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Circling My Mother This is the second book I ve read by Mary Gordon I have an ambivalent attitude toward her as a writer She writes well, but I think I don t like her as a person It would be interesting to see what I thought if I met her Mary Gordon s book about her mom is a lot about her herself, really And she seems to harbor a lot of grudges and ill will toward people in her family Her self pride particularly about her childhood precocity also seeps through a lot in an annoying way I did the book int This is the second book I ve read by Mary Gordon I have an ambivalent attitude toward her as a writer She writes well, but I think I don t like her as a person It would be interesting to see what I thought if I met her Mary Gordon s book about her mom is a lot about her herself, really And she seems to harbor a lot of grudges and ill will toward people in her family Her self pride particularly about her childhood precocity also seeps through a lot in an annoying way I did the book interesting as a peep into mid century American Catholicism Finally, this book is a collection of essays and, toward the end, there is suddenly a chapter that was jarring to me insofar as it was written in quite a different style from the others again with the chopped, free associative phrasing is this poetic, perhaps that makes you feel like you don t have the faintest idea what she s really trying to say and the sneaking suspicion that she doesn t either much like my experience of her entire Reading Jesus I hope I don t get drawn into reading Mary Gordon again because I will probably again find it compelling enough to read, yet distasteful the old accident on the side of the road experience Well, I m going to take a page from Kristi s book, and start a review mid book.Circling My Mother is this year s One Book, One Saint Mary s book selection And to be honest, I m having trouble figuring out why it was chosen Less than 100 pages in, the book comes across as incredibly bitter and self serving The author appears to be using this book to express her hurt feelings and share the difficult times she went through, most of which she blames on her family She spends a lot of space compla Well, I m going to take a page from Kristi s book, and start a review mid book.Circling My Mother is this year s One Book, One Saint Mary s book selection And to be honest, I m having trouble figuring out why it was chosen Less than 100 pages in, the book comes across as incredibly bitter and self serving The author appears to be using this book to express her hurt feelings and share the difficult times she went through, most of which she blames on her family She spends a lot of space complaining that her family is the root of her problems, but I can t imagine that the publishing of this book will do much to endear herself to them Perhaps she doesn t care.It s an outlet for her anger and resentment Perhaps this is a way to help the reader understand why her mother is the way it is, but I m having trouble getting past my dislike for the narrator Lots of people go through difficult things every day, and are able to find the strength to manage without being a whiny complainer I do hope this book turns around Perhaps the next few chapters will elicit a less visceral reaction I had hoped that this book would portray a strong female character, but right now she s just coming across as being helpless I m not impressed or inspired I ll certainly pick the review back up when I finish.Okay I finished the book And it didn t get any better I was actually compelled to take notes on my thoughts on how much I disliked it My notes include the following descriptions VengefulSelf servingUnforgivingThe narrator is quick to judge and refuse forgiveness, which is pretty hypocritical for someone who had an affair Honestly, if it weren t for the narrator, one might see this book as an interesting dialogue on the lives of immigrants in America and their complicated relationship with the Catholic church andspecifically, priests But then the author comes in with her negative thoughts, blame, and self pity My final note came from the last 2 chapters, which were the most disjointed in the book Seriously decide what you want to write, prose or poetry Anyway, this line, relating to the authors feelings after writing her tome, fits how I felt after reading the book perfectly, The task has exhausted me A good book should not exhaust you I realize it was probably difficult for the author to pry all of those hateful thoughts and memories from the depths of her brain, but I have no sympathy So, that s my review In total, the One Book, One Saint Mary s book campaign is 0 2 in my book, with this one really tipping the scales in favor of skipping the whole thing next year My hope from this campaign was to be introduced to stories and characters with strength and perseverance something I could learn from or strive to In this case, I ve been severely let down After reading this actually 3 4 before I flung it down in disgust I wouldn t shake Mary Gordon s hand if she held it out to me A memoir is all about personal perspective but hers is so bitter and warped and skewed and I don t ask for facts in my memoirs, not necessarily, but it seems so EXAGGERATED