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  Kirkus Review

A darkly explorative tale, shot through with warming recognitions, about racking spiritual journeys within transitional Roman Catholicism--steadier in craft than the engaging Final Payments, but again nerve-centered on the electric, dangerous relationship between a magnetic, punishing father-figure and a young woman who wrests away to find another safety. Felicitas Taylor's own father died when she was a baby, and ""being fatherless, a girl can be satisfied only with the heroic, the desperate, the extreme."" So her substitute father very soon becomes the unquestionably extreme Father Cyprian--an ascetic, traditionalist priest now (1963) retired to rural upstate New York, where young Felicitas and her pampering extended family (five middle-aged widows and spinsters) spend the summers and all dote on Father C. To Cyprian, a shriving absolutist who hates the ""stink of the world,"" Felicitas embodies ""what we stand for. . ."" And she, luxuriating in Cyprian's fierce love (reading Latin while her peers watch TV doctors), longs for ""a life so purified that it stood out against the sky."" But, while growing up, Felicitas finds herself guilty of small disloyalties to Father C., concessions to her aching need to be liked by her peers, to be ""ordinary."" Then, at Columbia U., her spiritual submission to Cyprian is grossly parodied, in the flesh: she lives in a communal pad of fraying young activists, becomes part of the harem belonging to ""beautiful, daring"" Prof. Robert Cavendish. And Felicitas discovers that she has broken away from the perils of loving God only to find the perils of loving a man: ""Surely all women are born knowing the men they love could kill them."" Pregnant, frightened away from having an abortion, she has the child--and seven years later she again is drawn to Cyprian (somewhat mellowed) and his ""company of women."" Finally, however, marrying an unheroic man who can be a ""safe"" father to her daughter, Felicitas will find a tenable place for human love in her life. And, as for God, she'll still look for Him (as long as He is ""free from all necessity""), but she'll never again open her heart to Him: ""I will not be violated."" Like Iris Murdoch, then--but in far grittier terms--Gordon is determined to investigate the extreme states of sacred and profane passion, to find some relatively sure ground in between. And the result is a far more demanding book than Final Payments, yet one which never loses the feel for salty humanity (especially in the portraits of Cyprian's women) while tackling religious/sexual metaphysics with the shivery intensity of early Joyce Carol Oates. Important work from an expanding talent. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Mary Gordon's fiction explores the nature of love of religion, of family relationships and, in every sense, illuminates and enhances our lives. <br> <br> Raised by five intensely religious women and a charismatic, controversial priest, sheltered from the secular world, Felicitas Maria Taylor is intelligent, charming, and desperate for a taste of ordinary happiness. More freedom than she has ever imagined awaits her at Columbia University in the 1960s. There, Felicitas falls in love with the worst man for her--with shattering results. Now she must turn again to the company of the women who love her, as she struggles to embrace the future without betraying the past.<br> <br> Praise for The Company of Women<br> <br> "A superb, stunningly written novel." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer <br> <br> "Rich . . . satisfying . . . a work of vast intelligence and enormous charm." -- Newsday
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