The Longings of Women

Overview

With The Longings of Women, Marge Piercy gives us her most involving, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming novel yet. Through her three unforgettable female characters - women whom we recognize in ourselves, our friends, and our chance acquaintances - Piercy reveals a deep, often secret, part of a woman's life: the need for a place in the world that cannot be lost to the vagaries of relationships, work, or the economy. Leila Landsman has long known that her theater-director husband has affairs with young ...
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Overview

With The Longings of Women, Marge Piercy gives us her most involving, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming novel yet. Through her three unforgettable female characters - women whom we recognize in ourselves, our friends, and our chance acquaintances - Piercy reveals a deep, often secret, part of a woman's life: the need for a place in the world that cannot be lost to the vagaries of relationships, work, or the economy. Leila Landsman has long known that her theater-director husband has affairs with young actresses he casts. But it takes the death of her best and oldest friend for Leila to confront how little is left of her marriage. Adrift with this new knowledge, she decides to investigate a subject that, as an academic expert on abused women, she might consider too sensational: the notorious case of Becky Burgess and her teenage lover, who are accused of murdering her husband. Becky Burgess grew up longing to escape the overcrowded, shabby house where her fisherman father and gentle mother raised seven children in undisguised poverty. She studies the women she sees on television: the way they speak, dress, act. She knows she's every bit as smart and pretty as they are. Once she makes the rest of the world notice, the rewards will come her way, rewards she will never, ever, willingly give up. A Becky Sharp of the malls, she seeks a way up and into the light of the media. Mary Burke does well by her ladies. As a cleaning woman to the affluent of the Boston area, she never fails to be on time, meticulous, respectful. What none of her clients know, and must never guess, is that at sixty-one, Mary is homeless. Once she lived as they do, until her husband "traded her in" and her children made lives that don't include her. To outward appearances so different, Leila, Becky, and Mary share the same longings: to be seen for who they are, to be valued, loved, but most of all, to have a physical and emotional home that can't be taken away. And as their dramas unf

Writer Leila Landsman turns to work when her marriage unravels. Becky Burgess thought she had escaped her poverty-stricken past. Now she finds herself accused of murder. And Mary Burke finds herself divorced, homeless and alone. Three different women that want the same things--to have a physical and emotional home that can't be taken away from them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Piercy's ( Gone to Soldiers ) latest novel is one of her best: like all her work, it's a well-crafted and compelling narrative, and it also deftly illuminates a timely theme. In unpretentious but quietly forceful prose, she portrays three memorable women from different backgrounds whose lives plausibly and poignantly intersect. The three heroines are Leila, a middle-aged Boston college professor and writer; her long-suffering and secretly homeless 60-ish housekeeper Mary; and Becky, an ambitious young wife accused of murdering her husband and who is the subject of Leila's new book. All three face problems typical of women ill-used by men and by society: trying to fill the role of the ``good wife''; financial dependency; the low regard accorded older women; and the difficulties of morganatic marriages. Especially wrenching is Piercy's limning of the modest middle-class aspirations of the average woman and the precariousness of a sense of self-worth that is dependent on others. Moving back and forth among her protagonists, Piercy maintains a suspenseful narrative drive which leads to a rending climax. If the ending is a bit implausible, her readers won't hold it against Piercy; in this book she airs subjects of importance not only to women but to the society that encompasses them. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The author of the New York Times best seller Gone to Soldiers ( LJ 4/1/87) here brings together three women: Leila, who is caught in an empty marriage; Becky, who intends never to be poor again; and struggling cleaning woman Mary.
Kirkus Reviews
From the veteran Piercy (He, She, and It, 1991, etc.): an old- fashioned heartwarmer with a feminist agenda and a leavening of schmaltz that'll get the hankies out for a sentimental cry along the way. Set in Boston and environs, the story begins in late October as three disparate women whose longings for the ordinary (decent homes, faithful husbands, better lives) have been thwarted by men each confront an approaching crisis. Leila Landsman, who writes about abused women, fears that her long marriage to theater director Nick is again in trouble; Mary Burke, a former suburban matron turned homeless housecleaner, worries about surviving the winter; and Becky Burgess, daughter of a poor fisherman, is in prison awaiting trial for the murder of her husband. In turns, the women recall their pasts as they deal with the present. Leila, realizing that philandering Nick will never change, prepares for divorce. She has also agreed to write a book about Becky's upcoming trial—which leads us to Becky and nice young Sam, her reluctant partner in crime. Sam's uncle Zak, initially hostile to Leila, soon becomes her lover; he is also a veterinarian, useful for kind Leila's coterie of stray cats. Ambitious Becky, who worked and schemed to improve her life, married Terry because he seemed to have everything she wanted—until he lost his job and found another woman. A fighter to the end, though found guilty, she plans her escape. And Mary, who cleans Leila's house and is the least convincing of the trio, remembers how her life was destroyed when her husband left her; she's injured in a fire, then is saved by Leila, who sends her to live with sister Debbie in sunny California. Leila, though nowliving alone, rejoices: "at last I am my own woman." Despite some unnecessary speechifying on the big issues: a gripping and affecting story, dominated by Becky, a real original. (First printing of 75,000)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449909072
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/8/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2001

    Three New Women to Share Your Life With

    Excellent. I spent the winter living in this book and getting to know 3 very different and interesting women in some serious predicaments. Piercy's writing style is comfortable, like hearing from a friend. The story of each character is real and easy to identify with. The book is realistic and kind. Even though I didn't like the character Betsy that much, we can all identify with her frustration.

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