There Your Heart Lies (2017)
From the award-winning novelist Mary Gordon, here is a book whose twentieth-century wisdom can help us understand the difficulties we face in the twenty-first: There Your Heart Lies is a deeply moving novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.
Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War—an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian’s secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco’s war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years—personal and ethical challenges nearly unthinkable to Amelia’s millennial generation, as well as the unexpected gifts of true love and true friendship.
Marian’s story compels Amelia to make her own journey to Spain, to reconcile her grandmother’s past with her own uncertain future. With their exquisite female bond at its core, this novel, which explores how character is forged in a particular moment in history and passed down through the generations, is especially relevant in our own time. It is a call to arms—a call to speak honestly about evil when it is before us, and to speak equally about goodness.
The Liar's Wife (2014)
In these absorbing and exquisitely made novellas of relationships at home and abroad, both historical and contemporary, we meet the ferocious Simone Weil during her final days as a transplant to New York City; a vulnerable American grad student who escapes to Italy after her first, compromising love affair; the charming Irish liar of the title story, who gets more out of life than most of us; and Thomas Mann, opening the heart of a high-school kid in the Midwest. These narratives dazzle on the surface with beautifully rendered settings and vistas, and dig deep psychologically. At every turn, Mary Gordon reveals in her characters’ interactions those crucial flashes of understanding that change lives forever. So richly developed it’s hard to believe they fit into novella-size packages, these tales carry us away both as individual stories and as a larger experience of Gordon’s literary mastery and human sympathy.
The Love of My Youth (2011)
Miranda and Adam, high school sweethearts now in their late fifties, arrive by chance at the same time in Rome, a city where they once spent a summer deeply in love. At an awkward reunion, Adam suggests that they meet for daily walks and get to know each other again. Both have their own sense of who betrayed whom and long-held interpretations of the events that caused them not to part. But gradually, as they take in the pleasures of the city and the drama of its streets, they discover not only what matters to them now but also what happened to them long ago. From acclaimed author Mary Gordon, The Love of My Youth is a poignant look at first love, at the hopes and dreams of a generation, and at what became of them.
Reading Jesus: A Writer's Encounter with the Gospels (2009)
In the introduction to this remarkable book, Mary Gordon is riding in a taxi as the driver listens to a religious broadcast, and she reflects that, though a lifelong Christian, she is at odds with many others who identify themselves as Christians. In an effort to understand whether or not she had “invented a Jesus to fulfill my own wishes,” she determined to read the Gospels as literature and to study Jesus as a character. What results is a vibrantly fresh and personal journey through the Gospels, as Gordon plumbs the mysteries surrounding one of history's most central figures.
In this impassioned and eye-opening book, Gordon takes us through all the fundamental stories—the Prodigal Son, the Temptation in the Desert, the parable of Lazarus, the Agony in the Garden—pondering the intense strangeness of a deity in human form, the unresolved more ambiguities, the problem posed to her as an enlightened reader by the miracle of the Resurrection. What she rediscovers—and reinterprets with her signature candor, intelligence, and straightforwardness—is a rich store of overlapping, sometimes conflicting teachings that feel both familiar and tantalizingly elusive.
It is this unsolvable conundrum that rests at the heart of Reading Jesus and with which Gordon keeps us in thrall on every page.
Circling My Mother (2007)
Anna Gagliano Gordon, who died in 2002 at the age of 94, was the personification of the culture of the mid-century American Catholic working class. A hard-working single mother – Mary Gordon's father died when she was still a girl – she managed to hold down a job, dress smartly, raise her daughter on her own, and worship the beauty in life with a surprising joie de vivre. Bringing her exceptional talent for detail, character, and scene to bear on the life of her mother, Gordon gives us a deeply felt and powerfully moving book about their relationship. Toward the end of Anna's life, we watch the author care for her mother in old age, beginning to reclaim from memory the vivid woman who helped her sail forth into her own life.
On Christmas night of 1998, Maria Meyers learns that her twenty-year-old daughter, Pearl, has chained herself outside the American embassy in Dublin, where she intends to starve herself to death. Although Maria was once a student radical and still proudly lives by her beliefs, gentle, book-loving Pearl has never been interested in politics–nor in the Catholicism her mother rejected years before. What, then, is driving her to martyr herself?
Shaken by this mystery, Maria and her childhood friend (and Pearl’s surrogate father), Joseph Kasperman, both rush to Pearl’s side. As Mary Gordon tells the story of the bonds among them, she takes us deep into the labyrinths of maternal love, religious faith, and Ireland’s tragic history. Pearl is a grand and emotionally daring novel of ideas, told with the tension of a thriller.
Joan of Arc: A Life (2000)
Celebrated novelist Mary Gordon brings Joan of Arc alive as a complex figure full of contradictions and desires, as well as spiritual devotion. A humble peasant girl, Joan transformed herself into the legendary Maid of Orléans, knight, martyr, and saint. Following the voice of God, she led an army to victory and crowned the king of France, only to be captured and burned at the stake as a heretic, all by the age of nineteen. Gordon does more than tell this gripping story. She explores Joan's mystery and the many facets of her inspiring life.
The Shadow Man: A Daughter's Search for Her Father (1996)
In this searing memoir, the author of Final Payments and Men and Angels unearths startling truths about her father, a man who was both a devoted, imaginative, and loving parent and a man desperate to cover up the underside of the immigrant's encounter with the American dream. A brilliant book about memory and reality, loss and love, The Shadow Man is personal memoir elevated to art.
The Other Side (1989)
A multi-generational novel set over the course of a day, The Other Side centers on the journey of Vincent and Ellen MacNamara. Married for sixty-six years, the two have seen their share of hardships: emigration from Ireland to America; the bitter disappointments handed down to their children and grandchildren; and, most recently, setbacks to their health.
In The Other Side, Vincent returns from a period of convalescence in a nursing home after Ellen, disoriented from a stroke, had pushed him to the ground, injuring him. As family members assemble, the incident becomes a nexus for the anger, anguish, and misunderstandings that have simmered for decades.
As frankly observed as it is compassionately imagined, The Other Side is one of Gordon’s finest novels.
The Company Of Women (1980)
Raised by five intensely religious women and a charismatic, controversial priest, sheltered from the secular world, Felicitas Maria Taylor is intelligent, charming, and desperate for a taste of ordinary happiness. More freedom than she has ever imagined awaits her at Columbia University in the 1960s. There, Felicitas falls in love with the worst man for her—with shattering results. Now she must turn again to the company of the women who love her, as she struggles to embrace the future without betraying the past.
Final Payments (1978)
When Isabel Moore's father dies, she finds herself, at the age of thirty, suddenly freed from eleven years of uninterrupted care for a helpless man. With all the patterns of her life suddenly rendered meaningless, she turns to childhood friends for support, gets a job, and becomes involved with two very different men. But just as her future begins to emerge, her past throws up a daunting challenge.
A moving story of self-reinvention, Final Payments is a timeless exploration of the nature of friendship, desire, guilt, and love.