Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Three Tales of What Happens 'Afterward'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Three Tales of What Happens 'Afterward'

Article excerpt

IF the marriage of lovers has provided the happy ending of many a comedy and the thwarting of love is the stuff of more than a few tragedies, much remains to be said about what happens after these peaks of human experience: the rest of life.

In three novellas assembled under that title, novelist Mary Gordon explores the uncertain, inconclusive world of what happens afterward. The first two stories look at women living with men they love. The last unfolds the story of a woman who has survived, if never quite recovered from, a youthful tragedy.

The narrator of "Immaculate Man" is a middle-aged social worker in a relationship with a priest. The two met while working at a shelter for battered women. Clement, the "immaculate man," has never been involved with a woman before. The narrator, although divorced and the mother of two grown children, has also never really experienced the transport of "being in love."

Although she does not share his religious beliefs, the narrator loves Clement for many of the qualities of faith, purity, and goodness associated with his vocation. She fears for the future of his faith and fears she may eventually lose him to some other woman - younger, more beautiful, more manipulative.

The narrator of "Living at Home" also lives in a state of suspense, not so much because of the circumstances of her marriage as because of an anxiety about the precariousness of "normal" life itself. She is a psychiatrist who works with autistic children. He is her fourth husband, an Italian journalist irresistably drawn to the world's hot-spots: famines, wars, coups, and revolutions. Their marriage has flaws, but it works because, as the narrator tells us, she wants it to work: "without him my life is less abundant and I do not want a less abundant life."

What does it mean to have a home, what does it take to live a life? …

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