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Norumbega Park: A Novel

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  146 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Richie Palumbo, the most prosaic of men, gets lost one night in 1969 while driving home with his family. He finds himself in the town of Norumbega—hidden, remote, and gorgeous, at the far edges of Boston's western suburbs. He sees a venerable old house and, without quite knowing why, decides he must have it. The repercussions of Richie's wild dream to own a house in this t ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Richie Palumbo falls in love with the aesthetic of a town and believes that buying a specific house within this town will grant him entry into its world. I guess it's kind of a Great Gatsby thing. Norumbega Park is a place where people live in old houses with large, tree-covered lawns and drive Volvos and send their kids off to Ivy League colleges. Richie wants this for his family, so he steels a house from a nasty old woman who doesn't want to sell by making a deal with the woman's even nastier ...more
Reid Nichols
This isn't the easiest book to read at times, but I believe it is somewhat rewarding. The story spans a few generations and deals with life unexpected- and I guess I am a sucker for that kind of thing. I felt that not enough happened for it to move along at an appropriate speed. I am generally a fan of books where nothing great happens- just wish a little more substantial nothing would have happened.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I rarely rate books this low, because if I don't like them, I usually turn them back in and "shelve" them on my "tried to read". This had some moments where I'd think "oh, it's going to be a good book" and then, it really wasn't. Sometimes I thought he was crude for no good reason. Sometimes characters never got fully developed, or plot points either. But to be fair, about half-way through I started skimming so maybe I missed some details. Not recommended.
John Luiz
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norumbega Park tells a terrific story about the four members of the Palumbo family - father, Richie; wife, Stella; son, Jack; and daughter, Joan. At the start of the novel, Richie, an Italian American, stumbles upon a gorgeous old house in the center of a Waspy New England town and decides, striver that he is, that the house is what he needs to capture the American dream. The problem is that the house isn't up for sale. So he befriends the elderly couple who own it and waits for when it will bec ...more
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Norumbega Park is the story of an American family whose four members fall into four distinct archetypes: the father the dreamer, the wife the door mat, the son the schemer, and the daughter the craven. It begins in the 1960′s, with the dreamer falling in love with a storied house in the town of Newton, Massachusetts. He pulls up the stakes of a comfortable suburban lifestyle to pursue his fancy of The American Dream by buying this house in a slimy deal that forcibly displaces its elderly occupan ...more
Mike Cuthbert
This novel, epic in scope, is in effect a study of sexual responses of various age groups through the focus of a small circle of people that grows as their sexual contacts do. Jack is the character most focused upon and he has a reputation as a rebel so maybe he isn’t the best example to focus on for the reader but he is an adventurous sort and easy to focus on. Skipping college, Jack stumbles along at various jobs, all the while seemingly bewitched by the stunning Christina, a high school class ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real little heartbreak of a novel. He captures the family dynamic well. Almost too well. He shows so many types and their slipping through cracks, being misunderstood, having such confused, messy lives--in other words all too human. People have their dreams, and the dreams die. There really was a Norumbega Park west of Boston. Norumbega is an Indian word for the generalized New England area--a word I had never heard before. At the end of the story, when Richie, the father, the one who had drea ...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
A very clever (too clever?) family saga that takes in the nature of the world. I wasn’t sure that I like or trusted this book until the elegiacal ending with rang so true.

The crux of the issue: “At forty-six, he was becoming aware that it was not such an epic as he’d once believed, that his story had grown a little depressing. He was a man separated from his wife, on a bewilderingly long track for divorce, who had lived an early life of sexual splendor but now didn’t. At low moments he went so f
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, relations
One family ... several generations.


... she could see it clearly: a depth of loneliness waiting for them. You married a man and you married his ambition.

She had stopped speaking. It was that awful silence that had been like a third partner in the marriage ... It was not failure, exactly, but it was not ascent, and he had come to believe in ascent as a male obligation.

Talking to this man was like undergoing a tutorial in human mystery.

