The Visitation

The Visitation

by Sue Reidy

Paperback(Original)

$18.36 $18.95 Save 3% Current price is $18.36, Original price is $18.95. You Save 3%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, November 19

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684839547
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 12/08/1997
Edition description: Original
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 0.61(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

About the Author

Sue Reidy was born in Invercargill, New Zealand, and attended a Catholic girls' school. She studied visual communications at Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, and has worked in the communications field full-time since graduating. In 1990 she formed her own design practice. She has gained recognition as a graphic designer, illustrator, writer and lecturer. In 1985 Sue Reidy won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award and in 1988 her short-story collection Modettes was published by Penguin Books. In 1989 she was elected to the National Council of PEN. In 1995 she was runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Award. Sue lives with her partner (a publisher) in Ponsonby, Auckland, surrounded by her paintings and artifacts, while a sub-tropical garden steadily encroaches on the house.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

Other children played 'Mothers and Fathers', 'Cowboys and Indians', or 'Cops and Robbers'. Catherine and Theresa Flynn played 'Martyrs and Suffering Virgins'. After school they changed out of their black serge gym frocks and slipped into their saintly roles as Maria, Rose, Anastasia, Agatha, Agnes, Joan, Lucy or Barbara.

All their heroes were women and most of them had died horribly — their deaths caused, naturally, by men.

'So what's new?' Smoking Nana shrugged her shoulders. Grace Malone was a barrel-shaped woman in her mid-fifties. Her faded green cotton gingham shirt strained at her midriff and creased into sausages of fat when she sat. Over the dress she wore a rust-coloured home-knitted cardigan, the buttons of which were made from deer antler. Her hair was a bird's nest of spidery tufts gathered into an untidy bun at the nape of her neck.

Her son-in-law Terrence observed her sourly from the opposite end of the green Formica table. Grace held court while his children hung onto her every word as if it were manna from heaven. He might as well have been invisible for all the attention they paid him when she visited. She was enough to put anyone sensitive off their food.

'Men can't control themselves,' Smoking Nana told her granddaughters and she spread her buttocks out more comfortably on the vinyl chair.

They nodded in response, their eyes big with admiration and curiosity.

Terrence Flynn bit his tongue. He gave a little yelp of pain, but no-one heard him.

'They've just got to prove to everyone that they're in charge.'

'Am I bleeding?' Mr Flynn asked his wife.

'Even if they have to kill women to make the point.'

'I can't see anything.' Mrs Flynn squinted as she peered in. There were three teeth missing on both sides of his lower jaw. It was not a pretty sight.

'Don't get married, girls.'

'There's no blood? I don't believe it.'

'None, I'm afraid.'

'You'll only regret it if you marry. Go out and become brain surgeons or explorers instead.'

There was glory in dying the noble death of a martyr. It was a Test of Faith, the nuns said.

'The martyrs were Saved,' said Sister Mary Cecilia. 'They live now with God in heaven like one big happy family. Your heavenly family, who watch over you.'

'I don't want anyone watching over me, I want to be private and think my own thoughts,' argued Theresa. She wanted to be like Smoking Nana.

'Not a sparrow falls, but...' replied her teacher.

St Agnes refused to worship at the altar of Minerva. She was punished by having her clothes removed in front of a crowd of spectators. She covered up her nakedness by letting down her long hair. Later she was stabbed in the throat. She was twelve years old.

Agnes was their favourite. In their Heroines of God book, dog-eared and worn from constant rereadings, St Agnes was depicted wearing a long ochre-coloured robe and carrying a sacrificial lamb in her arms. Her eyes were raised towards heaven. Her long wavy hair was haloed by soft yellow light. The wound on her white throat was clearly visible.

She was more beautiful than any fairytale princess and braver than Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Snow White, all of whom had waited for someone to save them. Agnes saved herself by choosing to be a martyr. She suffered excruciating pain.

