Her parents are a Chinese father who grew up in Panama and a German mother. An honest & insightful novel about a girl trying to find out who she is.
AJ Duric
May 24, 2011 AJ Duric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Classic immigrant tale from the perspective of a first-generation American woman with parents from different nations who searches for an identity upon which to build a psychologically secure life.

A month later, I barely remember this novel.
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(Photograph Marion Ettlinger, 2005)

Sigrid Nunez is the author of six novels: A Feather on the Breath of God, Naked Sleeper, Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury, For Rouenna, The Last of Her Kind, and Salvation City. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. She has been a contributor to The New York Times, Harper's, O Magazine, The Believer, Tin House, and McSweeney's, among o
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