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Final Payments

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  474 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
When Isabel Moore's father dies, she finds herself, at the age of thirty, suddenly freed from eleven years of uninterrupted care for a helpless man. With all the patterns of her life suddenly rendered meaningless, she turns to childhood friends for support, gets a job, and becomes involved with two very different men. But just as her future begins to emerge, her past throw ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Anchor (first published 1978)
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Carol Storm
Mar 17, 2016 Carol Storm rated it did not like it
Brilliantly captures the choked feelings of rage, humiliation and frustration experienced by so many American Catholics at the end of the turbulent Sixties.

Young Isabel was always the nuns' favorite, their special pet, raised to a lifetime of isolation and purity. With the encouragement of her eccentric, egotistical father, she threw herself into her religious duties, violently rejecting all the normal needs of childhood and adolescence.

Yet with adulthood comes defeat . . . crushing defeat. Isa
Karl Marx S.T.
Jan 19, 2013 Karl Marx S.T. rated it really liked it
Mary Gordon’s Final Payments is one of the few novels I’ve encountered that shock me just after reading what its plot is all about. It doesn’t just caught my attention –not that the plot is something capable of shocking- but also makes me nod in recognition in reasons I would just keep for myself.

Isabel Moore, the novel’s protagonist is suddenly launched into life after the death of her father whom she took care for eleven years. Being twenty-nine and is stripped of the idea what to do with her
Susan Sink
Jan 02, 2016 Susan Sink rated it it was amazing
I went back to see if I'd love this book as much as I did when I first read it just after graduating from college in 1986. What I loved then was the portrait of Catholicism. I also remember feeling like the main character is caught between duty to her father and her desire to break free and have her own life.

It's more complicated than that, and the main character is much more rebellious than I remembered. Her sexual liaisons are self-destructive more than liberating.

The main thing is that the b
Jan 02, 2011 Trisha rated it it was amazing
It’s been over thirty years since I first read this book about a young woman’s efforts to come to terms with who she is after having spent 11 years of her life caring for her invalid father. I’ve forgotten what my earlier reaction to the book was and I wonder if it impressed me in the same way then as it has this time around. Perhaps what struck me most forcibly back then was the way Gordon so masterfully captured what it was like carrying around the kind of baggage that remained behind for thos ...more
Apr 13, 2010 Lam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it first came out in 1978, and I've carted it with me every time I've moved since then. Finally decided to reread it before purging it from my perpetually overcrowded bookshelves. I liked it the second time around, though it has aspects of a "period piece." It's the story of a Catholic woman who devotes herself to taking care of her invalid father for 11 years and after he dies has to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants. Toward the end of the book, she des ...more
Sep 04, 2014 Francine rated it really liked it
This is the work that made Mary Gordon's name...don't know how I missed it but I was raised 3 little kids when it was published.

If you grew up in a Catholic household in the 50's and 60's, you read about familiar situations. I found this book very real and reflective.

I especially liked the character of Father Mulcahy...he had a drinking problem but he had a big heart and good theology.

Our heroine barely escaped her situation but she did and that's the uplifting message.

Highly recommended.
Venkatraman Ramachandran
The author Mary Gordon has made an appreciable effort to deep dive into the chaotic journey, a woman goes through as part of her life. A potentially dangerous combination of monotonous and isolated life resulting in a person becoming eccentric and losing self control forms the crux of the story.

Though entire book revolves primarily around a central woman character, every other persona in the story has something unique about him/her and offers meaningful addition to the overall content.

Power an
Berk Rourke
Apr 19, 2016 Berk Rourke rated it really liked it
I think it is difficult for a man to understand all the reasons a woman does something. This book has that as one of its man themes I believe. Other themes have to do with the relationship of a Roman Catholic to their priest, the relationships of friends who grew up in the Roman Catholic schools, the changes in life occurring for the principal character when her Father dies.
I enjoyed this book as a piece of writing. The characters have so many problems I cannot relate to the read was not easy,
Dana Dinowitz
Nov 07, 2015 Dana Dinowitz rated it did not like it
I feel like could sin for the next hundred years because my penance was reading this book. I'd like to have a sit-down with Mary Gordon to discuss her repetitive droning and the crucifixion of Isabel. Someone really hated catholic school?...
Jun 03, 2012 Dana rated it it was amazing
Time to reread this little gem. I remember almost nothing about it, other than the look of the cover (I had the original hard back edition in 1978). Having just read Gordon's newest novel, "Love of My Youth," I am now in search of a copy of Final Payments so I can reread it. I am finally at a point in life where I am rereading some books from 30+ years ago, that I knew I had loved, but don't remember well. That is the only way I will reread a book, even if I loved it beyond words. I wait until t ...more
Aug 17, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
I recently heard Mary Gordon speak from her forthcoming non-fiction book and found her fascinating, thus sending me to the library to find some of her work. As Final Payments was her first novel, it seemed a good place to begin. It took me a while to get into the story but now I'm enjoying it immensely. Gordon is a clever and often shocking writer. Sometimes I feel like I can relate to Isabel, the heroine, but then she will say or think something that I realize I would NEVER say, do, or probably ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Laurel-Rain rated it it was amazing
What will a self-sacrificing daughter do when her life of caring for her invalid father ends abruptly with his death? In the midst of her loss and pain, she must now make decisions that will determine her future. Will she go ahead and cut her ties to the life she led? Will she find an independence she lacked all these years?

