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Book Name: The Love of My Youth: A Novel

Author: Mary Gordon

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Overall Rating: (3.89/5) View all reviews (total 19 reviews)
Description

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.

Reviews

What If?

by Antoinette Klein
(3/5)

Because it is not uncommon for middle-aged or older women, even those happily married, to consider what life might have been like if they had married their first love, this theme is always popular and inviting. To my regret, this particular story did not live up to expectations and I found both Miranda and Adam difficult characters to empathize with.The reader is given a story of love, betrayal, and many regrets. It is a story that has held bitter memories for over 40 years and now, when both Adam and Miranda are approaching 60, they have the chance to see each other once again. Only the part which went back to their past and saw the couple in high school and college seems realistic. The part told in present day (and that is the majority of the book) borders on the pretentious. The dialogue is stilted and lacks the easy comfort the two shared in their youth. I also found it hard to believe they would spend three weeks seeing each other every day and it is not until the final day, when Miranda is scheduled to leave Rome, that the betrayal and its after effects are even mentioned.This was a book with an engaging title and a lot of promise, but it lacked the punch I was looking for. For a much more enjoyable take on reconnecting with the love of your youth, I would recommend Patti Callahan Henry's LOSING THE MOON. ISBN-13: 978-0451211958


A different take on the usual romance formula

by Bookreporter
(4/5)

Fifty-something Miranda is in Rome for a business conference. At the behest of an old college friend, she's invited to dinner where she meets up with her old flame, Adam, whom she hasn't seen in nearly 40 years --- not since the end of their young romance, when he broke her heart.Happily married with two grown sons, Miranda works as an epidemiologist specializing in environmental threats. Back when Adam knew her, she wanted to change the world through good works. These days, she's less militant about her cause, but her compassion comes out through her work. Adam, once a promising musician, is in Rome with his daughter, a violin prodigy who is attending a special music school. Their reunion is awkward and tentative at first, each one feeling guilty about having betrayed the other, and each not exactly sure how the demise of their relationship came about. Time and distance can play such tricks on the memory.After the initial unease subsides, Adam suggests that they meet each day for a walk on which he'll show her something truly beautiful in the city --- something that the tour guides leave out. She agrees. On these sun-soaked autumn mornings, they seek out hidden gardens and beautiful secret sculptures throughout Rome. As they warm up to each other again, they each let their guard down and begin to reminisce about their long-ago relationship. Miranda was on fire to change the world. Adam was going to accomplish this through his music. And they were going to do it together. Or so they thought.Miranda muses: "We were young; we were younger than his daughter, Lucy, is now. There were things we believed; there were things we wouldn't have even begun to imagine....We thought that we would be each other's one true love. We believed in that idea: the one true love. Now, it is impossible that we should believe that, living as we have lived, having loved others."As they deliberate over their shared past, what once seemed so clearly black and white has faded into gray with age. Miranda bore the sting of Adam's betrayal for years, but she also did her share of betraying. While pondering a famous statue on a Roman side street, Adam remarks: "We believe that it's important to leave a mark, but it doesn't occur to us that it might be a bad mark, undistinguished or corrupt, a mark that would be better unleft." Each one bears a mark from the other. Having lost his first wife to suicide and suffering a heart attack a few years earlier, Adam knows that "there's not an infinity of time" for anyone. If they had stayed together, could they have made it work?Although THE LOVE OF MY YOUTH sounds like a sentimental romance novel, it's far from it. This is not Nicholas Sparks territory. Mary Gordon's well-drawn characters are flesh and blood; as such, they ponder, they muse, they question, and they talk. Boy, do they talk! But it's refreshing to see a different take on the classic romantic formula. Miranda and Adam live in the real world, not in a romance novel, making their actions genuine and relatable. Instead of AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, this is more AN AFFAIR TO RUMINATE OVER.--- Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller


mature readers, of a certain age, will wonder about the love of their youth!

by Dana R. Casella
(4/5)

Finished reading "The Love of my Youth" (Mary Gordon) this afternoon, in a car being pounded with rain. It was a near perfect way to read as I had a really good cup of coffee and a sandwich and 45 minutes to kill! The book left me sighing and nostalgic, and yet sad and wishing someone else my age (about the same as the characters in the book) had read it so we could discuss it. It is a beautifully written, simply told story that takes place in Italy, where a man & a woman, who were deeply in love in their teens and 20's, meet again for the 1st time in 40 years. They go for walks each day, talking about life then and now. Each is married to another, has children, has lived a full life, but their love had been so profound and caused them both a lot of pain in the end. My favorite line, towards the end, when the man says in a roundabout way that he wishes they had made a go of it, was from the woman who states that this would mean the children they each have would never have existed and she can't imagine a life in which those children do not exist. I have often thought the exact same thing when looking back, wondering about past loves, lives that might have been lived. Any losses were worth the pain to have the beautiful children I call my own!Gordon is a seasoned writer, having written the really magnificent novel, "Final Payments" many decades ago and several since then. The backdrop to the walks and conversations is clever, in that the characters relate their lives and loves to the statues, art work and edifices they see. Gordon allows us to get inside the mind of each character as they remember their time together in Rome when they were young, and also allows us to know that, at times, they wish they were sitting with their current spouses, that they realize their demise was probably inevitable. It is just a lovely, slowly meandering novel which, if you lived another life which remains only in your memory, you will appreciate from the vantage point of maturity.


A romance even the snobs will like

by David A. Bede
(5/5)

Actually, perhaps I should say it's a romance ONLY the snobs will like. Despite its romantic setting and extremely sentimental title, The Love of My Youth is anything but a conventional love story. It's a slow read, it features two flawed but likeable lead characters rather than a hero or a villain, and it deals realistically with what happens when a relationship fails.It's also the only book I can recall reading in the past several years that I didn't like much at first, but ended up ranking with five stars. Despite a slow start, Gordon's stellar character development doesn't just make you want to care about Adam and Miranda; it forces you to care. Spanning the dramatic societal changes of 1964-71, the flashback sequences paint a convincing picture of what it might have been like to be young and upper-middle class in those turbulent years. I wasn't around then, but I'm persuaded that either Gordon was or she spent a lot of time listening to women who were. Miranda's growing awareness of sexism and other forms of injustice and her rebellion against them rings true, while Adam is convincing as largely unaware of his own advantages but basically well-intentioned. Minute details about changing styles in clothing, music, movies and family dynamics along the way provide a vivid backdrop for Miranda and Adam's growth as individuals and as a couple. The worst I can say about the "past" portion of the story is that it's a bit stereotypical here and there, but odds are that even if few people who were young in the sixties actually did any (much less all) of the things Miranda did, chances are they know at least one person who did live that life.Interspersed between the flashbacks are chapters of the week or so Miranda and Adam spend together in Rome nearly 40 years later. These are sometimes a tough slog for the very reason that they are such a convincing look at the regrets of all those decades. The ups and downs (more of the latter) they share are not presented with any melodrama, and they don't need any. There isn't much suspense as to what will happen next, and I'm not sure that Gordon even meant for there to be any. What the reader is left with instead is a somewhat unsettled sense of whether or not what happened all those years before was for the best. Which is just what I would expect in a real-life situation like this one, and which is why I ultimately enjoyed getting to know Adam and Miranda even though they were both sometimes frustrating to watch.I appreciated it more than I enjoyed it. But I did enjoy it.


The Road Not Taken: Contains Spoiler that Might Save Precious Reading Time

by Diana F. Von Behren "reneofc"
(3/5)

