There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

There Your Heart Lies

Mary Gordon

There Your Heart Lies is a call to arms—a call to speak honestly about evil when it is before us, and equally about goodness—and will linger with its readers.

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From the award-winning novelist Mary Gordon, here is a book whose twentieth-century wisdom can help us understand the difficulties we face in the twenty-first: There Your Heart Lies is a deeply moving novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.

Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War—an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian’s secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco’s war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years—personal and ethical challenges nearly unthinkable to Amelia’s millennial generation, as well as the unexpected gifts of true love and true friendship.
   Marian’s story compels Amelia to make her own journey to Spain, to reconcile her grandmother’s past with her own uncertain future. With their exquisite female bond at its core, this novel, which explores how character is forged in a particular moment in history and passed down through the generations, is especially relevant in our own time. Its call to arms—a call to speak honestly about evil when it is before us, and equally about goodness—will linger long with its readers.


Advance Galley Reviews

Good, bad and not so good. First of all, I love books told over two time frames, this was narrated in the 1930's and 2009. Marian was a likeable character in the beginning and then maybe not so likeable. She became a bit of an excuse making victim, instead of the strong woman she started to be. Her granddaughter was likeable, but her story had no real depth. Though her young life was not without some real tragedy, she seemed liked a dazed millennial. Being unfamiliar with the author, I felt like I was reading a progressive, anti-Catholic, anti-rich person, pro-socialism treatise. What happened in the 30's cannot be judged by our beliefs today, things change. And generalizations are usually not helpful. I liked the story, but the author seemed to run out of steam at the end. No spoiler, but what Amelia does near the end of the book is pretty illogical. It seemed like an easy way to tie up loose ends. I did not enjoy the ending, seemed contrived after reading the first 3/4 of the book.

As a fan of Mary Gordon [most of the time], I was eager to read her latest novel. The book had two trajectories--a format I often love. Marian of the past--in particular her upbringing [strict Catholic, conservative family] and life leading up to, in, and after the Spanish Civil War [1936-39] and the present-day Marian--and most importantly her granddaughter, Amelia, but also some other characters. The contrasts and conflicts of Marian's young life were very interesting. Early on [no spoiler alert], it is revealed that her favorite brother in her large Catholic family is gay. She ends up being a beard/wife for his Jewish, communist lover--as you can imagine her family does not approve. A doctor, they travel to Spain together as volunteers--her fluency in Spanish will be useful. Much happens--you'll have to read to find out. I found I liked the past story much more than the present one. When the story switches to the present, Marian is ninety-two and living with her granddaughter who wants to know Marian's past--as it's been kept secret. Although the novel has revealed a lot about Marian's life up to that time, much more is told. Well-written and a solid three stars. Captured much of the time but not engrossed. And, I didnt particularly care for the ending.

I picked this book because it is set, in part, during the Spanish Civil War. I’ve been fascinated by that historical time and place ever since childhood, when a Spanish-born friend of my mother’s used to sing Republican songs from the civil war. But this story is much more than a Spanish Civil War tale. It’s about the cruelties that people inflict on each other and the way they justify them. It’s about the blurry line between love and hate. The novel is told in two time lines, one in historical Spain and the other in present-day Rhode Island, and the two time lines weave together in the end. I found the historical sections more compelling to read, though that is likely due to my interest in that place and time. The present-day sections, though, are an important element that reflects on the Spanish storyline from a different perspective and adds new layers and depth to the story. This is a literary novel and therefore very internal, but a compelling read for anyone who likes an exploration of the human condition and the fine line between cruelty and compassion, love and hate.

Young, wealthy Marian, who adores her older brother and was raised within a strict Catholic family, swiftly finds herself disillusioned with the religious extremism and hypocrisy of her family. Her older brother dies in "sin" after the machinations of their father drive him to suicide, and she runs away to Spain with her brother's lover, now her "husband", to serve as medical personnel in the fight against fascism in Spain. He quickly grows disillusioned and leaves Spain. Marian meets and falls in love with a doctor. She becomes pregnant, loses her newfound love, and must travel to his family, a kindly, but weak, father and contemptuous, vile mother who wedge themselves between herself and her new child until she feels no bond with him at all. She finds herself right back under the oppressive thumb of the Catholic Church with the family of her child's father. 7 years of torment with this family until she meets and falls in love with Amelia's grandfather, flees Spain leaving behind the son she never loved and starts a new family. This story switches back and forth between the 30s and 40s to present day, when Marian's granddaughter Amelia requests the only inheritance she wants: the story of her Grandmother's life. Complex characters, beautifully articulated backgrounds, and the outcomes of decisions decades old make this an utterly engrossing read.

This was the first book that I have read from Mary Gordon and I truly appreciated her writing style. I felt captivated between the the past story and history that Marian lived through. The correlation between her past and Amelia's present and future were tied in extremely well. I liked that Marian's story was related and then described to her granddaughter. This book reminded me that our ancestors and grandparents have a lot of history and background that applies to the present day. This was a great read.

 


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