These are the questions before Isabel Moore upon her father's demise. She had loved him, looked up to him, and now she must create a new life without him.

Isabel's friends Liz
Oct 30, 2007 M rated it really liked it
Ok khay, we can be sisters again .. you redeemed yourself, for now - this book had to be good if i was actually able to finish it during a work week (a rare feat these days, sadly) - very very readable, wonderfully written with those great turns of phrase that make you stop and re read. I liked the idea of someone giving up her life for an ailing parent and then suddenly not knowing who she is when the parent dies and having to reinvent herself etc - however, i knocked off a star because
1 - aut
Jul 23, 2012 Mom rated it really liked it
A powerful engrossing novel about a young woman, Isabel, who spends her twenties taking care of her demanding and invalid father. Struck with guilt because she feels that her actions have caused him to have the stroke that left him invalid, Isabel gives her life totally to his care, even while she realises that her lifestyle is anachronistic and often wishes that her father would die so that she could begin her "real" life. However, when he dies, she is unprepared for her subsequent confusion.

Nov 04, 2015 Leorah rated it really liked it
I want to write like Mary Gordon...her prose is amazing. A friend recommended that I read this book because the theme is relevant to my own life.
I would have given it 5 stars, but there was one short section toward the end that didn't hold together for me. The ending restored my sense of balance and satisfaction.
Jan 18, 2015 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
Final Payments by Mary Gordon. Had a hard time getting into this book but after a few chapters was wondering where the story would lead and how the book would end. Wonder how it would be to have to start a new and different life after 10 years. There are probably a lot of people who have.
I read this book in the early 90s (probably I'd read it before that, I can't remember) and was absolutely stunned by it, by her message that it is a worse "sin" to throw away our lives than to walk away from something we should not be responsible for.
Oct 07, 2013 Julie rated it it was ok
Isabel Moore, the main character of the book, tries to reenter adult life at 30 after caring for her invalid father for 11 years. While there were some small areas I could relate to (the special feeling of being really needed, the feeling that no one else can do the things you are doing), I had a very hard time relating to so many of her issues. A lot of Catholic angst, a lot of "if I do this, will this happen?' I really think the main character could have solved a lot of her problems by startin ...more
Jun 24, 2007 Leora rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-recently
There were so many parts of this book --phrases I guess--that made me gasp with jealousy at the way they were written. Of course, I am sure that that is difficult to seperate from the fact that I studied under Mary Gordon and therefore have a different relationship with her books, perhaps this one in particular because it is her first novel. The change in her writing style from this book to Pearl--her most recent novel--is remarkable. But still, Final Payments was wonderful, if sad and lacking e ...more
Oct 21, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, but know it would not be for everyone. MANY references to Catholicism, which is the backbone of the protagonist's struggle. But so well written, and some incredible writing.
May 23, 2013 Myrna rated it really liked it
Thirty-year-old Isabelle Moore has spent the last 11 years caring for her ill father, and when he dies, she has to start her life over. I read this book many years ago, but wanted to reread it after my father died. While some aspects of the story seem terribly dated, I was still intrigued by how Isabelle navigated her new life. Although she's ostensibly left behind her old Catholic world, she certainly hasn't let go of the Catholic guilt. I was impatient, even credulous about some of her choices ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Vicki rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
While well-written, this book was just, in a word, bleak.
Pass the Prozac, please.
Cindy Cunningham
Feb 03, 2008 Cindy Cunningham rated it it was amazing
I got this book as a birthday present a hundred years ago, when Mary Gordon was just getting started. I have read nearly everything she has written but this still stands out as one of her best. This book has a powerful plot line that serves as a strong metaphor for the journey a person takes to understand herself and love herself enough to continue with the life she truly wants instead of the life she feels obligated to have. I also loved her book about the male muse, Spending. She's an intersti ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Martha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: readwomen, vcfa, kieran
great book i read many years ago.
Angie Fotopoulos
Jun 08, 2016 Angie Fotopoulos rated it did not like it
Jan 28, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
Although this book was written in the late 70's Catholic guilt never goes out of style. I found the protagonist as a martyr rather annoying and wanted to shake her but because of the depth of her relationship with her father, Mary Gordon made it very clear as to why this character was so conflicted with her choices in life. The ending makes the title very clear. The ending is surprising. Don't just to the last pages!
Sep 28, 2009 Ahf rated it liked it
This book drove me crazy. It is so beautifully written and has several wonderful and unusual themes - friendship, finding/building a life after loss, responsibility. That said, the thread of catholic guilt and definitions of "good behavior" had me in a froth from about half way through. And of course, infidelity also drives me over the edge. I can't recommend it, though the writing is so exquisite.
Elsie Klumpner
Jan 14, 2014 Elsie Klumpner rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. The author seems consumed by her Catholic upbringing. Not sure if that is a positive or negative obsession.
Lori Vaughn
Jun 06, 2016 Lori Vaughn rated it it was amazing
An incredible story of overcoming guilt and the power of friendship.
Jan 04, 2010 Yak rated it liked it
Interesting look at the life of a Catholic woman, 29, who spent the last 11 years caring for the father and now goes out into the world of the 1970s, has sex, feels guilty, etc. Some of the characters, esp. her first lover and her old housekeeper, are pretty unsubtle and exaggerated, but the thread of her friendships with two women was at least encouraging. Good enough beach read but not great.
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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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