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The Edge of Sadness

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,475 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
“A realistic Christian novel of hope in a non-Christian age.”—New England Quarterly

“A deeply felt and eloquently expressed work . . . A quiet, gentle novel of considerable insight and charm . . .”—Library Journal
“O’Connor succeeds in delineating poignantly the overwhelming spiritual storms of the soul which assail the conscientious clergyman.”—The Christian Century

Paperback, 646 pages
Published September 15th 2005 by Loyola Classics (first published 1961)
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Aug 13, 2015 booklady rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: psychological mysteries lovers; Catholics
Even the title should warn you that this book is not for everyone. But if you are the type of reader who enjoys psychological mysteries, then you will find Edwin O'Connor's study of the priesthood in The Edge of Sadness fascinating.

The Edge of Sadness is 646 pages of mostly thought and dialogue which spans the relatively brief time span of six months, occasionally taking retrospective forays back into the lifetime friendship of two middle-aged priests who grew up together.

The main character, Fa
Agnes Mack
Sep 04, 2011 Agnes Mack rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer
While I do like to think that I have a decent sense of humor, I've never been one to laugh out loud much.

This book is probably the first book I've ever read that had me constantly cracking up. However, I doubt anyone else would have the same experience.

The book is basically about a priest who is very close to his father. When his dad dies, he ends up going off the deep end and getting wasted all the time. Eventually the Cardinal sends him to a rehab-for-Priests place in Arizona. After 4 or so ye
Sep 17, 2014 Laysee rated it it was amazing

My first thought when I read the initial chapters of “The Edge of Sadness” was why I was laughing so much. I was anticipating long hours stewing in a miry bog of despair. I did not expect the generous dose of humor that was evident throughout the novel whose core theme was sadness. I enjoyed the vivid use of metaphor and similes that conjured up the hilarity of a human face or a social situation. One of the earliest mental pictures was that of a priest preaching to a layer cake. Father Hugh Ken
Aug 29, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, religion, feels
I love, love, love this book. It's like legitimately my favourite book of all time and I have no idea why. Normally when people ask me what my favourite book is I say Moby Dick (which I love also) because it is just too difficult to explain the depth of affection I have for this obscure little book. I'm not a Catholic or even religious in anyway, but somehow this book just resonated with me. I read it first as a teenager and even though the title is sucky in the extreme, I found the idea of hold ...more
Aug 13, 2015 Quo rated it really liked it
This is not a book I would normally have chosen to read but when the host of a book discussion group of 30+ years & whose members take turns hosting, chooses a book, the other members follow suit with an attempt to find a copy & to do their best to capture the spirit of chosen book, as was the case with The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor, a long-ago bestseller that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1962. I had seen the film version of the author's book about a legendary Boston-Iri ...more
Doug Tattershall
Oct 28, 2011 Doug Tattershall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic, read-by-me
If the edge of sadness is melancholy, then this might be an aptly-titled book, but I think the title is its primary flaw. I imagine a lot of people skip over "The Edge of Sadness" because of the title, not expecting humor, warmth, and even illumination. Through dialogue and only the simplest of plots, the book looks from the inside at the post-war culture of northeastern Irish Americans, with the colorful and often hilarious children of immigrants now grown old juxtaposed with their children and ...more
Jun 13, 2015 Drew rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A soft and slow-to-unfold story. A gentle, drowsy novel with great character description, comprised primarily of well-written dialogue that made characters vivid. I'm not sure I like this book, but I'm glad to have read it.
Jun 25, 2015 Melody rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Wow...this was just exactly my sort of book and I'm so smashed full of love for it that I'm having a hard time talking about it coherently. All the characters are so so real, flawed but lovable (or hate-able) and presented in just the way that life presents you with people. It explores some of those deep questions of life that I often feel alone in pondering, but I've found a friend in this book. I loved the American Irish culture, the family dynamics, the era, and the never-ending struggle betw ...more
Jim B
The Edge of Sadness is unlike any book about "the church" I've ever read (I could say Christianity or Catholicism -- but I mean inside the life of the local congregation, and even more specifically the interior life of the priest). The author tells about a six month slice of life with a depth of reflection on human nature that is unusual in any novel. O'Connor has a sharp eye for our flaws, and yet he is, I think, forgiving of the thousand cruelties of our relationships with those who are clos ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Samantha rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Like other readers I was surprised that a novel with such a melancholy premise was often so funny. The little day-to-day absurdities of ordinary--and priestly--life, played against life's sufferings, are part of what makes the story of Father Hugh Kennedy such a life-affirming one. A recovering-alcoholic priest, Hugh is drawn into the circle of the wealthy Carmodys, a family he has known from childhood. Their patriarch, "Old Charlie, " takes a sudden interest in Hugh and his physically crumbling ...more
Tsung Wei
Aug 28, 2014 Tsung Wei rated it it was amazing
Lovely book. More of a psychosocial study than a plot driven story. I would not usually start, let alone finish such a book, but the expression and descriptions strike a chord within. This is a book which shines, not for clever plots or elegant writing, but it resonates. There were many feelings and situations that I could personally identify with. The events which mark out the story at points are few and far between. As such, the plot moves at a leisurely pace. More importantly is the impact on ...more
Aug 05, 2010 Colleen rated it really liked it
Though this novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction nine years before I was even a twinkle in either of my parents’ eyes (1962), it seemed, to me, at least, that it could have been written today, as it speaks to the quite contemporary issues of faith, family, friendship, and healing.

The Edge of Sadness follows Hugh Kennedy, a recovering alcoholic, as he returns to Boston and his damaged priesthood after a four year sojourn in the desert southwest. The story centers around Father Hugh’s re-acqua
Derek Jeter
Sep 13, 2009 Derek Jeter rated it really liked it
Reading selections:

A Dying Church
The church itself is a perfect mirror of the district: once, three generations ago, active prosperous, in a way, even noble; today a derelict, full of dust and flaking paint and muttering , homeless, vague-eyed men. This section of the city is dying and so is Old Saint Paul’s. In a sense it is hardly a parish anymore, but a kind of spiritual waterhole. : a halting place for transients in despair.

Getting Old
Getting old is a strange business. It’s happening to you
Jan 25, 2016 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, irish
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and I can see why: it is literary. There is very little plot to be found in this long novel, but the author is the master of characterization. I found myself laughing out loud, which is quite unusual for me, as I read much of the dialogue. The Edge of Sadness is a story about Boston Irish Catholics, and centers around the first person narrator's view of his life as a priest and his lifelong relationship with a quirky Irish family. I recognized much of my ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Ginny rated it it was amazing
This book won't appeal to everyone because there's not much action in it. That said, this novel has some of the best characterization I've ever read. The eighty-something Charlie Carmody is an unforgettable character, as is his son John and the narrator Father Hugh. (Even Father Hugh's young and slightly pompous curate, who provides gentle comic relief, is a surprisingly complex character.) This is a book about the inner life of a priest, yes, but it's also about our struggles to connect with ea ...more
Apr 25, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulizer-fiction
O'Connor has that skill that a certain few writers have, his writing flows smoothly. I found that I could read this book and not notice that there is almost no plot, no action, no romance, in fact you can not notice that you are reading at all because he spins characters with so much personality that you not only feel like you know them, but you find yourself content to sit and visit with them all day. And I found myself surprised that O Connor was not himself a priest like the narrator of the s ...more
Peter Mottola
Feb 10, 2016 Peter Mottola rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels I've ever read. (It didn't win the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for nothing!) Boston priest Fr. Hugh Kennedy's reflection on how his world is so different from that of his immigrant-born father's era, and from that of his twenty-five-year-old curate, is perhaps the best meditation I've ever encountered on the subject of how difficult it is to communicate across the generations. Yet for all the differences between one age and the next, some things never change in the Church: this ti ...more
Mar 04, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
Another re-reading of a book I loved about 45 years ago. It is still a nice book, but it didn't have the impact it had the first time around. I would recommend it, but I'm not sure to whom. It is very slow and introspective. I can't think of another modern book like it. The modest story-line moves carefully through reflection after reflection, but it is funny about occurrences that don't readily lend themselves to humor - life's dissappointments, old age, death. I guess it is a reflection about ...more
Tan-yeo LaySuan
Apr 04, 2014 Tan-yeo LaySuan rated it it was amazing
I identified with the priest Hugh on his many encounters with parish members. It is true that these thoughts do cross our minds when we minister.

I was envious of the place where he was allowed to recover from his alcoholism because there is no such place in the Protestant Church. The protestant pastors are equally subject to moments of weakness and there is such a need to have a place of refuge to be restored and be sent on our way to serve again.

