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No, this is not a book about mothers as martyrs--that's a different story. Rather, the would-be martyr here is the daughter who is starving herself in protest of the inherent tendency of humans to "do harm" to others, particularly as manifested in the death of a boy within the strife of a divided Ireland. The author employs this setting to explore questions of guilt, forgiveness, love, the value of life and the value of death in the service of a higher cause.
It is an intriguing premise, but unfortunately falls short in its execution. Intermittent stirrings of suspense are quickly buried under the weight of brooding introspection. There are moments of real insight, especially the sections on the inherent mystery of each human being to another within even the closest of relationships.
Nevertheless, while the questions it addresses are thought-provoking, the book itself is tough to get through. An excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review sums it up well: "Told by an unidentified first-person narrator, the story unfolds over the course of a few days. Even as the life-or-death crisis comes to a head, Maria [the mother] and her best friend, Joseph, are busy tackling God, sacrifice, female autonomy and the meaning of happiness. The novel's conceit provides plenty of opportunities for philosophical musing, but given this set of morose and mostly unlikable characters, the relentless self-examination grows tedious."
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I liked this book, not sure if I would have read it as well as I had listened. I identified with Maria and just thank my lucky stars that my daughter never chained herself to a railing. I enjoyed the introspection and had to keep reminding myself that Pearl was very young. This is not what I would call chick lit unless it made a few hundred people listen.
Mary Gordon should have done more research on, safeguarding, mental capacity and deprivation of liberty issues in the republic of Ireland before tying Pearl to the bed and be aware that a urinary catheter is inserted into the urethra not into the vagina. The nursing and medical bits that were way off reality annoyed me, the rest was fabulous.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful