The Longings of Women

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( 619 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780449909072: The Longings of Women

"Every new novel by Marge Piercy is cause for celebration. THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is a rich tapestsry filled with passion and rage and real love, a book that gets under your skin and stays with you long after the last page has been turned."

ALICE HOFFMAN

Leila Landsman, an academic, is married to a philandering theatre director. An expert on abused women, she begins to investigate the notorious case of Becky Burgess and her teenage lover, who are accused of murdering her husband. As Leila is drawn into Becky's life story of ambition and need, she also meets Mary Burke, a respectable cleaning lady who has no place to live. As all three lives intertwine, and their dramas unfold, Marge Piercy probes their minds and hearts, sharing the frustration, rage, determination and joy that thread through every women's life.

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From 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 now living 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) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Piercy is an involving and satisfyingly concrete writer, whether she's writing about a post-nuclear holocaust future in He, She and It or this novel's trio of tough-minded women. Leila is the linchpin. A tall, full-bodied professor and author who writes about grave topics such as incest or how women cope with imprisonment, she is the major breadwinner in her household. Husband Nick is in theater. He usually stages plays close to home in the Boston-Cambridge area but periodically goes on the road and, just as often, acquires a young, svelte actress to keep him company. Leila, loving and faithful to a fault, has had enough. Just as she realizes that her cat is far better company than her selfish mate, her agent offers her a lucrative deal on a book about a sensational murder trial. Enter Becky Souza Burgess who is accused of enlisting her teenage lover's help in beating her husband to death. Becky grew up very poor and very determined to improve her lot in life. The first in her large family to make it to college, her dream is to be a TV anchorwoman, but instead, her broadcast debut is as a murder suspect. The third woman in this compelling, well-constructed novel is Mary, a grandmother who, after a brutal divorce late in life, landed on the streets. She works as a cleaning woman and can still "pass" as middle class but is, in fact, homeless. Mary has developed extraordinary strategies for staying alive, but clearly, her position is precarious. As Piercy draws us into the alarming predicaments of each of these women, she traces the progress of their struggles to earn respect and love with unerring accuracy and discernment. Magnetic from start to finish. Donna Seaman

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Marge Piercy
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