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A Dangerous Woman

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  720 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Martha Horgan is not like other women. She stares. She has violent crushes on people. She can't stop telling the truth. Martha craves love, independence, and companionship, but her relentless honesty makes her painfully vulnerable to those around her: Frances, her wealthy aunt and begrudging guardian; Birdy, who befriends her, then cruelly rejects her; and Colin Mackey, th ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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Apr 26, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2010
Although I can completely understand why some felt this book was not their cup of tea, I really love Mary McGarry Morris' novels and this is no exception. I think she is one of the most underrated novelists in part because she does her job so well as she tends to focus on the different, the uncomfortable and the painful. And, she does it exceptionally well here with the story of Martha. This character is so interesting to me - fascinating really. We never really find out for 'sure' what Martha i ...more
Jan 21, 2011 Jess rated it really liked it
Although I agree that this book was very disturbing & made me quite sad, I feel like it's important to read about people who we don't "get." it definitely makes you think about how understanding we, as a society, are not towards people who are different. It definitely was upsetting, especially the way almost nobody seemed to try & truly get help for her, but LIFE is upsetting.

People like Martha often become the homeless person on the corner who talks to herself or the dangerous criminal
Aug 07, 2007 Irishcoda rated it really liked it
After reading A Dangerous Woman I've decided that Mary McGarry Morris is my new favorite author. She is amazingly perceptive about people and life in small towns and makes you feel like you are there watching the story unfold--sometimes like you are a part of it! I think we all know someone like Martha Horgan: "different", difficult to talk to or to be around and someone who is just "weird". There's been something "different" about Martha her whole life. She is socially inept, painfully honest a ...more
Derek Davis
Jun 28, 2015 Derek Davis rated it it was amazing
Martha Horgan isn't like anyone else. She isn't like anyone she knows or like anyone the people who know her know. She isn't like anyone else you're likely to read about.
What's wrong with her? Autism? Maybe, in part. Dissociation? Whatever that means. She develops violent hatreds that can't be changed, but even more violent affections that no negative evidence can dislodge. She cannot hold a normal conversation because she does not know the rules, cannot recognize the mechanisms of interaction.
Nov 06, 2007 rebekah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: OCD peeps, weirdos, people who like to read
Picked this gem up at a second hand book shop in Madrid on Sunday, I read it in two days. Don't you love books like that? Where you gotta finish or you'll die? It was tragic, fabulous and engaging. The kind of book that makes you think you too, are mentally ill. Also the kind of book that makes you wish the author had more for you, much more. You wind through the charcters lives and can't quite believe it's fiction...I love books about nuts, makes me feel less alone. And less nuts.
Jack Ferreri
Feb 14, 2013 Jack Ferreri rated it liked it
A study of a poor, troubled woman in her thirties in a community that doesn't provide her any help, leading to a tragic conclusion. I thought this was reasonably well done. Reminded me of some of the Joyce Carol Oates I've read -- melodramatic, occasional pockets of engaging action, lots of character insight, and a look at the underclass. We see Martha Horgan go through a horrific incident when she's seventeen (in the opening pages). She would have had a difficult life even if this hadn't happen ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Carole rated it really liked it
This is a compelling book which is at times difficult to read. Marja Hogan is "different" (probably Asburgers) and she has been teased and tormented all her life. She desperately wants a normal life, but her blunt honesty and clinging relationships cause nothing but trouble to herself and everyone who tries to help. She was betrayed as a teenager in a brutish bullying incident when the Vermont community chose to protect the reputation of teenage boys at the expense of Martha's honor. Martha is u ...more
Mandy Bryant
Jan 29, 2013 Mandy Bryant rated it it was amazing
Fun freak show! This was my intro to this great author. Like many of my fav books, it has a Southern Gothic feel, where the author shows you the beauty amongst the ugly. If you can make yourself look at the train wreck, you'll also see the triumph of the human condition--a life lived with all its messy, horrific, beautiful glory. One of my all-time favs. Of her work, only A Hole in the Universe bests it.
Oct 03, 2009 Denidevine rated it it was amazing
This is a heartbreaking story that I couldn't put down and have never forgotten...
“Poor Martha, every incident was high drama, every confrontation a disaster, every slight a blow. Such an exhausting life, without subtleties, propelled by fear and anxiety.” –pg 53

