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Father Melancholy's Daughter

(Margaret Bonner #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,911 ratings  ·  161 reviews
The novels of Gail Godwin are contemporary classics--evocative, powerfully affecting, beautifully crafted fiction alive with endearing, unforgettable characters. Her critically acclaimed work has placed her among the ranks of Eudora Welty, Pat Conroy, and Carson McCullers, firmly establishing Godwin as a Southern literary novelist for the ages.

Father Melancholy's Daughter
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published March 1st 1991)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  1,911 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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Jeanette (Again)
After several days of ponderation, I'm bumpin' this up to 5 stars. There were just so many things I loved about it, in spite of the two things that almost made me give up on it. I find myself already looking forward to re-reading it down the road, just to savor the best parts.

I am not the slightest bit religious. I'm a unbeliever in the truest sense of the word. So I think it says a lot for this novel that I loved it even though it's full of religious references. There's no preachiness to it. T
May 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
I picked this book up after reading 50 pages of several novels. Initially, I was drawn to its slow pace and the writer's precision, but I never developed a connection to the characters or the story. Many reader's compare the author to Anne Tyler and I agree. If you love Tyler you may love this too. For me it was a little too plain. ...more
Sarah Beth
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Utterly taken by surprise, I felt his fingers firmly on my elbow as he led me away. That was the way it went, wasn't it? You had to stop wanting something, or at least forget you wanted it for a minute, before it would come to you on its own."

Father Melancholy's Daughter is about an Episcopal priest's daughter growing up in Virginia in the 1970s. The tragedy of Margaret's life is that when she is a young girl, her mother leaves for a few days of vacation which gradually extends to a year away f
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Reading this book was so strange for me. I kept thinking it was set in England, because all of the books I've ever read with priest or vicars or what-have-you-Christian-guys were English. It was jarring every single time someone said something that made me remember we were in the States.

I like the characters well enough, it's just that nearly all of their experiences were completely outside of my own that I couldn't quite find common ground. I'm fairly certain that I'd have liked this better if
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book! I really want to pass it on to any who love a great novel that has “more”. It will be especially loved by Episcopalians or Catholics who understand liturgy.and although Margaret ‘story is not a preachy one in anyway, the backdrop is the small community in Virginia where her dad is rector. It takes her life from age 7 to 22.....the characters in this book are very well developed, lots of plot twists and unexpected turns.....And beautifully written. I am delighted I fell upo ...more
Marne Wilson
This book was either going to be a masterpiece or a disaster. There are several dramatic moments that happen during the course of this novel, but Godwin doesn’t actually let us see any of them. Instead, she does that thing that Kazuo Ishiguro does so well, letting us figure out what has happened through the stream of consciousness of a narrator who can never actually let her mind settle on the emotionally-charged moments of her life. For instance, we are told on the first page that the story be ...more
Phoebe Kate Foster
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Arguably a candidate for one of the finest contemporary literary novels currently in print. Fascinating from the first sentence to the last, it has everything you could want in a piece of fiction -- finely nuanced and memorable characters, subtle and skillful plotting, splendid word craftsmanship, a keen sense of the importance of details, a writing style that is deeply moving without the taint of sentimentality, an unerring and empathetic portrayal of human nature and a delicate exploration int ...more
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
When have I last read a book that touched my heart on so many levels? Margaret Gower is deprived of her mother at the tender age of six when Ruth Gower leaves Romulus, Va for a life with her good friend, Madelyn. Being the Rector's Wife, this decampment caused tongues to wag. Margaret is left to be raised by her father, Walter. Walter tries to put a good face on this separation, sure that Ruth will return when she has had a chance to live for a while out of the fishbowl of parish life. When Ruth ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I usually don’t write reviews of books, except in letters to close friends. But I became so connected to this book, especially to Walter Gower, that I wanted to say a few things on this site. Every day, when I picked up the book, I felt as though I had entered meditation and dharma talk time with my sangha of community. Often, I whispered “yes” to myself, then sat with my eyes closed, allowing the wise words from his heart sink in.
One thing I’ve learned from being on this site, and listening to
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
One of my all-time favorites. The dust jacket barely mentions the book's secondary religious theme (it was primarily about a young woman coming to terms with her identity in relationship to her parents). But the book is very rich theologically, with a fairly traditional theological outlook embedded in a novel of unquestioned credentials as high quality contemporary fiction. The human relationships, too, between the father & daughter was one of deep respect & affection. A rare book, indeed! The f ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
A slow read, not because it is unengaging, but because it is so dense and beautifully written. Fantastic story of the daughter of an Episcopalian priest whose mother leaves the family and ultimately dies. I liked the usage of the church year to unspool this quiet story. There is a sequel, which I have, that I look forward to reading.
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this decades ago, and can't remember it except that I loved it. ...more
Tracy Walters
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
While it took me a long time to actually finish this book it was not a boring read. I enjoyed reading it when I had the time. The characters were written in such a way as it was easy to become attached to them. I loved the way that Father "Walter" Gower and Margaret Gower lived seperate lives but also lived together and knew each other so intimately and cared for each other so well. There was a lot of talk of religion and God and church but it had a purpose and it was to give reason to the way t ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Still feels fresh after my first reading, shortly after is was published. Like Anne Tyler, Gail Godwin creates an entire universe of memorable characters. Margaret Gower is a six-year old soul when her mother disappears with an old friend who sends her radar straight up. Her father, Walter Gower is the rector in Romulus, VA, and wonders if his wife might have felt for reasons other than wanting to be with her friend. The story carries through sixteen years, ...more
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian, fiction
The inner life of a girl growing up the daughter of an Episcopal priest. The church and its rites and prayers are the comfortable background in the home of this little girl and her melancholy father. As she grows, she begins to feel different than others her age and wonders if she is normal. And so she appeals to all those, like her, who live on the margins in one way or another. By the end, I had grown quite fond of her and hated to say goodbye.
Oct 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
I just re-read this after 20 years or so, and wish I could give it 4 and a half stars. It's a deliberate book, and reads as if one is in the room with the characters; almost every seemingly inconsequential action is recorded. The second time around, the characters' motivations were far more clear to me. It's possible that I was far too young to grasp it in its entirety the first time. ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wendy by: KBM
A lovely setting and lots of characters who are described in just enough detail. I was both sorry and relieved about the resolution of Margaret's romances; I liked that part, and her ultimate decision was interesting and thought-provoking, but hated that she ended up spending all that time with someone I really couldn't stand--I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think of her. ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about depression, relationships, serving others, religion, personalities, God, Jesus, selfishness, finding purpose, love, searching for answers. It is hard to describe why I liked it so much. It just feels like I needed to read it.
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a re-read, and Goodreads, you need a re-read tab!