For proof read the chapter about her Aunts and how she paints them in the vilest, bitterest colors and how she is just a sensitive child who was so terribly treated I think I threw it down after After reading this actually 3 4 before I flung it down in disgust I wouldn t shake Mary Gordon s hand if she held it out to me A memoir is all about personal perspective but hers is so bitter and warped and skewed and I don t ask for facts in my memoirs, not necessarily, but it seems so EXAGGERATED For proof read the chapter about her Aunts and how she paints them in the vilest, bitterest colors and how she is just a sensitive child who was so terribly treated I think I threw it down after she complained in the most hysterical way about horrors being forced to help clean the house on Saturdays instead of being left alone to play or read Dear Mary Gordon, I had to spend my childhood Saturdays cleaning the house too and I didn t like it, would rather have read, but guess what, it s called teaching a child responsibility and pitching in and helping with the house that they live in and it s not punishment among the harsh chemicals it s life Your single mother and working Aunts probably didn t want to clean on Saturdays either Get over it, just not in print, thanks.Sincerely,Me No one will ever fault Mary Gordon for a lack of frankness or honesty In the past, she has mined her rather difficult upbringing and family life for short stories, novels, essays and memoirs Now, with Circling My Mother, she shares intimate details of her often difficult relationship with her mother, a woman afflicted with polio as a young girl and who was looked down upon by most of her relatives despite the fact that she for long periods of time provided the bulk of their financial support.R No one will ever fault Mary Gordon for a lack of frankness or honesty In the past, she has mined her rather difficult upbringing and family life for short stories, novels, essays and memoirs Now, with Circling My Mother, she shares intimate details of her often difficult relationship with her mother, a woman afflicted with polio as a young girl and who was looked down upon by most of her relatives despite the fact that she for long periods of time provided the bulk of their financial support.Rather than using a straight chronological approach to recount her mother s life, Gordon chose to focus on specific ways through which her mother related to the world In separate chapters she discusses her mother and her bosses, her words and music, her sisters, her friends, her priests, her father, her world view, and her body However, as Gordon circles her mother and explores a different aspect of her character in each chapter, the reader comes to know as much about Mary Gordon as about her mother, Anna Nothing less is to be expected of an author of Mary Gordon s honesty and, in fact, it is the revelations that Mary makes about herself and her feelings that make Circling My Mother such a powerful book.Mary Gordon lost her father at an early age and, although her relationship with her mother was an uneasy one at times, the two were close Mary suffered through her mother s often public displays of alcoholic self pity and from her sharply critical way with words but, in the end, she is loyal to her mother s memory and defends her actions as only a family member can do it She accepts criticism of her parents from no one, almost refusing to acknowledge that her mother and father were often as wrong as those she criticizes for causing them grief during their lives.Circling My Mother is Gordon s attempt to reconcile the guilt that she seems to feel for abandoning her mother to a nursing facility in her last years, a facility to which she dreaded to go for the horrible one hour per week that she spent with a mother who no longer recognized her or had control of her mind or body Her approach to her mother s story paints a human face on a woman who was very much a product of her times but who still managed to achievethan many women of her day Anna spent a lifetime as a treasured legal secretary, raised a daughter on her own, supported her brothers and sisters financially until they could do it for themselves, was a staunch supporter of thetraditional Catholic church of the times, and had close friendships with several intellectual priests.But she could also be a vindictive woman and she resented the way that she was sometimes treated because of her handicap and place in life Mary Gordon seems to have inherited that resentment and she does not try to hide it Instead, she describes several key relationships in her own life, relationships which helped to make her into the woman that she is today but which she abandoned with little thought or guilt when she no longer needed them Some of the people cut from her life, such as her truly horrible Aunt Rita, admittedly deserved that treatment but that others who at one time meant so much to Mary Gordon were treated the same way is as surprising as her willingness to expose this weakness in herself to her readers.Circling My Mother is not a sugarcoated, feel good memoir, the kind that often readsas fiction than as fact It is Mary Gordon s honest assessment of her mother s life and how she related to that life It is the work of a woman not