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Divining Women

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,046 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Autumn 1918. Rumors of peace are spreading across America, but spreading even faster are the first cases of Spanish influenza, whispering of the epidemic to come. Maureen Ross, well past a safe childbearing age, is experiencing a difficult pregnancy. Her husband, Troop -- cold and careless of her condition -- has battered her spirit throughout their marriage. Into this lov ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1997)
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It just goes to show that some things speak to one person while others are turned off. I was turned off by this book and would not even have finished reading it had it not been a book club read. My first issue was that I didn't like the characters. They were so black and white. I didn't think it was believable that a woman who was strong would end up so weakened and inept because of a man she married. I didn't find the beginning setting of the book had any relation to the whole of the book, it w ...more
Erin W
This did not work for me. The period detail was, as far as I know, accurate. The lifestyle of the main character’s family was vividly rendered. In fact, I liked the idea of the plot all around, and it could have been done very well. The concept was solid, but the execution was flawed.

To say that the male character who is the villain of this work was set up as a straw man is a staggering piece of understatement. This man’s capacity for inflicting humiliation and abuse, his intense narcissism—it w
The few Kaye Gibbons books I’ve read so far have been enchanting and I looked forward to enjoying this book as much as I had her previous works.
This author has an exceptionally gifted pen. She masters the English language skilfully as she takes the reader back in time and have us experience what it was like to be a woman in an era gone by. The author almost always presents us such female characters (e.g. Charms of the Easy Life) that are extraordinary, eccentric, freethinking and powerful, even
Jenny Yates
This is one of those books that should have a cult following, as a feminist novel dealing with the question of spousal abuse. It takes place in 1918, during the Great War, when a flu pandemic decimated so many families. The setting is a small city in North Carolina.

The writing is elegant, never overstated, but the characters come through very strongly. The narrator, especially, comes alive in her reactions to other people, like a drawing that’s defined by negative space. And in this book, she f
Kaye Gibbons is one of my favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint. It's a lovely story about women finding their independence, women supporting each other, and women finding their own inner strength. It's also a story about the men who love and support those women, or tear them down.

There is something about the quiet subtlety in Kaye's writing that I really enjoy. This book both moved me and amused me. I thought it was great.
What a joy to find another Kaye Gibbons novel! While her first book was a funny comming of age book, this is a gothic romance. Yes, a gothic romance set in Washington DC and North Carolina during the influenza epidemic in 1918. She nails both the place and time, while crating a nice bit of suspense and a Heathcliff you can hate with impunity.
Ehhh. This book was weird--I JUST finished reading "Charms for The Easy Life" yesterday, and finished this one today. "Charms For The Easy Life" was amazing--couldn't put it down, beautifully written. This one felt awkward, and the long monologues from Maureen ranting at Troop were stilted at best and obnoxious at worst.
I an sure this would have been a fantastic story had the author not narrated the audio version of this book. She was completely monotoned and you had to make sure to pay attention to when dialogue was going on and who was speaking.
Mary Oliver has gone to help care for her pregnant aunt in 1918. Her uncle by blood and her family have never gotten on very well, and this is to be the true test of whether he really is civil or not.
The characters were believable for me. I believe wholeheartedly that
Divining Women starts out with a lot of promise but fails to deliver. I had hoped for more. It does show how women in the early part of the 20th century were often trapped in marriages by unreasonable, demanding husbands, and the tragic part is that society was on the side of the man. Women could be subjected to all sorts of barbaric treatments to 'calm their nerves' and make them more tractable. But, if you are interested, The Snake Pit does a much better job of telling that story. Then there i ...more
Kaye Gibbons is one of my favorite authors because of the book Charms for the Easy Life. Though her style and tone comes through beautifully in this book, the plot was a little bit lacking. The characters are the main focus of this sad sad story about an abusive marriage, but it seems that Gibbons fails at creating a whole family in the same way she did as in "Charms". Perhaps if the book was a little longer and the characters more thought through they would've been more compelling. But the thre ...more
Talk about incohesive & improbable. In the same vein as Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Divining Women is the story of a woman's victory over her emotionally sadistic husband. Maureen, an expectant mother, is all but a reclusive and seeming hysteric after years of emotional battery and isolation, but awareness of her options enters when her young niece comes to be a companion to her in her last trimester.

First, what this book gets right. The setting
This book is set in the autumn of 1918 with the end of World War I and the outbreak of the Spanish influenza. Twenty-two year old Mary Oliver, from a very wealthy and eccentric Washington, D.C. family, is sent by her mother to Elm City, North Carolina to assist her Aunt Maureen in the last weeks of her pregnancy. Maureen is married to Troop, the half-brother of Mary's mother, and he is an emotionally sadistic man who is ruling his wife and his house by fear and intimidation. Mary comes to feel t ...more
Jori Richardson
In this tale of marriage gone very wrong, a girl inspires in her tragic aunt the courage and motivation to challenge and leave her abusive husband, despite the fact that she is pregnant with their first child.

I wanted to like this book, because the sensitive topic of abused women and hurtful relationships was quite realistic. I felt sympathetic for Maureen, the wife.

However, I felt that nothing here was anything beyond average (and that's at best). The whole book felt estranged from the reader,
Apr 01, 2013 Jenni rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists
Recommended to Jenni by: Patricia Middlebrook
I honestly had no idea what to expect from this book. I don't think I even read the blurb on the back of the CD cover. It was given to me by my grandmother and I had every intention of setting it aside, but when a shipping delay caused me to be without a book for a week - I picked it up.

