The New York Times book review team once again sold me on a book by one its favorite authors (Mary Gordon) and while I liked the book, I didn’t like it for the reasons the Times suggested.
Gordon’s previous books have tales of moral consequence, and so does “Payback” which is what attracted the Times. However, “Payback” ends in a stalemate which, I suppose, is the moral of this story of two women whoseearly good relationship sours when the older (teacher) puts the younger (student) in a position where she endures emotional harm.
That harm trails both women through the next 40 years of their lives in which the younger woman’s anger grows as she ponders the damage done, while the older woman ponders her guilt in a way that it is allowed to mature into a mellow acceptance.
When they meet again after 40 years the resulting climax of the story is . . . well . . . anticlimactic.
What I enjoyed about the book was Gordon’s wonderfully elegant writing in which her character development is powerful as she tracks the women through their lives. She also does an amazing job of transiting scenes and times without any interruption in the flow of writing, even to the point of doing the job within a paragraph and once or twice within a sentence. In several places I just looked up and wondered how I got where I was reading!
I’ve seen that done with key changes music by the likes of Mozart and Schumann, but I can’t recall transitions that smoothly done in written art.
But would I recommend “Payback?” Nah . . . only if you get a free copy.