Years ago, I thought it would be clever of me to revisit someone that I knew "once upon a time." Romantic thoughts of "What could have been?" and "What would have happened?" intermingled with the vantage point of who I was at that moment of time--no longer a child who assumed that if I wished, I could change the world with the freshness of my hope and the steadfastness of my love. Mindless of my youthful aspirations, people are still people and fall prey to that with which they believe they can get away. The school of hard knocks delivers diplomas to those willing and unwilling to receive them and life takes its course following the road it is meant to take. The path not taken may be explored in journeys of the mind without realizing that the ever-touted "choices" that everyone must make at one point of life or another are natural inclinations. For the most part, in most situations, people do what they are comfortable doing and the forks in the road are merely gentle bends to the discerning.Author Mary Gordon morosely explores the "what could have been" in her novel "The Love of My Youth." I use the adverb "morosely" because her scenario, unless meant as a springboard for an over 50 romp in the hay or an ode to the unfulfilled love of one's past, can really only end in one sadly matter-of-fact way.Both protagonists are happily married and yet they meet in Rome, a city in which they both lived briefly together, to assuage the pain of the past and reassure themselves that what transpired was most assuredly meant to be. Both Miranda and Adam are successful and have remained true to their individual promise in terms of career and personality. However, despite Gordon's detailed interpretation of the young Adam's musical life--the dedication, the repetition, the cloistered hours set apart from the world to hone his art--both he and Miranda seem flat and devoid of life, not with the natural tiring of age and release of the turbulent emotional insecurities of youth, but as if they are going through the motions of life without actually enjoying it. Miranda, at times, regrets her husband's absence and Adam looks at his younger wife with a survivor's thanksgiving, but neither character seems to hunger for that singular slice of perfection that they have both achieved. Instead they taint the roads they chose with a woebegone shrug of the shoulders. Instead of giving their all, they hold back and shrink into a mummified repression that yields nothing but regret. Perhaps as products of the 60s the juxtaposition of the fantasy home life of June Cleaver with the "Let it all hang out" freedom that followed was just too much. Miranda and Adam, despite their involvement in their worlds--Miranda is an activist wanting to freely make the lives of the poor better ones, and Adam is an artist with a gift he can not dismiss--neither seems engaged--they remain watchers rather than doers when it comes to the real intimacy that supersedes even sex.Gordon uses the setting of the flashback story in the 60s to demonstrate her feel for the time as this era with its themes of rebellion and anti-establishment angst most likely is near and dear to her heart. However, many of her depictions of the age--from mini-skirted girls to afro wearing men seem like that of a grandmother explaining the alien landscape of a country long ago forgotten to the sons and daughter of her children who think it all as remote and not quite as interesting as the terrain of the dinosaurs. The nostalgia in her voice is not just that of her characters, but her own--this is what she knows and of this, she will write. In this sense, her time capsule does not work; its been done before and with much more fervor.The realization of both Miranda and her one time love seem incidental after all the many walks and talks throughout the beautiful and vibrantly alive city of Rome. The wariness between the two characters is so palpable that it overshadows the wonder of its setting--how could anyone depict Rome without the chaotic hum of modern Vespas or the striking grandeur of monuments that are representative of the highs and lows of Western civilization? How could Gordon paint a portrait Rome without proclaiming its inexhaustible ability to endure? Where are the people of Rome with their sparkling vitality that surely can inject some semblance of joy into the lifeblood of these two characters? Miranda and Adam need the excess of a little vino and some slabs of mozarella slathered in balsamic vinegar and olive oil while they sit in the Campo de' Fiori to realize that they are part of the great circus of life--and what better place than Rome where all roads lead? Gordon's waspy restraint tarnishes the bright silver of the Eternal City and more than suggests that the meaningful grandiose lives sought by her characters lean towards the quixotic and ultimately prevent them and her from actually savoring individual moments without regret or the feeling that something is missing.Bottom line? Mary Gordon's "The Love of My Youth" tires rather than scintillates the reader into an oblivion of melancholy that makes sense only to the two protagonists and the author herself. The festive setting of Rome is wasted on two one time lovers who still seem tangled in lives that once existed rather than reveling in the marvelous lives they have achieved. Why waste three weeks of a could-be happy respite in Rome wandering down "the road not taken" when you already know you deliberately passed it years ago? Recommended only if you enjoy talky no-action stereotypical 1960s dramas whose anthems and ideals have still not been fulfilled.Diana Faillace Von Behren"reneofc"


A Serious Roman Holiday

by Diane "bookchickdi"
(3/5)

Mary Gordon's novel The Love of My Youth reunites two people who were each other's first love in the beautiful setting of Rome. I have never been to Rome, and I think if I had, I would have a better appreciation for this quiet story. Miranda, a epidemiologist specializing in environmental threats, is in Rome for a work conference. She finds out that Peter, a music teacher and her high school sweetheart, is also in Rome with his daughter, who is studying music.They agree to meet each day so that Peter can show Miranda the sights. They haven't seen each other since college, and the mystery of why they broke up thirty years ago is explained at the end of the story. I liked that we got to see their entire love story, from teenage crush to full-blown, all-encompassing love to devastating breakup. They have always been two very different people: Miranda more of the physical world, "she could spend hours looking, sorting", and Peter lived for his music, with the external world not existing for him for all he knew.It is a wonder that they got together, and when they meet again, it is only natural that they wonder how their lives would be different if they had never broken up. They speak of their lives now, their spouses, their children, but underneath it all is a simmering attraction.The writing is thoughtful and visual, such as "his words have made her mind shut down, like one of those metal shutters storekeepers pull down at closing time." Gordon puts the reader into the minds of these two memorable characters, and it may cause the reader to reflect on his or her own past loves. What would it be like to meet him/her again thirty years later?Their characters are best revealed through their conversations, and they seemed fall back on old habits very easily. I don't know that that would be true for most people.The novel is a wonderful character study and travelogue, and the mystery of why they broke up (even though I'm not sure their differences could have ultimately been overcome) keeps the reader turning the pages. I dare you to not think of your own "what if" as you read it.


"Were we wrong to be so hopeful?"

by E. Bukowsky "booklover10"
(3/5)

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 nave. 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.This is unfortunately, not a particularly compelling or enlightening work of fiction. Instead of coming alive as three-dimensional individuals who are worth knowing, Adam and Miranda are like characters in a stage play whose lines are meant to be profound and witty. This exchanges, however, are too often affected and pretentions. If Gordon had written dialogue with more depth and nuance, this might have been a moving tale about regret, destiny, and "the road not taken." Instead, "The Love of My Youth" is a sluggishly-paced travelogue in which an aging couple takes leisurely walks and discuss such topics as beauty, food, health, and parenthood. Although Adam and Miranda ostensibly attain a degree of closure by reconnecting after a long separation, they seem to have already made peace with the choices that they made.


