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

The Other Side

3.15  ·  Rating Details ·  119 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Both Ellen and Vincent left Ireland in the early part of this century, one bitterly escaping shame, humiliation, and fear; the other filled with hope for the promise and future of America - the "other side." Together for more than sixty years, they raised a family, savored their dreams, comforted, challenged, and defied one another. Their desires and fears are manifest in ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1989)
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 The Other Side, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Other Side

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan OrnbrattHouse Broken by Sonja YoergDuring the Reign of the Queen of Persia by Joan ChaseEast of Eden by John SteinbeckBehind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Multigenerational Novels
31st out of 43 books — 13 voters
Shark Dialogues by Kiana DavenportMy Cousin Rachel by Daphne du MaurierEight Cousins by Louisa May AlcottHeaven Has No Regrets by Tessa ShafferRose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Bonds Between Cousins
10th out of 12 books — 4 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 194)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 27, 2014 Virginia rated it liked it
3.5 The tone of this novel is somber from beginning to end, but moments of beauty—not joy so much—occur in the lives of the characters. The book has hard truths to share—that tragic elements of one generation visit themselves on the next and the next, that people have feelings other than those they strive to have, and that our individual lives are more repetitive than otherwise. Gordon deftly penetrates each character’s internal life, as in describing Marilyn’s futile attempt to converse with he ...more
Carol Storm
Feb 10, 2015 Carol Storm rated it did not like it
Everything in this book depends on whether or not you can stomach the protagonist, Ellen Macnamara. Ellen is an Irish girl who comes to America around 1890, marries, starts a large family. She is also cruel, selfish, consumed with rage and prone to enormous self pity. I can't imagine where Mary Gordon found the inspiration for a female protagonist as thoroughly unpleasant as this. She really seems to know her so intimately!

Problem is, aside from the hateful, overbearing nature of the main charac
Candy Wood
The trouble with novels told through multiple perspectives is that wherever they end, someone will be left out. The title of this one refers to the journey Vincent and Ellen both made from Ireland to “the other side” of the Atlantic before 1922, but the shifting perspectives emphasize that for each of the characters in this four-generation family, there’s another side. Vincent and Ellen have been married over 60 years, not without conflict, and their children and grandchildren (two of whom are d ...more
Sep 01, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
I confess I could not finish this book. It all takes place on one day at the deathbed of an Irish immigrant. What takes place? Not a darn thing except that each character wallows in all the sadness and perceived injustice of his/her life. Spare me.
Nov 02, 2009 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2013
I have owned this book for a while; many years ago I had read some of Mary Gordon's other books and really enjoyed them. As I started this this book and well into the first half, I wondered if my tastes had changed so much. But Gordon came through in the end. The Other Side is the story of the extended MacNamara family, beginning with Vincent and Ellen, both Irish immigrants, who met and married in New York. The parts about their lives in Ireland and what prompted them to come to the US were fas ...more
Dec 02, 2011 Rita rated it liked it
1989. She writes very well, is psychologically very astute about her characters.

The repetition got to me, about the elderly man [patriarch of the family, tho he certainly did not see himself that way] the author tells us he did not want to go back home [from the nursing home where he was recovering from a broken leg]. Fine. Then she says the same sentence every time the focus moves back to that man. Like, I already know he doesn't want to go home, I remember, OK?

But I think repetition is part of
Jessica Lynne Gardner
Apr 29, 2012 Jessica Lynne Gardner rated it it was ok
This book had potential. The premise was interesting, the characterization was engaging and the plot was complex but the novel was bogged down with too many irrelevant details and a mind-boggling family tree. My edition did not have a family tree printed inside so I had to draw my own but the Penguin edition did because they must have realized the ridiculousness of trying to keep up with the characters without one. This should have been done as three or four separate books, all about one or two ...more
Aug 31, 2009 K rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldntfinish
Meh -- didn't bother to read much of this. The writing had potential, hence the two stars, but nothing else was keeping my interest. I think it was the timing; after When Madeline Was Young A Novel, the last thing I wanted to read was another description-heavy book where not much happens. Good writing is necessary, but unless you're a poetry fan (which I am not), it's not sufficient in and of itself. I ended up sneaking in a trip to Sefer ve-Sefel and will hopefully be writing some happier revie ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Anne rated it liked it
Mary Gordon knows families. This book focuses more on the hurts and rivalries in families than feels good, but is not unrealistic.
Oct 06, 2007 M rated it liked it
Eh. This reminded me of when Maeve Binchy writes a book with one unifying plot but a chapter per character so that no one gets real development - an interesting concept of generations gathering together, showing the change of times and the different complex ties of family yap yap yap and it was pretty well written but I found it too complicated to follow who was whom and how they were all related and would've enjoyed just delving into one or two of them.
Bill Davis
Dec 09, 2010 Bill Davis rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Author Mary Gordon produces some beautiful prose, I must say. But I found the book depressing and couldn't wait to get done with it, which is unlike me as a reader. Spending so many hours inside the heads of the universally dysfunctional members of this Irish-American family just got to be too much. There was not a single likable or empathetic character. There was no light, no hope, no resolution. And therefore, I was disappointed.
Oct 10, 2012 Susan rated it liked it

I have read several Mary Gordon novels and two memoirs about her parents and have loved the work of this author. This book, however, was my least favorite. Gordon writes beautifully, so evocatively and with great sensitivity and psychological insight. Neverthe-
less the story of several generations of this family read somewhat predictably and even trite at times and I struggled to stay interested.
Mar 07, 2008 Syd rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was well written and had incredible character development, but it was ALL character development. Sloooooooow. I have to admit that I loved the bits that took place in Ireland because I could picture Cork, the church by the bay, and the "deck of cards" houses so perfectly having recently been there.
Jan 27, 2013 Diana rated it really liked it
This was a great book about an Irish immigrant family and the very different histories of the two parents in Ireland. From the beginning, though, it's fairly depressing. The difficulties of aging are portrayed relentlessly.
Nov 07, 2007 Peg rated it liked it
Recommends it for: females
A story of passage and change, of immigration from Ireland, displacement, and of the struggle of families to find a common ground between generations.
Oct 10, 2009 Marian rated it really liked it
Mary Gordon is a great story teller but she portrays her characters so intently that you know them better than your own relatives.
May 06, 2013 Byron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Fuck this book. Hated it so much. Not even sure what the cover is supposed to look like because I have a used hardback version.
Mary Dylan
Mary Dylan rated it really liked it
Sep 20, 2016
Ian rated it it was ok
Sep 19, 2016
Cary B
Cary B added it
Sep 06, 2016
Tom Daly
Tom Daly is currently reading it
Sep 02, 2016
BookDB marked it as to-read
Aug 27, 2016
Eileen added it
Aug 27, 2016
Barbara rated it did not like it
Aug 10, 2016
Oliver rated it really liked it
Jul 28, 2016
Alana rated it liked it
Jul 11, 2016
Patricia Nance
Patricia Nance marked it as to-read
Jun 30, 2016
Doreen added it
Jul 20, 2016
Tyra rated it really liked it
Jun 27, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
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...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“For the Irish, life is a matter of perpetual grievance. We remember the Famine, but forget the Draft Riots. We seal off our neighborhoods to strangers, but allow our own priests to victimize our own children. We worship violence and we enslave ourselves to alcohol, we lie and steal and kill without conscience for generations at a time. But it's all right in the end, and do you know why? Because we don't tolerate lust.” 2 likes
More quotes…