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Final Payments Paperback – June 6, 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A first class writer. . . . A splendid balancing act of the intellect and the emotions on a high-tension wire.”—The New York Times

"A novel of great vitality and wit. . . . It can be read on many levels and enjoyed on every one of them." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"Incredibly perceptive and good."—Houston Chronicle

"Every so often a first novel of extraordinary quality . . . becomes a commercial as well as artistic success. . . . It couldn't happen to a better novel."—Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

After eleven years of devotion to her father, Isabel Moore suddenly finds herself with what most of us dream of: a chance to create a totally new existence. Witty, brave, intelligent, and passionate, she sets out to conquer the world. She is supported by the loving encouragement of two old school friends, rapidly becomes involved with two men -- and then discovers that before she can grasp the present she must make her final payments to the past.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307276783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307276780
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Now 39, I first read Final Payments at 18. After college, marriage, and two children, I still get it off the bookshelf from time to time to read for its power, pleasure and insight. Raised mostly motherless, main character Isabel has taken care of her invalid father in their home for eleven years, mostly out of guilt from past events, her intense love for him, and, because this deed is expected by her devoutly Catholic father. All the while, however, Isabel knows it is looked upon as out of the ordinary in the latter 20th century, and mainly, secretly, she wishes it would be over so she could begin to live her own life. Upon her fathers' death, however, Isabel is surprised to find she finds not the relief she expected, but confusion and difficulty understanding how to handle life in the real world. Still a young woman of thirty, she becomes involved with the worst possible men a woman as naive as she could. Her new job finds her only constantly reminded of her former situation with her father, a memory which haunts her until she is forced to make her 'final payments' to her past. The vividity and emotion with which author Mary Gordon has written this book with has made it a stunner. The reader vascillates between sympathy and empathy, humor, outrage, love, resentfulness, embarrassment, and wonder ... and these emotions are written in such firm but elegant prose, she feels herself in Isabel's current situation and is amazed by the logical reality and turns of events of Isabel's life. You will think-- and wish -- you are there.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am presently reading "Spending" by Mary Gordon and find it interesting but not remarkable. Ms. Gordon's first novel "Final Payments" is one of the best novels I have ever read. It seems not many have read this book and that's unfortunate as I strongly believe that most would agree with me. It helps if you're an ex or present Catholic, but all should find it funny and profound. I've never bothered to write a review, but this book prompts me to take my non-existant time to rave about it. The reader will identify and love Isabel and her struggle to find a place for herself in a world that she unprepared to inhabit. In its own way it is also one of the funniest novels I've ever read. Only Breakfast at Tiffanys and To Kill a Mockingbird have moved me this much-high praise.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Final Payments by Mary Gordon seeks answers for living a meaningful life. Isabel Moore, Gordon's protagonist, lost her life purpose when her father died, and must reconstruct a new life without old roles, and religious formulas. Isabel Moore had been her father's caregiver for eleven years. After he dies she can finally live her own life, but she is so overwhelmed she can't move forward. What should she do with the sickroom paraphernalia--the hospital bed, the wheelchair, the commode, and suction machinery? What should she do with the dirty house, the stacks of books, the "pileup of things and days and lives" (38)?

Disposing of stuff is simple compared to deciding what to do with her life. Her friends try to help, but she must do this for herself. When she was her father's caregiver the church rewarded her with the "good girl" label. Even though she had already given up her Irish Catholic faith, she took comfort in being known as good.

Isabel struggles with ethics and morality in a world without her father, and without the restraints of her childhood faith. She relishes sensuality. She has sex with her friend's husband, and then falls in love with another married man. Shocked at her own behavior she fights to make up for her sins. She needs purification. Her self-imposed punishment is to live with, and become caretaker for her old housekeeper Margaret Casey, a repulsive witch of a woman, whom she has hated since childhood. She reasons if she can overcome her hatred for Margaret, she will be redeemed. A nun once told Isabel she didn't have to like someone to love them in God. But Isabel never understood this. How could she love Margaret if she didn't even like her?
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Format: Hardcover
I love discovering an author new to me who writes so well that you just know you've been there; you've seen those people; you've heard them talking. And through Mary Gordon's incisive prose, you perceive everything even more clearly than if you'd merely been there.
It's just too bad that so many of the characters are appalling. Although I admired the author's sense of irony, I wish she had been more generous with a sense of humour that occasionally percolated but never fully penetrated.

Talk about dysfunctional. Isabel Moore is finally in a position to set herself free after eleven years of nursing a badly crippled father. First he was crippled emotionally and then he became physically incapacitated by a stroke soon after his daughter did something that disappointed him mightily. The guilt that arises in Isabel will outlast even her widowed father's surprisingly long life. Isabel is 30 when he dies, and considers herself ancient. Today a 30-year-old woman would probably not consider herself passée. Yet perhaps at the same time a young woman today would not devote herself so completely to the care of a disabled parent. Still, Isabel's actions and reactions seem anachronistic even for 25 years ago, when this novel was written.

Isabel's thought processes are incredibly convoluted, but if you can get past her wobbly self perception (why does she attach herself to so many unlikeable people?) this book is worth reading. You may question much of the character motivation, but you will love the words and how the author has strung them together.
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