Initially I was extremely confused. The introduction of a type of pass-through zone for spirits, in the form of the house of the central character, seemed out of place and irrelevant. Indeed, as the storyline con
I really struggled to finish this. I found the main character's voice so implausible for the era in which this story is set, I just couldn't get past it. Too bad, I was really interested in the time period (end of WWI, Spanish flu outbreak) and the setting (Southern setting with women and blacks still struggling to overcome second class citizenship and their upheaval of certain male misogynistic and racist idiots) but it just didn't ring true. None of it.
Mary, the niece of Troop, goes to help him and wife Maureen, well, mostly Maureen, since he is a bullying wife-hater, but subtly by undermining her self-confidence and her daily life. Wanted to smack that man with a 2x4!
That said, it was sometimes an odd novel and seemed to wander a bit, almost like some details were missing. Still, worth reading.
Mar 18, 2010 Marsia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Kaye Gibbons, Southern writers
Recommended to Marsia by: --
Shelves: from-the-south
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol Hahn
This was not a book that I would choose to read again. It did present a possible picture of mental abuse in the early 1900's within a marriage. It also covered aspects of the influenza epidemic of 1918. It was just not my usual kind of book.
Olga Hebert
Set against the flu epidemic of 1918 and the ravages of World War I, Kaye Gibbons contrasts stories of domestic harmony with emotional abuse, spices it lightly with the blossoming of sexual orientation, then gives us a relatively happy ending.
I brought this book to work with me to read - and as I was reading it I kept thinking "wait a minute, this sounds familiar...I think I read this book!" But I kept doubting myself because I didn't know what would happen next and I didn't know what the characters were all about but I kept thinking "I've read this before..." Kinda like deja vu or something. Soon enough it dawned on me that this was a book I had gotten on CD from the library but never finished. Who knows when I checked it, but I rea ...more
I tried to get through this novel multiple times and finally (FINALLY!) did it. There was great potential here. The Spanish Influenza epidemic alone posed great material to work with. But the narrative floundered with too much detail in some places and not nearly enough in others. If you want great literature read the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper (1899) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; a work Gibbons' characters even reference. It better portrays the effects of a psychologically abusive husband ...more
This is a wonderful piece of fiction that should serve to empower mentally abused women trapped in a loveless marriage. It is emancipating. It takes place in the autumn of 1918 for a couple of months preceding victory in WWI in a North Carolina town, Elm City (Durham?)--with flashbacks to Washington.
The backgound also is peppered with deaths from the Spanish flu epidemic.
Mary Oliver, who has been brought up in a wealthy free-thinking environment in Washington is sent to North Carolina to assist
Admittedly when I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure where it was going or even if it was something I could stick with. I'm happy I didn't give up as the story continued and took me quite by surprise. There are many things to be taken away from this book and I found myself wondering why it could not have fallen into my hands sooner. The support and understanding of women for other women, and the insight into the evil behaviors of the husband were incredible. Sometimes we can't be str ...more
Pam Oconnor
I was so excited to find a new Kaye Gibbons book. This one did not disappoint. Reading about that period of time was interesting and especially informative about the treatment of women in that age, which was not so very long ago. That a husband could have that much power was shocking but I'm sure there are many women still out there suffering this kind of abuse. Kaye has such a way of sucking you into a story and makes it so descriptive and thoroughly enjoyable.
A book about subtle and flagrant but hidden abuses and the strength of women to overcome them. Beautiful prose and elegantly written.
In Troop Ross, Kaye Gibbons has created the most selfish, hateful, despicable, abusive character that I have ever had the misfortune to read about. The book drags on to the end with little resolution. Escape is just not enough.

Divining Women is set during World War I in the midst of the Spanish influenza absolutely no effect except for the death of a couple of minor characters. And the bizarre "ghost hotel" in Washington, D.C. seems to be just pointless filler. I am perplexed, and
"I know we were blessed with a kind of general household intelligence, and it showed itself in the conversation that went on fairly much all the time. I associated the silence in the homes of some of the Sun and Moon girls I visited with a poverty much more frightening than having no money to buy pretty things. Being poor, I believed, meant living in wordless gloom. I thought money bought conversation, and I was mortified that other families seemed to have run out or never to have had any at all ...more
I really liked Ellen Foster when it came out and perhaps a rereading at present would change that perception because the two Gibbons books I picked up at CWRU book sale read like scripts for a made for TV movies on the Hallmark channel. Gibbons still does a beautiful job presenting the characters of the south and evoking the southern landscape but the story itself about a young woman who comes to the aid of her aunt during the final months of her pregnancy is not compelling.
Apr 09, 2012 Pam rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
I liked this book the least of all of Gibbons' books. It has a lot of potential but it was almost impossible to get into. I struggled from the first page to stay with it because I kept hoping that it would get better; it seemed as if it had to because it really sounded like it would be an interesting story but it never took off. It was difficult to follow and there were at least two very bad editing errors where the wrong name was used which made it even more confusing.
Feb 06, 2012 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All women who enjoy reading about the inherent strength of other women.
This is my new favorite book! The writing was beautiful and moving as were the strong female characters in the book. They were forced to face a belittling and degrading man who seemed to thrive on crushing the spirits of others any time he could uplift himself in the process, and their strength in the face of such treatment was inspiring. This book made me proud to be a woman.

Read December 2008, January 2010, April 2011, January 2012
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Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and ...more
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