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Mother of Sorrows

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  274 Ratings  ·  41 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 brothersâthe only remaining survivor of a family he seeks both to leave behind and to preserve in words foreverânarrates these precise and heartbreaking tales. Suffused wit ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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May 02, 2009 Rachael rated it really liked it
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
Donald Quist
Jul 21, 2011 Donald Quist rated it really liked it
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
Dec 05, 2009 Ivan rated it really liked it
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 -
Apr 26, 2012 Carly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2011 T4ncr3d1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: statunitensi, lgbt
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
Oct 05, 2008 Moira rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 20, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
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
Sep 28, 2012 Arlene rated it it was ok
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.
Dan Phillips
Aug 14, 2015 Dan Phillips rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
A tremendous, beautiful piece of work. In the earlier sketches, the narrator (I'll say "narrator" because the book is labeled as fiction, though I believe it's pretty autobiographical) describes his peculiar, heart-wrenching childhood, growing up closeted in 50's suburbia. Then in the last chapters, he delivers the harrowing tale of his brother's demise. Mother of Sorrows is ultimately about family, I think -- the strong bonds between mothers and sons and brothers, for better or for worse. And M ...more
Lisa Roney
Jun 23, 2011 Lisa Roney rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-essays
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
Sep 15, 2016 Margi rated it liked it
This is a very sad book of related short stories. A story of one man's youth and the struggles he goes through to find and create a life of his own. Each story is related a bit to the others and you get the full picture of this family and their struggles with their grief, shame, sexuality, and anger. My favorite story was The Universe, Concealed. These stories are definitely not of the uplifting nature.
Jan 07, 2008 Elly rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Nov 04, 2009 Carla Hunnicutt rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 07, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grief, americana, living
A beautifully paced, compassionate and very vulnerable book of memoir. McCann approaches the material memories of his boyhood and his mother's presence in it with sacramental care. This is the kind of book you don't ant to finish, the kind of book from whose pages you look up from to see your own world with fresh eyes.
Paula Dembeck
Jul 06, 2016 Paula Dembeck rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 11, 2010 Tina rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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.
Patrick Ross
Aug 10, 2013 Patrick Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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.
Sarah Pascarella
May 06, 2008 Sarah Pascarella rated it liked it
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.
Jul 01, 2008 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Apr 17, 2015 Ciera rated it really liked it
3.5, really, and that's because the other is funny and signed my book when he came to class. The book was really too disjointed and disconnected, I feel, to be called that. It works as individual essays or even a collection of them, but not as a book for me.
Mar 01, 2015 carelessdestiny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: toney-novels
I liked reading this novel which isn't really a novel, more as if they were episodes from a life that are delicately pinned together. The prose is clear and elegant and a perfect counterfoil for the beautiful, melancholic mood of the book.
Lisa Temple
May 27, 2009 Lisa Temple rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 21, 2007 David rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 17, 2013 Martha rated it liked it
Shelves: novels, family
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.
Apr 27, 2010 Melissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookshelf
I need to stop reading short stories. They just don't do anything for me. And these stories just made me feel sad.
Mar 25, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Kate Schindler
Sep 02, 2010 Kate Schindler rated it did not like it
Appears to be: Gay man with AIDS writes series of autobiographical essays. Called short stories, so maybe not true, but way depressing.
Carrie Taylor
Dec 03, 2010 Carrie Taylor rated it it was ok
First chapter or two was interesting, great descriptive language but I struggled to stay with it and ultimately returned it, unfinished, to the library.
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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
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