afraid to expose her own weaknesses as part of her writer s craft and, although it is the kind of book that often makes the reader uncomfortable, it should be read especially by those who find themselves caring for elderly parents of their own I m nearing the 75 mark for memoirs read Since I m writing my own, I m trying to read as many as possible to study form, language, characterization, setting, tone, etc I have read about 10 that are stellar, and what I like about them most is that they are lyrical rather than literal they are reflective instead of judgmental they are embodied rather than summarized So, the problems I had with this particular memoir were many and various First, I don t like the organization by topic It feel I m nearing the 75 mark for memoirs read Since I m writing my own, I m trying to read as many as possible to study form, language, characterization, setting, tone, etc I have read about 10 that are stellar, and what I like about them most is that they are lyrical rather than literal they are reflective instead of judgmental they are embodied rather than summarized So, the problems I had with this particular memoir were many and various First, I don t like the organization by topic It feels forced, and it makes it feel like the Bonnard study was tacked on to the beginning and the end Next, there were full chapters that read like a list of complaints We all have familial complaints, but they sure areinteresting when embodied than when listed Finally, it feels like the first chapter was the most carefully crafted and that the energy was lost after that I made several notes in the first chapter, and not in subsequent ones, since the language becameflat with lots of sentences like I was entirely happy or She did not die well Here are some lines that resonated for me in chapter 1 My mother has erased me from the book of the living Toothless, no woman can be considered beautiful You weren t tempted by all that ardor Public library copy I was looking for something light to read, ha This is not light reading I read it quickly because that is what I do when I m not comfortable with what I m reading Some people don t finish the book I read it quickly Let me tell you why.My mother lived until just shy of her ninety fourth birthday, and like the author s mother she lived with the insidiousness of dementia for the last decade of her life, although not in the nursing home that long I am like the author the Public library copy I was looking for something light to read, ha This is not light reading I read it quickly because that is what I do when I m not comfortable with what I m reading Some people don t finish the book I read it quickly Let me tell you why.My mother lived until just shy of her ninety fourth birthday, and like the author s mother she lived with the insidiousness of dementia for the last decade of her life, although not in the nursing home that long I am like the author the only child of my mother There were similarities, and I am coming to terms with her death, so I thought it would be good to read of another s like experiences.And in that sense the book was very good for me I racked with sobs at one point, but only one The book did what I wanted it to, in giving me an outlet by which to let go of my mother to a greater degree and let go of my guilt Beyond that I have nothing in common with the author and could not relate to much of what she wrote She has a gift with language in a different way than I am used to reading But what bothered me most is the absence of faith and hope in God on the part of the author It grieves me that her father was born Jewish and converted to the Roman Catholic church, that her mother was wholly devoted to the Roman Catholic church, and none of this seemed to have an effect on the author.It is difficult to read such strong language in reference to one s own mother and family, the author uses the term hate The concept of forgiveness is absent The author deems that one can punish the dead by holding onto one s hatred of what was done in the past Perhaps this is just for the benefit of the writing I would not be functional in the present were I to hold onto the past this way.I learned from the book I learned about life in New York, about Catholic immigrant families in America, about Catholic life in the last century in America I can t say that I was endeared to them or to life in the city I have a great appreciation for the fact that my mother and her immigrant family didn t teach me to hate, but instead taught me the personal love of God, my Creator and Redeemer I am thankful that I know my mother is in heaven, that I will one day see her again.I cannot honestly recommend this book There is, not surprisingly, a good bit of language in it in addition to the other reasons mentioned It gave me much to think about in how to portray my own mother in memoir Anna Gagliano Gordon, who died inat the age of , 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 From the Trade Paperback edition This was a book club selection Some people loved it Some disliked it intensely Most were indifferent I can t claim to have read this book I skimmed most of it The book is supposed to be a memoir of her mother In reality, it isabout the author The picture it paints of the author are vey