Suffering counted. It guaranteed immediate entry to heaven without first having to endure the flames of Purgatory.

Copyright © 1996 by Sue Reidy

Reading Group Guide

  1. When The Visitation begins, Catherine and Theresa spend their free time reenacting the bloody deaths of martyred young women. "All their heros were women," Reidy writes, "and most of them had died horribly—their deaths caused, naturally, by men." Why are the girls so interested in the stories that end the most brutally? Are they subconsciously preparing themselves for destinies controlled by men? Or are they glorifying the headstrong behavior of the women in history who refused to back down—and paid for their transgressions with their lives?
  2. Catherine and Theresa each represent at different times the two models for females found within Catholicism: "pure" and "fallen." Yet, in reality, neither is truly saintly or depraved. What other female figures represent "bookend" characters who serve as one another's foil? Is the behavior of these women truly different from one another?
  3. At one point, Catherine and Theresa are seated at exact opposite ends of a church pew, symbolizing their growing emotional separation. What are other examples of their gradual detachment from one another? How does their behavior mirror one another at some points, and greatly differ at others?
  4. The older Flynn girls have a profound influence on their younger sister, Francie. Whose behavior will Francie emulate more as she gets older? Will she have the courage to forge her own path—different from both her parents and her sisters? Why does Francie retreat into silence as she gets older?
  5. Catherine and Theresa, as well as their mother, Moira Flynn, despise the tumultuous home life they share—an environment devoid of personal freedom and privacy. All three women realize at certain points that the restrictions placed on them by the Church—particularly the prohibition of contraception—is a major cause of stress within their home. Why doesn't Terrence Flynn make the same realization? How does his unyielding behavior work against him? Will the Flynn boys adopt their father's authoritarian stance, or will they gain inspiration from their courageous sisters?
  6. Discuss how Sue Reidy uses humor and subtle wit to illuminate such a serious topic: the role of women in the Catholic Church, and how the limitations of women either breaks their spirit or forces them to overcome the barriers that surround them.
  7. Catherine and Theresa both question vital aspects of Catholicism. But after the woman they refer to as "The Virgin Mother" (later Mary Blessed) appears in their garden, their dissent becomes stronger and more vocal. Should their firsthand witnessing of a miracle make their faith stronger? Or do Mary's words resonate so deeply that even witnessing a miracle can't prevent them from rejecting their faith?
  8. Discuss Moira Flynn's gradual empowerment as a woman and the subsequent changes in her relationship with her husband. How is Moira affected by her daughters' rebellion? Does their influence on Moira constitute a role reversal, with the children teaching their mother what their mother has failed to teach them?
  9. Before she begins her love affair with Linda, Catherine was certain she wanted to become a nun. Was her decision to join a convent when she got older in reality a subconscious cloaking of her burgeoning sexual feelings toward other women? What ultimately causes her to change her mind?
  10. Mary Blessed is the first empowered woman the girls have ever encountered. Yet her words are clearly at odds with many of the basic beliefs of Catholicism. Does her message indicate that there is no place for women within the Catholic Church as it stands today? Does she feel that women must make a choice to be true to either their faith or themselves? Or is it the responsibility of the followers of the Catholic faith to fight to make it more equal?
  11. At one point in the book, Mary Blessed ceases to be a vision to only Catherine and Theresa and becomes a flesh-and-blood woman everyone can see. What effect does this transformation have on the girls, and how does it alter the power that Mary has over them? Could the whole world really see Mary all along, or was there an actual physical transformation?
  12. In many ways, Mary Blessed is a modern-day messiah for women. How does her message and methods mirror those of Catholicism's only other earthly messiah, Jesus Christ? How do they differ?

Introduction

  1. When The Visitation begins, Catherine and Theresa spend their free time reenacting the bloody deaths of martyred young women. "All their heros were women," Reidy writes, "and most of them had died horribly—their deaths caused, naturally, by men." Why are the girls so interested in the stories that end the most brutally? Are they subconsciously preparing themselves for destinies controlled by men? Or are they glorifying the headstrong behavior of the women in history who refused to back down—and paid for their transgressions with their lives?

