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The Rest of Life: Three Novellas

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Mary Gordon's luminous new fiction introduces three women, each of whom tells the story of the lover who altered her life. In Immaculate Man, a social worker in her forties whose specialty is battered women becomes the lover of a priest. He has never desired a woman until, at forty-three, he desires her, makes love to her, uses his holy hands to touch her. She teaches Fath ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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Aug 13, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
I loved reading Mary Gordon's novel Spending: A Novel last year, and was eager to find more of her writing. A good friend gave me this book (since I had recommended Spending to her) and the three novellas are definitely examples of Gordon's rhythmic prose and three-dimensional women.

The short stories were sometimes difficult to read because they vascillated between first person and third person or the descriptions of actions were so subtle that I didn't realize what was happening until later. I
Nov 19, 2008 Karen rated it liked it
The three novellas are very well written and ring true, but boy, they were rather serious! I liked the three protagonists, altho at some point I wanted to shake each of them and say, "Look on the bright side and stop obsessing about the past/what you think will happen in the future!" That said, I'm glad I read this as it offered a portrait of three very different lives. I appreciate the frank depictions of romantic relationships, desire and sex from these women's points of view.
Apr 20, 2015 Juliet rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I read this after having read The Liar's Wife. The four novellas in that collection completely blew me away. These three novellas here had less of an impact on me. These three are all in some way about a woman's relationship with a man who is in the process of leaving, or who has already abandoned her, and whom she cannot for one reason or another relinquish.

The stories chart the progress of each protagonist's questions: why am I having an affair with a priest? How long will it last? It is so te
Chris Blocker
The Rest of Life is comprised of three novellas. They may as well be one. There is such a strong similarity in these stories of a woman, the lover she changed and the love that changed her. Which would be okay... if the stories were interesting. These were not.

What makes Mary Gordon's three novellas particularly ineffectual was the overall lack of story. Yeah, that's that one element, you know, the one which some writers feel is vital, while others think it can be completely discarded. Gordon is
Nov 28, 2009 Jessie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A strange and wonderful book, haunting; three novellas, each between 70 and 90 pages, unconnected except by the fact of painful love in each of the protagonists’ lives.

Wanted to study the novella, how it unfolds. The writing is repetitive in a seemingly unedited way, but really I think it’s highly edited and crafted to give a sense of disbelief, as in the final novella, the woman, Paola, continually asking, “What does it mean that I lived and he (her boyfriend at 15) didn’t? What does it mean to
Jan 03, 2016 Sooz rated it liked it
I was a little mystified by Mary Gordon's style of writing. I found these three novellas to be serious and cerebral. The first two novellas tried my patience, somewhat; I wanted to say to the protagonist, "stop thinking and start living, for heaven's sake!" The women in each were constantly questioning life: why this and not that? why did men do this and women do that? why did I do this? what would it be like if I had not done this? what is he thinking when he does that? It's too much thinking; ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Blue rated it really liked it
Three stories, three women, three men who made a difference, good or bad, in their lives... That's probably the best explanation for this book. I would probably modify it a bit; something like: Three women, their relations to their homes, and the repetitive, constant, obsessive thought world they narrate with slow diligence. The repetitive nature of the narrators stories really make you feel like you are in their head, seeing the world with their own eyes. The feeling that other people circle ar ...more
Oct 25, 2015 Boorrito rated it it was ok
Immaculate Man is by far the strongest of these stories. Is it because a relationship between a Catholic priest and a woman has much more to explore, or because with the next two stories I'd already seen everything Gordon had to say with this collection? I'm not entirely sure, but the stories drag terribly along the way, considering they're less than a hundred pages each. Having a character thinking in circles isn't automatically a bad thing, but when the prose isn't interesting enough to carry ...more
Michelle Despres
May 25, 2015 Michelle Despres rated it liked it
Shelves: own, novellas
What I liked:
- Fantastic writing
- Some beautifully expressed thoughts
- Interesting and original scenarios
- Honest, raw, un-sanitized (I miss writing like this)

What I didn't like:
- All three novellas had moments of seeming to drag on
- I prefer a more succinct style

This book could be rounded up to a four, but when you find yourself wondering when something is going to end, it needs to be rounded down.

May 26, 2010 Jane rated it really liked it
Not the type of book you read voraciously -- it takes its time and you take your time. Not long on plot, but filled with arresting passages that urge you to dog ear the page so you can come back again easily. Gordon's protagonists are not the sort to see life through a lens of joy, though sometimes there is hard won gratitide. This makes for dark reading in a way that makes you question whether there is truth and how much in the way these characters see life.
Hazel McHaffie
Oct 12, 2009 Hazel McHaffie rated it it was ok
In three novellas, Mary Gordon presents three women, each of whom tells her own story of a lover who altered her life - a priest, a war correspondent, and a tortured teenager who committed suicide. I bought it because the second novella brings in Alzheimer's, but I'm genetically incapable of not finishing a book I start, so I read all three. It's not really to my personal taste in writing but enjoyable enough, and it made me think about relationships and the effect of the past on the present.
Dec 01, 2014 Jason rated it it was ok
I guess I"m not the target audience for this one. It's beautifully written (although I take issue with the characters using vulgar terms when everywhere else int he story they speak lyrically-it's jarring, and I'm by no means a prude-it just didn't work), but I wasn't engaged and couldn't wait to move on form this one.
Nov 13, 2012 Laurie rated it liked it
3* Three very different, odd novellas. I don't usually read these type of books. A freebie from Pamala/BookTalk. My favorite was the last one THE REST OF LIFE. Although each has an interesting point to make about a particular "man in their life" who made a difference. The first one was too confusing for me and took too long to read.

Not a keeper and will pass on.
Jul 13, 2014 Robyn rated it it was ok
Three novellas, three women, each tells a story of a lover who altered her life - a priest, a war correspondent, and a tortured teenager who committed suicide. Makes one think of relationships, but not really an upbeat book.
Jean Kelly
Mar 18, 2013 Jean Kelly rated it really liked it
Stories that you want to read from beginning to end in one sitting. My favorite of the 3 was Immaculate Man, a bit improbable perhaps but a moving story of an affair with a priest. She makes both characters come alive.
Jun 01, 2007 laura rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
man, this fucking sucked. also, i was at a reading she did, and every time somebody asked a question she thought might not be in wild praise of her work, she got so defensive, i was shocked.

apparent in this book is gordon's intense dislike of women.
Allison Shell
May 14, 2008 Allison Shell marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-revisit
My favorite book, Spending, is by Mary Gordon, so I picked up this new one.
Dec 17, 2007 Sienna rated it it was amazing
another favorite
Nov 07, 2007 Peg rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: females
Three novellas by Mary Gordon, not as good as her full length books
Did not finish.
Kathy Kattenburg
Aug 07, 2016 Kathy Kattenburg rated it it was amazing
Mary Gordon's writing is astonishing. It's breathtaking. I'm not sure I've ever experienced writing so transcendent.
Jul 08, 2014 Leona marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Jan 20, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Powerful writing. Not light reading, but beautiful.
May 20, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Disappointing all around-none of the 3 novellas really resonated and none of the characters had enough personality for me to care about them one way or another.
Rascal Smith
Rascal Smith rated it really liked it
Sep 10, 2013
Erin rated it did not like it
Jun 15, 2011
Rebecca Kaye
Rebecca Kaye rated it it was ok
Aug 06, 2008
Christine Lavelle
Christine Lavelle rated it liked it
May 12, 2013
Margaretflynn rated it really liked it
Sep 14, 2010
Steven rated it really liked it
Feb 07, 2008
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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
More about Mary Gordon...

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