Certain girls carried on them a quality that tucked beau
Meg Mardian
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could say this is a book about the people who have had their dreams turn sour, or those worked so hard to achieve something only to find it empty and unfulfilling, for those people who've been lost and alone both physically and emotionally. But this isn't a book about any of that. It's about human nature. There are no minor characters here; everyone is so beautifully written to represent another facet of being human, showing how utterly flawed we are and wholly responsible for our own downfall ...more
I wasn't but a few pages into this 2012 novel about Richie Palumbo, a working-class man who stumbles onto a home in one of Boston's Tony western suburbs that he is compelled to own, when I realized I'd read it before. I knew from my records that I hadn't finished it, so I kept going, waiting to hit the point where the plot seemed new and unfamiliar. Unfortunately, I lost interest before then, as I must have done previously. I picked up the book a third time and skipped to the end, just so I coul ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having most recently finished 'White Guys' by the same author, I was excited to read this one. Especially after a story about him in the NY Times. What a letdown. While 'White Guys' was an enthralling Dennis Lehane style Boston story, Norumbega Park was morose, ponderous and depressing. And those were the good parts. This plodding story was filled with characters you didn't care about. Richie Palumbo stumbles upon an idyllic community outside Boston, overpays for the property and settles his fam ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is exactly up my alley...a book that provides a window into the inner workings of people that seem real, in all of their heartbreaking inadequacy. Addresses age-old questions such as: what is love, can you really ever know another human being (even your own child/parent/spouse), who am I, why can't I be who I wish I were. Beautifully written, and rarely calls you "out of it" by overtly tipping its hat to the skills of the writer....or to put it another way, the author does not have an ego t ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Devastating and heartbreaking, yet capable of grace and beauty in its attempt to dramatize -- I would say very successfully -- what one character sums up as "we get everything wrong, and then we die."

But probably the best way to sum it up comes from the character Stella herself, who the omniscient narrator says "...wanted the full story, the failure of healing, some fictional reenactment of the way life let things rip, obeys no laws, demanded a full unfolding. She wanted books that did not feel
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the beginning, Norumbega Park is reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen’s epic family saga The Corrections. Both novels depict the struggles of the middle class and the personal triumphs and tragedies of nuclear families. Norumbega Park offers a similar premise, but there are very few triumphs accounted for. Instead, the novel focuses on the friction and tension that exist between expectations and truth.

Read full review here:
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Would like to give this a 3.5

At times I was very deeply absorbed in the characters, their lives and foibles; other times, scratching my head a bit as in "where is this going"? Started out slow for me, but by the end I was with them.

It's a book about family - how we are close and yet often don't really know each other.

It's a book about immigrants and wanting to be a part of the established society and then wonder why.

A very real book - as the cover says "the minutiae of the suburbs", the hollows
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written and realized book about the difficulty of making dreams reality and how elusive genuine connections between people can be. This is not a story about easy victories, but the book draws you in, thanks to the strength of Giardina's writing and his gift for realizing complex characters. If this is the sort of thing you like, you will like this very much indeed. Highly recommended.
Karen Raskin
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't explain exactly why, but I really loved reading this book. It must be something about the style of writing or the thoughts expressed, because otherwise it is just a study of a family over the course of 30 years or so.There were times that I was almost dazzled by the author's words even though I didn't always understand where he was going with all of those words. Anyway, I will be curious to see if any of my book friends agrees with me on this one!
Brian Goeselt
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much to recognize here for a guy who graduated from a Boston suburban Rte 128 belt (Wellesley/Weston/Wayland/ Lincoln/ Sudbury/Lexington/ Concord) high school in 1978. Terrifically bitter-sweet in spots, just terrific on others. Break on through to the inner lake in every town!
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, deeply spiritual novel about the heartache and joy of love. Richie Palumbo and his family are Everyman, and their stories are gripping ones. Anthony Giardina is a wonderful craftsman. I'll remember this book for a Lon, long time.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite engaging novel of a family trying to move "up" to a suburban image and lifestyle and to fit into various ideas of themselves . Well-written, but sometimes the characters' motivations were too ambiguous, especially toward the later chapters.
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A terribly sad book about loneliness, about how well we know we won't be anything but separate from one another and yet, nevertheless try to find comfort in one another. An ironically fulfilling book about how life never truly satisfies us.
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quiet, well-written, well-observed book. [does that make sense?]
Janet Saxon
Very readable, but disappointing in the end.
Wellington City Libraries
Our readers: "Was a good read. Made you think about people's lives. Characters were well portrayed."
It was a really good book until the endings came. It seemed untidy and rather disappointing the way each person ended up. But perhaps that was his point.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
riveting read, positive philosophy on nearly every page.
Marjorie S Smith
Jan 23, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I actually never finished this book and I rarely don't finish books. I disliked the characters, the story was boring...what else can I say? Didn't like it!
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The characters were interesting but not compelling. I probably would not have read it if it didn't take place in the Boston area. Well written.
Lou Breault
Meh. Meandering story dwindled away to almost nothing. Kinda like the characters.
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Anthony Giardina is the author of Norumbega Park and White Guys. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine, and his plays have been widely produced. He is a regular visiting professor at the Michener Center of the University of Texas. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
More about Anthony Giardina

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