Florence Gordon

FlorenceGordonFlorence Gordon
Brian Morton
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 23, 2014), 323 pages
Kindle Edition $9.00, Amazon Hardcover $15.81
e-book borrowed from the Santa Clara County library system

In Florence Gordon Brian Morton has done an effective job of speaking with a woman’s voice, just as Kurt Anderson did in True Believers a few years back. Unlike True Believers, which was written in the first person, Florence Gordon is written in the third person. Three of the four main characters are female, and Morton does a marvelous job of taking us inside their minds, as he does with the male character as well.

Florence Gordon of the title is an aging feminist in New York City who was right in the middle of the fray at the height of the women’s movement and is getting some of the recognition she deserves. She struggles with writing her memoir and with failing health. Her son Daniel is a straight-laced cop who ended up in Seattle. When Daniel was dating Janine she was amazed to learn who his mother was and honored to become Florence’s daughter-in-law. Their daughter Emily, of college age and at loose ends, has the greatest respect for her grandmother.

In spite of the book’s title, the other three characters get as much attention as Florence. They are all real people with their strengths and faults. The the book comes to an end with few of the loose ends tied up. I’ll leave that description to Maureen Corrigan, a far more adept reviewer of books than I am, from her review on the NPR program Fresh Air:

quoteFlorence Gordon is one of those extraordinary novels that clarifies its readers’ sense of things, rather than cozying up to our conventional pieties. Morton’s ending is straight out of a Chekov story: It’s up in the air and brave; a closing vision of a life in all its messy contradictions, just limping down the street.

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