Book Review: “Still Life with Woodpecker”


Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins is a book for lovers, activists, world savers and outlaws alike. Robbins esoteric writing and clever diction make for a story that doesn’t contain a dull word, thought or idea.


Still Life with Woodpecker tells the story of an exiled humanitarian bleeding heart princess (Leigh-Cheri) who locks herself in an attic and an outlaw waiting patiently for freedom (Bernard Wrangle). They meet on an airplane to the “Care Fest” when Bernard spots her fire engine red hair and starts to become intrigued. Bernard is a redhead as well, more specifically, “the Woodpecker” a bomber whose illustrious history of bombing without hurting people (except one terrible mistake) precedes him. She finds out through her housekeeper that he is the bomber, and struggles with the decision to turn him in or hear him out. It could be guessed what she decided.


They set forth on an emotionally charged and philosophically loaded journey looking for meaning in the sun, the moon, the pyramids, and a pack of Camel cigarettes. Robbins writes with a wit that will blow your mind with the eloquence of the dynamite that Bernard will use to blow the roof off any building. The book is separated by chapters and contains four sections called “phases” in accordance with the moon.


Some themes of Still Life are social outlaw-ism, the conflict between the polar sun and moon, romantic sacrifice, and what constitutes freedom. There is a strong focus on the pyramids and their physical, spiritual, and metaphorical purposes. It also applies myth and mystique to redheads with a powerfully positive connotation.


Bernard’s character forces the reader to rethink all of their views on society, what is right, what the roles and characteristics of the sun and moon are in relation to each other but also what role they play on the individual spirit. Leigh-Cheri’s character begs the question: what lengths will someone go to in the name of love, and does it take both an outlaw and the power of the moon to make love stay?