This is the story of 30 year old Martha, who has never been diagnosed with autism or a similar illness, but clearly has struggled all her life with being different. The small town she lives in ridicules her and kids bully her. She tries so hard to fit into her small patch of the world but is continually alienated by
Sep 28, 2008 MicheleinNJ rated it it was ok
I can describe this book in two words. Unrelentingly disturbing.

You know from the first page how this book will end and every page takes you closer to that place you don't want to go. It's like you are a prisoner on a forced march to certain doom. There is not one moment of reprieve, of lightness, of possible hope, in the entire book.

If you like this sort of thing, I do have to say that the author is a good writer and it is a well done story of a woman mistreated by almost everyone because of he
Jul 31, 2012 Tiffany rated it liked it
A dangerous woman is the fictional story of 32yr old Martha Horgan, a woman with mental disability which lends itself to social awkwardness. The book opens with an uncomfortable scene from Martha's adolescence which stems from her inability to see that not everyone is honest (like she is- to a fault) or has her best intentions in mind.

From the moment I started reading A Dangerous Woman, I did not particularly like Marthe or the characters introduced as her family members, coworkers and love inte
Mar 07, 2010 Rain rated it it was ok
I was able to finish this book and somewhat enjoyed it, but the story tends to circle 'round and 'round without ever really arriving anywhere until the very unsurprising end.

One aspect of the book that I liked is that Martha is to some degree mentally challenged (Aspergers, perhaps?) but she doesn't evoke much sympathy as she is rather unlikeable; yet, she embodies a much stronger moral character than most of her more "normal" cohorts. I feel that the author, by presenting Martha in this manner
I’m not sure how I feel about this book—it’s well-written, compelling really, with a heroine who keeps disappointing you. Martha Horton is mentally ill—she’s obsessive compulsive and unable to grasp the reality of situations. She wants to be loved, but she has no understanding of what love is. She’s pathetic and unlikeable. Martha Horton is not a character one roots for—you just want her to be well. So, I just spent over a week inside the head of a mentally ill women—it wasn’t a pleasant experie ...more
Geri Degruy
Jan 30, 2016 Geri Degruy rated it really liked it
"...she had never been loved."

This is the reason given for a key part of the drama in this novel. But it is more. It is the overarching theme for almost all of the main characters, including Martha of course. We see how each person longs for connection and love and yet reaches for it in unskillful ways.

