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Pearl by Mary Gordon
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Pearl (2005)

by Mary Gordon

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Many of some of the most acclaimed writers break every writing rule and god bless them because rules are just to get people started, a means of learning. So write ye merry unpublished and know that all those rules used to reject your manuscript will not matter once you reach the right audience, once you hit the right formula. For much can be forgiven if a book is good enough in the right places and Pearl was just good enough when Pearl was its actual focus. But Pearl was not focused on enough, sadly, for me to like this book very much. (A book can also be forgiven if the intelligentsia has decided that writer is a worthy writer no matter what but best not to get too bogged down in details like that.)

Read the rest of the review here: http://ireadeverything.com/?p=77 ( )
  oddbooks | Jan 22, 2010 |
"Pearl" was not a happy book, it is full of struggles...modern day struggles of religon, beliefs, politics, sacrifice, martyrdom, and family bonds, particularly mother-daughter relationships...but I loved the 3rd person omniscent narative. I feel like the narrator was part of the story, perhaps the voice of god, or someone once involved in the story but had passed like Maria's father, Pearl's father, devorah, or the boy who pearl's death will "witness". For me personally, the story highlighted my own struggles with being a mother and acceptance of my own mother. I can relate to wanting "the best" for your child, but your idea of what's best might not actually be what is best for your child. And when you are the child in question, feeling like your parent does try not understand you...This books helps me to realize it is helpful to take a step back and accept your family members for who they are. And...I am once again embarrassed of my lack of awareness of the political unrest in Ireland during my own lifetime.I loved this book, it was a more difficult read but extremely worth the time. ( )
  AuntJha | Apr 8, 2009 |
ridiculous, self-indulgent, full of platitudes ( )
  ilanadm | Jan 10, 2009 |
I found it to be a boring story about two unsympathetic, selfish brats of characters who thought they were noble people. The third character, the only one I cared about, was woefully underwritten. The narration was smug. There were a couple of vignettes about Pearl and her childhood (her neighbors, her friend Luisa) that were exceptionally well written and frankly, might have been more interesting than the main plot. Really, I have no interest in the poor little rich girl angles, thanks. ( )
1 vote phillyexpat | Jun 14, 2007 |
I really enjoyed this book. It was certainly a breath of fresh air. I also wanted to note that this is my 100th book I've read in 2006 and my 100th review I've written. Pearl is about a girl who decides to chain herself to the US Embassay in Ireland. When her mother and her mother's longtime friend Joseph find out, they immmediately head to Ireland. The story is told from an anonymous narrator, which makes the story very fresh. I really enjoyed the parts of this book that featured Pearl and Maria. The character of Joseph really wasn't my favorite. This wasn't the BEST book of the year, but it ranked up there as being very good! ( )
1 vote WittyreaderLI | Dec 14, 2006 |
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Epigraph
FOR
Enda McDonagh
&
Eileen Tobin
Dedication
FOR
Enda McDonagh
&
Eileen Tobin
First words
We may as well begin with the ride home.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037542315X, Hardcover)

Without preamble, Mary Gordon takes the reader straight to the heart of the matter in Pearl. On Christmas night, in 1998, Maria Meyers gets a call from the State Department. Maria, a New York liberal, keeps the illusion of control of her surroundings, and the news she gets is confusing, annoying, and frightening. Confusing because she doesn't understand why Pearl, 20 years old and Maria's only child, has done what she has done, annoying because there has been no forewarning, and frightening because Pearl might die. Maria is definitely not in control here, a condition that makes her vastly uncomfortable. The caller tells Maria that Pearl has chained herself to the flagpole at the American Embassy in Dublin, where she has gone to study the Irish language. Her action is the culmination of six weeks of starvation. She is very ill, dehydrated, and near death. She has left three letters on the sidewalk: one meant for the media, one for her mother, and one for their dearest and oldest family friend, Joseph Kasperman.

The media letter says "...I am giving my life in witness to the death of Stephen Donegan and to the goodness and importance of his life. Second, to show my support, my admiration for the Peace Agreement, and those who have worked toward it. Third, to mark the human will to harm." Pearl believes that, due to a careless remark said in anger, she is responsible for Stephen's death. She has been consorting with members of the Real IRA, those hardliners who will make no accommodation to stop the violence. Pearl breaks with them over an act which places Stephen, a hapless, slow-witted boy, in the hands of the law. Her primary philosophical concern is her conviction that the "human will to harm," is pernicious and pervasive. She wants to opt out of any further possibility of harming anyone.

On this convoluted thread, Mary Gordon marches forward with a stunning exploration of revisited themes, such as Catholic-Jewish heritage, trouble with fathers, and the nature of personal responsibility. A stylistic note: Gordon employs an omniscient narrator to make comments, in the nature of "Gentle Reader" asides. It is sometimes irritating, but a small price to pay for Gordon's careful deconstruction of everyone's thoughts and actions as Maria and Joseph arrive in Dublin, where Maria confronts Mick, the American angel of the Real IRA, Finbar, Pearl's lover, and Pearl's doctors. She is used to directing traffic and is thwarted on all sides by people whose agendas are vastly different from hers. Joseph is a shadowy figure, more acted upon than acting, and when he does decide to stand up he makes a ludicrous error. Gordon has forged an entirely satisfactory and plausible ending for a precarious set of circumstances. The book is thought-provoking, asking and inspiring the reader to take a position on issues as old as time and as new as the headlines. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Receiving a call from the State Department that her daughter Pearl has been protesting global violence by chaining herself to a flagpole at the American embassy in Dublin and refusing to eat, Maria Meyers heads to Ireland to save her daughter.

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