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The Love of My Youth Paperback – April 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thoughtful and moving, Gordon's latest captures the ardor and vulnerability of young love and the cautious circumspection of middle age. Miranda and Adam began a love affair in high school that endured through college only to end in a painful betrayal. When a mutual friend brings them together in present-day Rome, they haven't seen each other in more than three decades. Adam's ambitions to be a concert pianist never came to pass, and Miranda, once convinced that political activism could change the world, is now an epidemiologist. Both have married and raised children, but Rome still holds passionate memories for them. Though wary, they meet for daily walks, and Gordon's vividly detailed descriptions make Rome a palpable presence. Miranda and Adam tentatively reveal to each other the events of their lives, touching on aspirations, disillusionments, ideals, and desires, and these conversations set the pace of Gordon's novel. Only when Miranda is about to leave Rome are they able to fully express their emotions and achieve catharsis. Gordon's (Pearl) restraint is admirable, gradually exposing the differences in character that spelled the inevitable demise of this relationship. An accumulation of detail breathes life into her characters, and the writer's affection for this beloved, eternal city is endearing. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Miranda and Adam were each other�s first love, but they�ve had no contact for 30 years. Their heady reunion takes place in Rome, a city of myths and ghosts Adam knows well, allowing him to show Miranda, there for an environmental health conference, the sights and allowing Gordon to make the most of gorgeous settings redolent with ancient secrets and sorrows. The ensuing intense conversations between Miranda and Adam are so psychologically intricate and complexly metaphysical and aesthetic that they seem impossibly theatrical. And yet, as the novel deepens in extended flashbacks, their intoxicating exchanges become exquisitely involving. We learn that their blissful love bloomed when they were 16 in the mid-1960s and slowly withered during their twenties as Adam devoted himself to becoming a great pianist and Miranda searched for a way to help make the world a better place. The more they talk on their Roman rambles, the more the reader burns to know what finally drove them apart. In her first novel since Pearl (2005), virtuoso and versatile Gordon offers brilliantly fresh takes on family conflicts, women�s lives, war, and global suffering while ingeniously meshing classic love stories with modern mores, and ecstasy with wisdom, to create an enthralling drama of innocent passion, crushing tragedy, and the careful construction of stable, nurturing lives. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Gordon is a major writer, and her alluring novel will be supported by a big media push and national tour. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307390322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307390325
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If ever you've considered revisiting the lost love of your youth...or have actually done it, then this is without question a book I think you'll want to read and will long remember.

Superbly constructed and beautifully written by master storyteller Mary Gordon, this is the tale of Miranda, now an epidemiologist, and Adam, now a music teacher, who fell in love at 16 only to watch a mutually presumed "forever" blow up in their faces in their early twenties. There's been no contact since and, now, 36 years later, all that remains are the not-quite-buried residues of gnawing anger for her and gnawing guilt for him. Both have families, have done well for themselves and are about to turn 60. When a mutual friend from college days learns, quite serendipitously, that both Adam and Miranda are in Rome, where she now lives, she invites them to her family's apartment for dinner. Each of them is wary, discomfited and not at all sure this is a good idea, but the invitations are accepted and eventually the apology that one came looking for and the forgiveness the other sought will become something more: a search for understanding and an answer to the unanswerable questions "Am I the person who I was?" and "What has become of me?"

To that end, our protagonists will devote a part of each day of Miranda's three-week stay to walking and talking together and gradually coming to terms with their past and each other while exploring many of the glories that are Rome. Each of the present-day chapters features a different Roman destination...a church, a museum, a restaurant, a garden, an iconic statue ...while every now and then the author's voice interrupts to insert a chapter of backstory. I loved it.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By nose in book on April 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read (and loved) Mary Gordons first novel, Final Payments when it was published in 1978, so I am the right age to empathize with her geriatric former lovers. I tried
very hard to like this book. There were lovely, insightful passages, and the idea
of the long estranged couple meeting in Rome, where they had lived together years ago, and becoming re-acquainted is full of promise. But why do they have to talk so much? The book is at least half dialogue, and, as many other readers have
complained, this dialogue is wooden, stilted stuff. It reads like something from
a very poorly done translation-nobody has ever spoken like this, and it is so bad that it manages to distract from the story and the characters. Instead of sympathy for Adam and Amanda in their attempt understand the past, I just wanted them to shut up already.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Mary Gordon's "The Love of My Youth," Adam and Miranda, by chance, encounter one another in Rome in 2007. Forty years earlier, they were high school students in Westchester, New York. He was an aspiring classical musician. She wanted to save the world. They were certain that they would marry, have children, and pursue their dreams together. However, their relationship ended badly, and they took separate paths.

"The Love of My Youth" is mostly a series of philosophical conversations between Miranda and Adam. They are, at first, nervous in one another's presence but, gradually, they loosen up and start speaking freely. Adam takes Miranda to see the beautiful places he treasures. He is an excellent tour guide, as he is fluent in Italian and has a broad knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Rome's many attractions. They visit dozens of restaurants and cafés, gaze at statues, fountains, gardens, and churches, and talk about "the way we were."

Occasionally, Gordon flashes back to the sixties and early seventies to fill in the blanks about what happened to this once inseparable twosome. As a teenager, Adam was a dedicated pianist, obsessed with his art. He would, for example, work hard "trying to determine the perfect fingering, the ideal tempo, for a Beethoven sonata, a Bach partita." Miranda, on the other hand, was a socially conscious young woman whose passion was "stopping the war. Stopping racism. Stopping poverty. Diminishing the injustice of the world." They were innocent and naïve. It never occurred to them that, since they were so dissimilar in temperament and outlook, their affection and desire for one another might not be enough to guarantee a lifetime of devotion.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By learning to on April 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Being of the generation and the general age of the characters in the story, the flyleaf summary attracted me. I've not read this author before, and was intrigued. It has become one of those books that is bad enough you have to push yourself to get through it; but not bad enough to just get it out of the house, unfinished (which, notably, I've only done twice in over 50 years of inhaling books and their stories).
It's her writing style, which clearly enchants enough people that she's sold more than a few books; but which is frustrating to me. At the simplest level, her lack of use of transitions leaves me feeling as though I'm watching a play with a series of poorly connected acts; that I have to readjust with each chapter where they are and how they got there. Her use of punctuation isn't wrong, per se, but I have had to check back so many times to see who's talking (and a good portion of this book is a series of dialogues that read more like alternating monologues), that I'm annoyed enough to have to put the book down for later. The monologues themselves are so stilted and detached that one hasn't the feeling that these people are really interacting; rather, that they are reading a series of scripts to each other.
But the saving grace is her understanding of human dynamics: those little subthoughts and feelings of which we're often not fully aware, those tiny things that motivate us at some subterranean level of which we may not be cognizant that has us behaving in ways we puzzle over later--these are accurately portrayed. These characters are too acutely self-aware to be real, but self-awareness of a sort does come to us by this point in life. The author does illustrate this nicely in juxtaposing the impulsivity and angst of youth against the calculated softer grief and acceptance of late middle age.
And that is her strength. It is what keeps me reading the book, despite its lack of beauty.
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