Thanks to the priest at my Episcopal school for reminding me to revisit this. Some books are worth reading more than once, and this is one of them :)
Hannah Garden
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had forgotten all about Gail Godwin until I saw this paperback on the dollar carts Tuesday night. What a little genius she is, so beautiful, so sweet.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books. Insightful, tender and intelligent, Gail Godwin's characters are human and fallible, and therefore loveable. ...more
Karen Brownell
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Lots of themes in this book: a young girl being raised by her father, who is an Episcopalian priest, after her mother "runs away" to find a career; conflict/tension between the church and the local real estate developers; the girl grows up and questions what she will do with her life. And then there is the melancholy: the father's self-repraochful melancholy, his bitter melancholy, or his resigned melancholy; toward the end of the book he was in a resolved melancholy or maybe even a fulfilled me ...more
Mahala Church
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful book that touches emotional and intellectual depths rarely combed and shines new light on the word love and all its meanings. Certainly, Godwin's work stands on its own genius, but to give you some comparative insight, Godwin's writing captures the lure of other Southern greats into her nest of creativity - Eudora Welty and Pat Conroy. The book has a glimmer of Anne Tyler's character studies and Anna Quindlen's brilliant restructuring of the word family. Looking at faith, belief in Go ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
If this book hadn’t been so hard to finish, it would have easily been a 5 Star for me. The writing is so rich and beautiful - heavy with symbolism and religious reflections. The story of this girl coming into herself as an adult, free from but also enriched by the circumstances of her past, is really lovely to watch. There really wasn’t a lot of plot - it’s mostly character development. That’s not usually my cup of tea but I feel edified by reading this - not only as a lover of literature but al ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book and is classified as a contemporary classic. I will probably read some of Gail Godwin's other novels classified as contemporary classics because of the language and depth of characters that I discovered in this book. The heroine of the story is Maragaret Gower, daughter of anEpiscopalian priest who suffers from depression. When she is six years old, her mother leaves them and this becomes a defining moment in her life. She and her father grow very close as they ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book about a minister and his daughter living in Virginia. They have a close relationship although at times he seems to struggle with single parenthood especially due to the circumstances which led him here. We get to know some of the parishioners in his congregation and I found this endearing. His daughter comes of age and she has issues of her own.
I found this book at the library bookstore for .25 and it is a favorite of mine. Unfortunately I loaned it to someone and it was nev
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I took my time reading this book because, for me, it was hard to read in large chunks. This is the story of an Episcopal Priest and his daughter. The writing is really good, but it is also really dense. There is just so much conversation about trivial things here. The religious talk would be more interesting if you understood more of the Church background. I enjoyed the father/daughter storyline and seeing how they worked through the grief of their wife/mother, but when I finished the b
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was slow going at first and I had trouble believing how, even a precocious 6 year old, could have such clear memories for details of things and such a level of comprehension of the world around her. This is a character driven novel and it wasn't until about halfway through that the characters really seemed to come alive. In the end, I liked it well enough that I have begun reading the sequel, Evensong. ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Last year I read "Grief Cottage" by Gail Godwin and really liked it. This is the story of Margaret, age 6 when the book opens and follows her for 16 years. Margaret's father is a priest at a nearby Episcopal church. We follow Margaret as she grows up and in particular with her close relationship with her father. There are several well developed secondary characters as well. I like the way Godwin writes and thinks, but I felt she could have edited some of the religious matters. ...more
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Gail Kathleen Godwin is an American novelist and short story writer. She has published one non-fiction work, two collections of short stories, and eleven novels, three of which have been nominated for the National Book Award and five of which have made the New York Times Bestseller List.

Godwin's body of work has garnered many honors, including three National Book Award nominations, a Guggenheim Fe

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