unflattering It starts and ends with short stories about the painter Bonnard The chapter about her mother s boss starts the creepy part of the book The chapter about her mother s sisters is one I This was a book club selection Some people loved it Some disliked it intensely Most were indifferent I can t claim to have read this book I skimmed most of it The book is supposed to be a memoir of her mother In reality, it isabout the author The picture it paints of the author are vey unflattering It starts and ends with short stories about the painter Bonnard The chapter about her mother s boss starts the creepy part of the book The chapter about her mother s sisters is one I only read a few parts because it was mostly about how much the author hates her aunts It details mean things the aunts did to the author and her mother The chapter about her mother s friends is similar to the sisters chapter The chapter about priests is just creepy The chapter about the author s father is odd He seems like a cardboard person This was not a happy family The underlying emotions are all negative It was exhausting even though I only skimmed through most of this book I did not particularly like this book The relationship between Ms Gordon and her mother is so strained and strange, as are her relationships with her extended family aunts, cousins Perhaps I could not understand the dynamics of a large Catholic family and the huge role the church played in it I founds myself skimming paragraph after paragraph of interior dialog as Gordon attempts to explain herself in relation to her mother, both as a young woman and as she the mother became ill with alc I did not particularly like this book The relationship between Ms Gordon and her mother is so strained and strange, as are her relationships with her extended family aunts, cousins Perhaps I could not understand the dynamics of a large Catholic family and the huge role the church played in it I founds myself skimming paragraph after paragraph of interior dialog as Gordon attempts to explain herself in relation to her mother, both as a young woman and as she the mother became ill with alcoholism and old age A very sad tale indeed The chapters can be read as self contained essays, each focused on a different aspect of Gordon s mother s life The only one of the chapters that resonated with me with any strength was the one that described Gordon s mother and her boss My mom, also a single mother, worked at the same occupation legal secretary and had the same kind of idol worship of her boss That chapter rang true to me A memoir about a complex mother daughter relationship, the author s tone is self involved and excessively self important Even though each chapter s title begins with My Mother and , the author makes thisa story about her own internal ruminations including an excessive use of literary philosophical artistic references and as a result provides a fairly two dimensional rendering of her mother The author and her mother appear to have had a relationship that was part love, resentme A memoir about a complex mother daughter relationship, the author s tone is self involved and excessively self important Even though each chapter s title begins with My Mother and , the author makes thisa story about her own internal ruminations including an excessive use of literary philosophical artistic references and as a result provides a fairly two dimensional rendering of her mother The author and her mother appear to have had a relationship that was part love, resentment, respect, disgust, and everything in between There are some interesting passages on her mother s relationship with the Catholic Church and her efforts to raise a child on her own, but overall it s a depressing and tiresome read

  • ebook
  • 0 pages
  • Circling My Mother
  • Mary Gordon
  • English
  • 27 April 2018
  • 0307472795

About the Author: Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon was born in Far Rockaway, New York, to Anna Gagliano Gordon, an Italian Irish Catholic mother, and David Gordon, a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism While growing up, she attended Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream and for high school attended The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, N.Y She is Catholic.She received her A.B from Barnard College in 1971, and her M.A from Syracuse University in 1973 Gordon lived in New Paltz, New York for a time during the 1980s She and her husband, Arthur Cash, live in New York City and Hope Valley, Rhode Island They have two adult children, Anna and David Gordon is the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College Cash is retired.In 1981, she wrote the foreword to the Harvest edition of Virginia Woolf s A Room of One s Own In 1984 she was one of 97 theologians and religious persons who signed A Catholic Statement on Pluralism and Abortion, calling for religious pluralism and discussion within the Catholic Church regarding the Church s position on abortion.Novelist Galaxy Craze has said of Gordon, She loves to read she would read us passages in class and start crying, she s so moved by really good writing And she was the only good writing teacher at Barnard, so I just kept taking her class over and over She taught me so much.