All in all, the author has a humorous way of putt
Hope johnson
Jan 09, 2015 Hope johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Thoughts:

I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this book, it was very well written. No surprise there, since he won the Pulitzer Prize for it. Story revolves around a priest and life at a parish. Not everything is smooth sailing in the life of a priest. They have problems and issues to deal with too. Our main character, Father Hugh Kennedy, is a recovering alcoholic who is the pastor in a rundown parish St. Paul’s parish. Story is told from Father Hugh’s point of view, his interaction w
Charles Lewis
Aug 22, 2010 Charles Lewis rated it it was amazing
I seem to like books with really upbeat titles. This is the story of an alcoholic priest who returns home after being away for years drying out. There is nothing spectacular that happens here — no car chases, not illicit affairs. Just the simple story of man getting his bearings once again among the people he used to know. It is one of the few book I've read in the past few years that I truly loved.
Mar 12, 2015 Martha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The most apt metaphor for this book is a drawn-out sermon where you feel impatient, maybe bored and yet there are points here and there where you think, “that’s fascinating” or “how well he expressed that” and then the pastor (er, author) wraps things up by pulling it all together in a way that leaves you reflective, left with something to ‘chew on’.

I think you could consider the novel a meditation on 2 Corinthians 5:17 “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”. The middle-aged charac
Marsha Larsen
Apr 04, 2014 Marsha Larsen rated it really liked it
For those readers sincerely on a spiritual path and aware of how easy it is to waver in our faith or miss the point of it entirely, it may come as a surprise in The Edge of Sadness that clergy run the same risks and have even more at stake when the slips occur. This book is about such struggles.

Father Hugh Kennedy, a Catholic priest and reformed alcoholic, has come back to his home town to pastor a dwindling flock at Old St. Paul’s. Though he has managed sobriety after several lengthy stays at a

The bestseller list for 1961 had a good share of long books and this one, at #8, seemed longer than its pages. I have now finished reading the top 10 bestsellers for that year.

Edwin O'Connor wrote in that wordy 1940s style, aspects of which were over-explaining and repetition. I am quite weary of the style and got weary of the story long before it was over.

Novels about religious themes still made the bestseller lists throughout the 1960s. The Edge of Sadness, about the troubles of a Catholic pri
Robert Palmer
Jul 08, 2012 Robert Palmer rated it it was amazing
The story is narrated by Father Hugh Kennedy,who tells us on the first page,that at no point is the story his own,but rather it is about the Carmody family,mostly ,the patriarch ,Charley,a man well knowen , but not well liked in the unnamed city. it begins when Kennedy receives a phone call at six AM from Charley inviting him to his birthday party next Sunday( he says it's his eighty second,but everyone knows he will be eighty one, he knows that they know it, he dose it just to irritate them) he ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Kiessa rated it really liked it
Shelves: pullitzers
I aspire to read all the books from the Pullitzer Prize list, and that is why I selected this one. It won the award in 1962, making the book's subject and themes all the more interesting considering the times.

This long book is one that requires a mindset of patience. The first few hundred pages are a meandering collection of character studies and conversations between a recovering alcoholic priest and a set of his childhood friends. Introspective, insightful and humanizing, this book portrays ea
Jul 06, 2013 Roland rated it did not like it
This book won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1962. I haven't a clue why. Very little happens in it. At its conclusion, the main character, faced with the possibility of a change in his situation, elects not to change at all.

There were a few good things to be said. Fr. Hugh Kennedy, the protagonist, muses a lot about human nature, as only someone who hears people confess to him a lot can. (This book was written a few years prior to Vatican II, when the habit of confession in Catholics was stil
Dec 22, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
The Edge of Sadness won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 1962. This was an excellent book that is told from the perspective of Catholic Priest Hugh Kelley. The book is written as present (present-1960-ish) as well as Hugh's past. Hugh is summoned to the house of an old family friend for his 81st birthday - Charlie Carmody. Charlie's son and friend of Hugh's growing up is also a priest. Hugh's own father had passed away 6 years prior to this time which created a personal issue with Hugh and he turned ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing
The narrator, Father Hugh Kennedy, begins this story after returning from his long stay at Cenacle in Arizona for alcohol abuse rehabilitation. He is now returned to his duties as a priest and has been placed in a run-down parish in New England on the other side of town from his former parish. Hugh is comfortable there but disengaged and seems to like it that way. Old Charlie Carmody, the father of Hugh’s friend since boyhood, calls Hugh out of the blue and invites him to his 82nd birthday party ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
The Edge of Sadness won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 1962. This was an excellent book that is told from the perspective of Catholic Priest Hugh Kelley. The book is written as present (present-1960-ish) as well as Hugh's past. Hugh is summoned to the house of an old family friend for his 81st birthday - Charlie Carmody. Charlie's son and friend of Hugh's growing up is also a priest. Hugh's own father had passed away 6 years prior to this time which created a personal issue with Hugh and he turned ...more
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Edwin O'Connor was an American journalist, novelist, and radio commentator who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1962 for his novel The Edge of Sadness (1961). His ancestry was Irish, and his novels concerned the Irish-American experience and often dealt with the lives of politicians and priests.
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