Payback

Mary Gordon. Pantheon, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4922-4
Gordon’s excellent latest (after There Your Heart Lies) contrasts the 1970s world of upper-class women’s education with the #MeToo era. Agnes Vaughan and Heidi Stolz meet in the early ’70s at a Rhode Island private girls’ school where Agnes is a young idealistic art teacher and Heidi a troubled student. Agnes tries to give Heidi a confidence-building experience by arranging a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. While viewing Guernica, Heidi flirts with a man who later takes her to his apartment and rapes her. When Heidi tells Agnes what happened, Agnes asks Heidi why she went to the man’s apartment. Heidi, infuriated, runs away. Over time, Heidi reinvents herself as a fitness guru in Arizona, and Agnes moves to Rome and becomes a wife, mother, and art restorer. By 2018, Heidi, under the name Quin Archer, hosts a reality-TV show called Payback. In each episode, Quin exacts justice for someone who has been victimized. Still resentful and in need of a ratings boost, Quin devotes an episode to her rape, making Agnes the target of her revenge, calling her victim-blaming the “true violation,” while a contrite Agnes reflects on how she was too young to be a role model. Gordon nails period details and vividly describes her characters’ worlds, whether they are restoring a work of art or raising a daughter. This mesmerizing novel hits hard. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 05/08/2020
Release date: 09/15/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-1-5247-4923-1
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