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The Stories of Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon, Author . Pantheon $26 (457p) ISBN 978-0-375-42316-1

This book collects 41 tough-minded explorations into human hope, loss and failings by the award-winning author of six novels (including 1978's Final Payments ), a memoir and a life of Joan of Arc. Her quietly desperate protagonists range from a mother unable to leave her child alone at school (in "Separation") to a 74-year-old widow who revisits Italy in search of her youth, only to face her mortality ("Death in Naples"). "My Podiatrist Tells Me a Story About a Boy and a Dog," although lighter in tone than many of the entries, concludes with a devastating comment on female desire and later life. Characters are frequently silent, letting their yearnings speak louder than they, and many of the people who inhabit this collection want nothing but to be left alone, if only because it's all that remains to them. Themes of Catholicism, Irish-American families and women struggling with self-image and convoluted relationships concern the deftly delineated characters. Gordon is a master of nuance. Gripping and memorable, this collection, half of which is new or uncollected work, is a study in human connection and the lack of it. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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