Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mother of Sorrows” as Want to Read:
Mother of Sorrows
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mother of Sorrows

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In these ten interwoven stories, two adolescent brothers face a world in which their father has suddenly died, a world dominated by their beautiful and complicated mother. Thirty years later, one of the brothers�the only remaining survivor of a family he seeks both to leave behind and to preserve in words forever�narrates these precise and heartbreaking tales. Suffused...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mother of Sorrows, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mother of Sorrows

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 451)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This book has been sitting on my wishlist for a couple years, and had perfect ratings from Amazon reviewers. I think those perfect ratings may have set the bar for my expectations too high. I liked it, but it won't make it onto my top books list.

His stories are tragic, yet I felt removed from them. It had the feel of a memoir, but I wanted to feel the emotions a little more. I also would have liked it better if he had better shown how his brother in childhood was related to the same brother in a...more
Donald Quist
In Mother of Sorrows Richard McCann establishes himself as a master of language. His prose alternates from simple and punchy to fancy and ostentatious. There is movement in the writing and the vibrant descriptions often explode into poetry. The lyricism of McCann’s sights and sounds push each sentence forward. He leaps across the boundaries of genre, clearing the hurdles of mixing styles with feet to spare.

He writes with authority. In “My Mother’s Clothes” there is a moment when the story becom...more
I find short stories somewhat difficult because I am always longing for the things that happen between these short episodes of life. These stories mostly pertain to the effect this boy’s mother had on his life and his ability to accept his homosexuality. Another interesting point in this story is the relationship with his brother (also gay) who grew up very differently and had a good relationship with their father, who died when they were young. The ultimate lesson I read from these stories (or...more
Richard McCann's "Mother of Sorrows" is a unique work of autobiographical fiction rich in emotion and illuminated by a painful, polished prose, breathtaking in its clarity.

In ten related stories a nameless narrator recounts episodes from his life that expose his often troubled relations with a brother cast in a role of family black sheep, a doomed father unable to recognize or nurture a gay son with a delicate nature, and an adored, self-absorbed mother of a thousand conflicting temperaments -...more
Come tanti altri, questo romanzo ha una vena pseudobiografica, che però tuttosommato non guasta. C'è tanto di vita vissuta in questo breve romanzo, che è una vera e propria cascata di ricordi e istantanee grigie ed eterne di vita.
I personaggi che si muovono sulla scena sono certamente personaggi vivi, densi, reali, forse anche troppo reali, spesso noiosi e irritanti, così tanto almeno da risultare decisamente veri.
In sostanza, è un buon romanzo, scritto bene, con sentimento e con astuzia e con...more
I felt as though the author was trying to tell two different stories here. The vignettes set during the main character's childhood are poignant and beautifully written, and the stories set during his adulthood have an raw emotional brutality that's hard to forget. The problem arises from the fact that both of these settings appear in the same book without really interacting with each other. The themes from childhood don't seem to echo in adulthood, and it's often jarring to compare the character...more
I really liked this book, and some of the moments in this were just wonderful. There is such a pervasive sense of sadness, it made me pause. The only thing that bothered me about this book was it's disjointed nature: the first half seemed to build up to a portrait of family that was never finished, the second half brought in spirituality and the death of a host of characters that we never knew much about. I wanted the sections to weave together a little more than they did-- in non-fiction, we co...more
Lisa Roney
Beautifully written essays about childhood and a few about adulthood. McCann's memories of his mother hold the various times and places and themes together, as the title implies. As is common nowadays, the book is touted as simply a "memoir," but it's really a collection of short pieces, each of which stands by itself, and not a continuous narrative in any sense of the word. Even though I get discombobulated by these inaccurate descriptions of books, I enjoyed reading this one once I figured out...more
A well written collection but I felt it sparse. The stories didn't seem like stories for the most part, except for "Brother in the Basement" which delved deep into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother. There were a bunch of scenes that tied together and brought up the consistent element of the narrator being too scared to disclose his sexuality and regretting the life he's lead in someways for his cowardice.

As a collection I felt it more like a novel that skips areas and...more
Ok so far but not too interesting and I'm about a third of the way through. Was thinking of stopping but hard for me to not finish a book.
Too much detail on mother's clothing and stuff. I guessed main character to be gay kind of early.
We will see if it gets better.

Got a little better near end. I don't like the writing style and the jumping in periods of time. The transitions were terrible. Not a favorite at all.