  2. Catherine and Theresa each represent at different times the two models for females found within Catholicism: "pure" and "fallen." Yet, in reality, neither is truly saintly or depraved. What other female figures represent "bookend" characters who serve as one another's foil? Is the behavior of these women truly different from one another?

  3. At one point, Catherine and Theresa are seated at exact opposite ends of a church pew, symbolizing their growing emotional separation. What are other examples of their gradual detachment from one another? How does their behavior mirror one another at some points, and greatly differ at others?

  4. The older Flynn girls have a profound influence on their younger sister, Francie. Whose behavior will Francie emulate more as she gets older? Will she have the courage to forge her own path—different from both her parents and her sisters? Why does Francie retreat into silence as she gets older?

  5. Catherine and Theresa, as well as their mother, Moira Flynn, despise the tumultuous home life they share—an environment devoid of personalfreedom and privacy. All three women realize at certain points that the restrictions placed on them by the Church—particularly the prohibition of contraception—is a major cause of stress within their home. Why doesn't Terrence Flynn make the same realization? How does his unyielding behavior work against him? Will the Flynn boys adopt their father's authoritarian stance, or will they gain inspiration from their courageous sisters?

  6. Discuss how Sue Reidy uses humor and subtle wit to illuminate such a serious topic: the role of women in the Catholic Church, and how the limitations of women either breaks their spirit or forces them to overcome the barriers that surround them.

  7. Catherine and Theresa both question vital aspects of Catholicism. But after the woman they refer to as "The Virgin Mother" (later Mary Blessed) appears in their garden, their dissent becomes stronger and more vocal. Should their firsthand witnessing of a miracle make their faith stronger? Or do Mary's words resonate so deeply that even witnessing a miracle can't prevent them from rejecting their faith?

  8. Discuss Moira Flynn's gradual empowerment as a woman and the subsequent changes in her relationship with her husband. How is Moira affected by her daughters' rebellion? Does their influence on Moira constitute a role reversal, with the children teaching their mother what their mother has failed to teach them?

  9. Before she begins her love affair with Linda, Catherine was certain she wanted to become a nun. Was her decision to join a convent when she got older in reality a subconscious cloaking of her burgeoning sexual feelings toward other women? What ultimately causes her to change her mind?

  10. Mary Blessed is the first empowered woman the girls have ever encountered. Yet her words are clearly at odds with many of the basic beliefs of Catholicism. Does her message indicate that there is no place for women within the Catholic Church as it stands today? Does she feel that women must make a choice to be true to either their faith or themselves? Or is it the responsibility of the followers of the Catholic faith to fight to make it more equal?

  11. At one point in the book, Mary Blessed ceases to be a vision to only Catherine and Theresa and becomes a flesh-and-blood woman everyone can see. What effect does this transformation have on the girls, and how does it alter the power that Mary has over them? Could the whole world really see Mary all along, or was there an actual physical transformation?

  12. In many ways, Mary Blessed is a modern-day messiah for women. How does her message and methods mirror those of Catholicism's only other earthly messiah, Jesus Christ? How do they differ?

Sue Reidy was born in Invercargill, New Zealand, and attended a Catholic girls' school. She studied visual communications at Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, and has worked in the communications field full-time since graduating. In 1990 she formed her own design practice. She has gained recognition as a graphic designer, illustrator, writer and lecturer. In 1985 Sue Reidy won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award and in 1988 her short-story collection Modettes was published by Penguin Books. In 1989 she was elected to the National Council of PEN. In 1995 she was runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Award. Sue lives with her partner (a publisher) in Ponsonby, Auckland, surrounded by her paintings and artifacts, while a sub-tropical garden steadily encroaches on the house.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews