Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information


Pen Name: None

Genre: C:ADULT Fiction

Born: 1941 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Illinois Connection

Hellenga lived in Galesburg. He was the George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Knox College.

Biographical and Professional Information

Robert Hellenga was educated at the University of Michigan and Princeton University. He was a highly regarded novelist, essayist and professor and short story writer.

He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he spent his summers, and in Three Oaks, Michigan. He graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, where he married Virginia Hellenga, and did graduate work at the Queen’s University of Belfast, the University of North Carolina and Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D.

In 1973 and 1974, he co-directed the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Seminar in the Humanities at Chicago’s Newberry Library. In 1982 and 1983 he spent 13 months in Florence, Italy, where he directed the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Florence programs. Italy became a recurring setting in his books.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library


-- """The Sixteen Pleasures"""

-- *Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction, 1995


-- """Fall of the Sparrow"""

-- *Best Fiction of 1998, Los Angeles Times

-- *Best ’98 Books, Publishers Weekly


-- """Blues Lessons"""

-- *Finalist for Fiction, Midland Authors Book Award, 2002


-- """Philosophy Made Simple"""

-- Starred Review, Booklist


-- """Snakewoman"""

-- *Best Novels of 2010, Washington Post

-- *Top 25: 2010 Best Fiction, Kirkus

-- *Audie Award - read by Coleen Marlo, Tantor Media, 2011

-- *Starred Review, Kirkus


-- """The Confessions of Francis Godwin"""

-- *Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction, 2015

-- *Starred Review, Booklist


-- """Love, Death & Rare Books"""

-- *Starred Review, Booklist, 2020