After reading the reviews I totally missed that these were individual short stories....more
This is one of the times I wish Goodreads offered a half-star option, because I've been teetering between three and four stars for this book. Overall, I liked the stories presented in this book quite a bit. McCann's writing is beautiful. It's detailed but easy to read and almost poetic. The book was a quick read and a good read. Some stories were truly captivating and emotional, others I felt were good--not great--hence the teetering between 3 and 4 stars.
Carla Hunnicutt
This is a collection of fiction short stories which reads like a coming of age memoir about a gay boy who grew up in the DC area in the 1950s. The stories are interconnected with the same narrator, and most of the stories are about his relationship with his mother, a colorful, self-absorbed storyteller/dramatist. The most powerful story is about his brother who dies of a heroin overdose.
Paula Dembeck
Ten stories of an American family starting out in the post WW11 Washington suburbs.

Two adolescent brothers, whose father dies suddenly from hepatitis, are left with their beautiful complicated mother who the youngest son adores. He narrates the tales looking back thirty years later, the only survivor of his family.

Beautifully written.
Good book, well written. Would have like to got more insight into his brother when they were younger. I was suprised to find out his brother was gay. I liked the contrast of the brothers, both gay but dealing with it in completely opposite ways. His brother dying of an overdose was sad and shocking.
Jul 01, 2008 Gregory rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Michael Cunningham or Bernard Cooper fans
McCann's prose is haunting, yet this collection of "connected" stories oddly feels more like a memoir than fiction. Definitely the gayest book I've read thus far this year. I left it with the same feeling I did after reading Mary Gaitskill's Veronica.
Sarah Pascarella
Raised lots of questions for me--I had seen several of the chapters of this book before in different forms, as personal essay, here reworked as fiction. Beautiful writing, but I'm still puzzling over the blurred lines of the genre.
Lisa Temple
This is a collection of interwoven short stories all based on the same characters, mostly focused on the relationship between the narrator and his mother. I thought it was incredibly well written, poetic, and sad.
Patrick Ross
You will be moved by this series of essays that paint the portrait of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality and how that fits in his family and in his community and, well, in everything that matters to him.
Painful story of a gay child with a self absorbed mother and a father who can’ t accept, his ongoing relationship with his brother, and death of so many friends. But the writing is very good.
Oct 21, 2007 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone, including God HImself
What's not to learn from a master like Richard McCann? His prose is stunning, his stories glittery with tears of sadness, pathos and joy. A true writer's writer if ever there was one.
Virgowriter (Brad Windhauser)
Some of the stories are not as strong as others. Felt like there were a few too many holes in certain characters. The few strong stories are engaging.
Carrie Taylor
First chapter or two was interesting, great descriptive language but I struggled to stay with it and ultimately returned it, unfinished, to the library.
Kate Schindler
Appears to be: Gay man with AIDS writes series of autobiographical essays. Called short stories, so maybe not true, but way depressing.
Mar 25, 2011 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: pamfa
I loved this book. It's beautifully written, the linked short stories build perfectly on each other and the voice is so strong and true.
I need to stop reading short stories. They just don't do anything for me. And these stories just made me feel sad.
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Haunting. Reading Mother of Sorrows was like holding a mirror up to my own life. A must read.
An insightful, beautiful book about growing up gay when no one admitted to being gay.
Frank Kelly
The most affecting novel I've ever read about growing up gay in 20th-Century America.
Best book of fiction I've read in a while. Assumed it was autobiographical.
Enjoyed the book, at times a bit sad, but that is also okay
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 16 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Grief
  • My Lives
  • Billy's Boy (Harlan's Story, #3)
  • Tabloid Dreams: Stories
  • When the Messenger Is Hot
  • The Best American Short Stories 2004
  • Nice Big American Baby
  • I Remember
  • Chelsea Girls
  • Bitter Eden: A Novel
  • Come to Me
  • Wild Dogs
  • The Best American Short Stories 2005
  • Sam the Cat: and Other Stories
  • My Life in Heavy Metal: Stories
  • Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada
  • The Sky Below
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories
Richard McCann is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a longtime professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University.
A gay writer,[1] he is the author of Mother of Sorrows, a collection of linked stories. It won the 2005 John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares and was also an American Library Association Stonewall B...more
More about Richard McCann...
Ghost Letters Ican: Two Words That Will Change Everything Nights of 1990 The Diarist The Fading Light: A Collection of Poems

Share This Book

“We are all of us blue babies. At critical seconds, we all lack necessary air.” 0 likes
More quotes…