Still Life with Woodpecker Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Still Life with Woodpecker

Princess Leigh-Cheri is struggling with the typical issues of early adulthood: overprotective parents, a rocky love-life, and a crisis of identity. After a humiliating break-up with her first boyfriend, Leigh-Cheri vows eternal celibacy. She swears off men and devotes her time to progressive causes and weird philosophical traditions. When love crashes in, disrupting her sad resignation, the Princess begins to take on the traits of her newfound lover: chaos, disorder, danger, and irreverence.
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The Princess Leigh-Cheri and her family have been exiled from their native land of Furstenburg-Barcelona. They reside in Seattle estate surrounded by wild blackberry bushes. The estate was gifted to them by the U.S.government. The King, Queen, and Princess are served by their loyal servant Gulietta, and American butler Frank (a CIA operative whose real job is to make sure the family doesn't leave the U.S. and attempt to reenter Furstenburg-Barcelona.

Leigh Cheri is a cheerleader for her college football team. One afternoon, during halftime at big game, she delivers a stillborn fetus right in the middle of the football field. Her boyfriend a football player, promptly broke up with her. Afterward the princess vows celibacy and descends into a deep depression.

To console her, Gulietta gives Leigh-Cheri a frog. She princess names him Prince Charming When news of her pregnancy and unfortunate delivery hits the media, Leigh-Cheri's parents become increasingly ashamed of their Americanized daughter's immodest ways. They scold her for not being proper and chaste. Between themselves, they lament how difficult it will be to marry her into a proper royal family now, that she's been so publicly disgraced. They forbid her to go anywhere unaccompanied.

The princess asks her for permission to attend an activist conference in Hawaii.. The Geo-fest conference hails itself the progressive movement of the century. Her parents agree that she may attend if Gulietta chaperones her.

At the conference, Princess Leigh-Cheri meets Bernard Mickey. At first, the two don't get along. Bernard smells of smoke. His teeth are crooked. The day before the conference, Bernard bombs the hotel. The detonation results in some structural damage, but no injuries. The conference organizers decide to press forward with the conference agenda as planed.

Gulietta tells the Princess that it was Mickey who bombed the place.She approaches him angrily and threatens to tell the authorities. Mickey convinces her not to, and tells her the story of his life as an outlaw. They flirt on the beach and drink Mai Thais. When the conference ends, both the Princess and Mickey return to Seattle.

Back home, the Princess receives an invitation to visit the young wealthy prince: Aben Fizel. The king and queen pressure her to marry him, but the princess still has feelings for Bernard. A few months later, Bernard is arrested and sent to a federal prison for life.

The Princess decides to marry Fizel. She asks him to make build her a pyramid. It takes two years for construction to be complete. When the pyramid is complete, they arrange for a wedding. The night before the wedding, Bernard shows up in the observation room atop Leigh-Cheri's pyramid. The two embrace in the lonely, soundproof room. They gaze out at the stars and begin to timidly discuss their relationship. A eunuch gaurd informs Fizel, and when Fizel see the two embracing with his own eyes, he closes the steel doors to the observation deck, locking the two inside.

For days they subsist off the wedding cake and champaign which was being stored in the observation deck for the redding reception. They talk and make love. Finally there's nothing more to eat or drink, and it's clear Fizel isn't sending for them. He intends for them to die up there.

After a final night of passionate, Leigh-Cheri prepares the dynamite. She wraps her body around Bernard, intending to use her body as a shield to protect him from the explosion. He is roused as she whispers: "you are more equipped to live in this world. I'm always trying to change it." Bernard tries to switch positions with Leigh-Cheri, but she holds firm. She lights the dynamite; the bomb explodes.

Against all odds, both princess and outlaw survive the explosion. They move back into the blackberry-thicket estate, (now vacated as Leigh-Cheri's parents to been reinstated to the throne) and live out their days in idyllic fairy tail happiness.
Best part of story, including ending: Tom Robbins is a narrator/character who makes commentary on the story as it unfolds. It's an interesting narrative device. Also, this book has a lot of fairy tail elements. Robbins does a great job interweaving a bit of magic into the story, while still maintaining a sense of realism.

Best scene in story: When it becomes clear to the Princess that there's no way out, she decides to sacrifice herself, blow the place up, and save her lover. This scene is beautifully written. It also points to the ways in which the Princess has grown, changed and evolved throughout the story.

Opinion about the main character: I like both the Princess' and Bernard's' complexity. Each of these characters has various sides and aspects to their personalities; their fears and vulnerabilities make them sympathetic characters.

The review of this Book prepared by Jessica a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of Still Life with Woodpecker

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Kind of romance:    -   fighting matchbreaker (parents/authorities) Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Pregnancy/Child rearing    -   Yes Major part of story:    -   dealing with unexpected pregnancy Lover is    -   a criminal (possibly)

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   Prince/Nobleman/King Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Other Asian


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Pacific NW City?    -   Yes City:    -   wealthy Misc setting    -   fancy mansion

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   descript of kissing    -   touching of anatomy Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Tom Robbins Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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