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The Edge of Sadness

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,122 ratings  ·  141 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 June 1st 1961)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  2,122 ratings  ·  141 reviews

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Feb 08, 2010 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
Tracy Towley
Aug 28, 2010 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
May 05, 2013 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
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Pulitzer Prize Winner 1962. You know how I always rant about the non-literary quality of christian fiction? Well.... Rant over. I found the novel I've always been wanting to read.

The book tells the story of a fallen Catholic Priest, fallen into alcoholism after his father died. This is his story of recovery and ministry, an exploration of how he fell into sin, and a journey of how he came back. It is also the story of his childhood family friends, the Carmodys. The Carmodys are a sprawling, Iris

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
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I came upon this treasure by following some goodreads threads, and was initially daunted by the sheer length as it’s over six hundred pages. However, after I began there was no doubt it was a keeper! Perhaps my Catholic faith contributed to the enchantment, but that wasn’t the only draw. The writing was exquisite in a quiet way. This tale of a priest in his middle years had a haunting quality, although melancholia certainly didn’t prevail. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud more than once ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a achingly beautiful book. It is hard to describe because not much external "action" occurs but the movement of the heart is remarkable. The story of Father Hugh Kennedy, a recovering alcoholic, and his reconnecting with the Carmodys is wonderfully told. O'Connor has a gift of understanding prayer, loneliness, despair, hope, faith. I am not doing this book justice. It is so beautiful. It will stick with me for a long time.
May 09, 2015 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.
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic
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 15, 2015 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
Charles Lewis
Aug 22, 2010 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.
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
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
Jul 19, 2013 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
John Guffey
This book has the distinction of having a character just like my grandpa. The story revolves around an often struggling priest who is very close to the Carmody family. The family is much like mine and the biggest character of all was a near carbon copy of my grandpa. 3.5 stars
Jay Franklin
Sep 13, 2009 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
A Enwright
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Edwin O'Connor's book, The Edge of Sadness won the Pulitzer prize in 1962. The story is about a man of the clergy, Hugh Kennedy, and his journey to find his place in the church and how relationships when he was a boy affect his journey. I liked the writing style of the author in that he provides a very introspective view of the main characters. I give this book 4 stars.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I wasn't really expecting to like this, it being about the Catholic Church and all, but I did. The author does a good job of describing his character's feelings, and I actually related to father Kennedy (I know that's weird). It was something about being Irish-American and relating to the neuroses of an Irish family.
Robert Palmer
Jul 13, 2010 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
Sep 15, 2009 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
Apr 22, 2014 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
Jul 29, 2014 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
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: irish, fiction
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
Derek Emerson
O'Connor's novel went from winning the Pulitzer Prize to going out of print. In the excellent introduction, the writer feels it lost its relevance as the pre-Vatican II way of life for Catholics had disappeared. And this is a thoroughly Catholic novel taking a look at priests and their humanity without making them evil. Like us, they are flawed. Unlike most of us, they commit their lives to God's service and work hard to live up to high expectations. But they have family histories to deal with, ...more
Jul 20, 2008 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
Fr. Peter Mottola
May 07, 2015 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
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'd never heard of this novel, though it won the Pulitzer in 1962. It's not for everybody: narrated by a priest who is a recovering alcoholic, the novel is very long and slow moving with scarcely any plot. The book is also weighed down by tons of dialogue (and monologues) among the sometimes comical, sometimes emotionally vicious, Irish American parishioners.

Still, I found it enormously satisfying: though almost nothing "happens," the narrator's inner life is beautifully rendered. Moral issues
Jan 26, 2009 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
Feb 05, 2014 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
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Tackling the Puli...: The Edge of Sadness (Edwin O'Connor, 1962) 21 29 Mar 27, 2018 03:45PM  

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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.
“And while he spoke of my mother often and fondly to me, he always did so incompletely, in a strangely peripheral way, so that I grew up with a picture of her that was really little more than an outline. Was this unfair, an injustice to me? It must seem so, and I suppose in a way it was. And yet we all have within ourselves those private spaces that are uniquely our own and that we cannot share. This was my father's: the heart of his grief, which he chose not to expose. It was only now, in these last months before his death, that the outline was filled in, that without preliminary or explanation, my father suddenly began to talk of my mother as he had never talked before, in words and phrases lit with a bursting lyrical warmth and love that had been stored up and held within him all this time, and that was now released because, I think, he knew his own time was so short, and because he did not for a moment doubt that very soon now he would be joined to her again...

So there was a feeling of joy here.”
“I've often thought that among all the afflicting sights of the world, none can be much more so than this one short walk along three city blocks, where night after night it's possible to see--indeed, it's impossible not to see--these faces from which hope and joy and dignity and light have been draining so steadily and for so long that now there is nothing left but this assortment of indifferent, damaged masks. They belong to human beings who, after a lifetime of struggling to become one thing or another, have succeeded only in becoming the rough sketches of their species, recognizable but empty, the bruised and wretched bodies and souls of the saddest people on earth: the people who no longer care.” 2 likes
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