Although a rather difficult story to read, this is a gem of a book and I will read more of Mary McGarry Morris. If I could I'd give this book a 4.5.
Kate W
Aug 21, 2007 Kate W rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, fiction
I basically skimmed the book for book club. I normally don't do that with fiction.
Dec 01, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it
I thought this was a great book. Teaches tolerance and that everyone is different.
Jamie Waters
I HATED this book it took everything I had to finish it. The ending was awful and the whole book I thought it will get better it has to but it never did.
Feb 18, 2015 Morrow rated it it was amazing
The most genuine portrayal of a mentally ill individual I have ever read.
May 21, 2017 Bamboozlepig rated it did not like it
Nothing in Morris' books is ever happy. Everyone in the worlds she builds is screwed up somehow. Martha is no different. Most times I try to find some angle in the character that I can sympathize with, but in Martha's case, she was just completely unlikeable. I couldn't connect to her in any way and the writing style itself didn't hold my interest.
Kendra Kettelhut
Jan 15, 2008 Kendra Kettelhut rated it it was ok
I guess I could give this 3 stars because I was engaged throughout the whole book. It was an interesting character that this book revolves around, however after reading Songs in an Ordinary Time, the first book I read of her's, I felt that the way she tells a story was not all that different between the two books....even the settings of the towns felt similar, and unfortunately that lessened my opinion of this author. I looked her up just this morning to find the title, Songs in an Ordinary Time ...more
Apr 30, 2009 SmarterLilac rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 04, 2009 Jaylia3 rated it liked it
There is no happy ending in this novel with Martha Organ, a maybe autistic adult, who gets all-consuming crushes and who literally cannot lie to save her life. Maratha struggles for love and independence, but every child in town knows how to tease her to blind fury and every adult remembers the frightening and pivotal sexual humiliation she would like to forget. The town funeral director both likes and is somewhat like Martha--he's awkward socially and people make fun of him--but his passions ar ...more
Jan 03, 2017 Lesley rated it really liked it
I picked this book up and put it down. Read a few other books then picked it back up again. I didn't like it. It didn't read well to me at first and then I realized how well written it really was and couldn't put it down. Yes it was awkward and choppy. I didn't like any of the characters really. There was no one to root for or any romance to pull for. The book didn't make me feel good but it did make me see and feel the world through the eyes of the mentally ill- awkward and choppy and lonely.
Aug 15, 2007 Marian rated it liked it
Reading this book is stressful and, at least for me, made me feel bad. While the main character Martha Horgan is certainly pitiable and doesn't deserve the terrible treatment she gets, I couldn't help thinking about how I would react if I met someone like her -- a desperately lonely person who gloms onto people, obsessively calls them over and over and over, and is generally terribly unpleasant to be around. Who would go willingly into a friendship with that type of person?

Anyway, the book is in
Aug 06, 2008 Mary rated it liked it
The dedication page says to so and so, "who wanted a love story". Don't be fooled. This is some depressing shiite here. Martha is socially outcast and treated like the village idiot because of her ausberger-like behavior. Her desperate, obsessive attachments to people who show her any affection result in mayhem and despair for everyone involved. She is a thyphoid-Mary of the heart. Despite the dark note of the novel, the story kept pulling me. Good writing and characters that you love to hate.
Martha grows up being bullied, harrassed, and not understood. Now into her 30s and trying to lead a normal life, things spiral out of control until something terrible happens.

Although we never find out exactly what mental illness Martha has or how exactly her story ends, we are able to understand the ramifications of a community giving up on one of their own; how ignorance and intolerance can have a ripple effect on so many. While this wasn't a good book persay, I am glad that I read it.
Feb 05, 2015 Mel rated it it was ok
I picked this up from the library recommendations and while I agree that the author is incredibly talented, the unrelenting tragedy of Martha Horgan's life was too dark for me. She is a superbly developed character who is socially awkward and very different from everyone around her. The incredible honesty and moral code that Martha frames the world with, server to increase her separation from those in who inhabit her small town.
Jul 15, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
A very thought provoking novel. Martha is one strange lady or seems to be since she says no one likes her. Seems she tries hard, but too hard to be liked and becomes annoying trying to make a friend. Or, is it just how she twists things in her mind to the point she does not know what is real and not just a figment of her imagination.

Liked this story because it is unusual and about a personality that begs to make sure everyone keeps their distance.
Jul 28, 2010 Carrie rated it really liked it
story of a woman, Martha, who lives in a small town in New England. Martha has many issues, anxiety, social problems and almost everyone in the town relates because of a horrible night when she was abused by a gang of boys when she was 15; she is the town's weirdo and most people are not nice to her. the story's time frame is one of about a year. it was written wonderfully; you felt the anxiety and stress of Martha, but you also felt for the people she encountered. Good Read! :-)
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As the author of several novels, Mary McGarry Morris has received considerable attention from critics and readers, as well as from prestigious awards panels.
Her books are noted for their depictions of mentally and emotionally impaired individuals who have difficulty coping with an inhospitable world.
As New York Times Book Review contributor Alice McDermott put it, “Morris does not devise plots,
More about Mary McGarry Morris...

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