An Italian Love Song

by Eileen Granfors
(4/5)

"The Love of My Youth" by Mary Gordon takes on several meanings in her novel of the same name. She is writing of Rome, of life, and of Adam, her high school love, with whom she had shared a first love, a passion that they believed set them apart from all others in the world. They had run away to Rome where they felt sophisticated and ready to make headlines: he in music, she in social services.But life got in the way, and Miranda experience a huge betrayal, one that took her two decades to even think about again. They each married someone else, had children, led their lives.Now they are back in Rome at the same time. Rome, too, is "the love of [her] youth" and plays an important role in each of the walks the older Miranda and the older Andy take upon their reunion.They talk of art, philosophy, life, death, aging, world events, ambition, and find that though their lives are tipping towards the later years, they still have so much that they can say only to one another, never feeling that same sense of freedom with any other person. They notice things about one another that they don't like, impossible in their younger years.This book reads like love letters. The conversations are long and detailed. The descriptions of Rome place the reader in the chapels and by the fountains.Beautifully imagined and well told, but at the slow and easy pace of people with time to think seriously about life.


No purpose or passion (2.75*s)

by J. Grattan
(3/5)

Set in Rome in 2007, this books details the reunion of sorts of Adam and Miranda who abruptly broke off their relationship in 1970. The book is a disappointment. They both were headed in entirely different directions years before and now they meet for three weeks running in Rome visiting museums, churches, and the like while engaging in the most cautious, awkward conversations.Adam is accompanying his daughter for advanced studies in music and Miranda, an epidemiologist, is in Rome for a conference. They meet at the home of a mutual friend from college, Valerie, who has a mother-in-law who exhibits a malevolence that borders on the pathological. In any event, Adam and Miranda decide to meet every morning to visit some Roman landmark, which the author strains to make relevant to their past.Given their hurtful breakup, it is hardly plausible that they would even meet, let alone engage in endless, innocuous talk. It is not believable that they would not come to grips with the most significant event of their past when first meeting instead of tiptoeing around it. Ultimately, they lack purpose and passion, which is reflected in the book.


When in Rome...

by J. L. Rubenking
(4/5)

In present day Italy, two former teenage lovers meet again after a separation of 36 years, a separation that was ugly and hurtful and bitter. The setting is Rome, where Adam makes his home (and where the two lived together a lifetime ago) and where Miranda is visiting, and after a mutual friend brings them together over a disastrous dinner invitation, the two decide to continue to meet while Miranda is in Rome, each day walking and seeing one object of beauty a day.As the two meet for the next few weeks, we learn about their lives since the split and the life they once shared when they were young. They tour Rome's churches, coffee bars, side streets, and art, and they meander in conversation as well. Little by little, we learn of their love as youths as they converse about art and life and the people they were and have become.Most chapters of the book are titled for the places they explore: "The Villa Borghese," "Santa Sabina," "The Via Veneto." Other chapters are titled for the years they were together as young loves. The pacing in leisurely, and the two stories, present and past, commingle as the two move toward some sort of resolution. Gordon is good at this, and although occasionally the arguments of a philosophical bent are a tad tedious, these two `ordinary' middle-aged people are interesting, flawed, and engaging.


Glee

by Mary E. Sibley
(5/5)

Adam arranges to meet Miranda after an absence of thirty-seven years. Miranda is now nearly sixty. She is an epidemiologist and is attending a conference in Rome. Adam has read about her. The meeting is arranged through the offices of Valerie, another friend and a longtime resident of Rome.It seems to Miranda when she meets Valerie again that she has become the victim of her Italian mother-in-law. Adam's mother had been fond of Miranda. Since Miranda is to be in Rome for three weeks, Adam proposes that they spend the free time walking the city. Miranda agrees to the plan. Notwithstanding a former period of residence in the city, she is overwhelmed by the strangeness of Rome. (She is Yonatan's wife. She was betrayed by Adam. Miranda has cherished a grievance against Adam.)In the past Miranda worked in India on development projects. She worked on the eradication of polio. She realizes she carries a Protestant guilt for crimes committed before she was born. Miranda and Adam dated at sixteen. In those days Adam was trying to be a serious musician.Meeting a former companion many years later means that the characters are cast into a dream of recollection and discovery. This provides a good structure for a novel, an easy means of shifting from the present to the past. Too, Rome is significant to the former story of Miranda and Adam. Bravo. Mary Gordon has pulled it off. Her novel is graceful, lyrical.


Resolving the Past

by Mary Lins
(4/5)

"The Love of My Youth" by Mary Gordon, will be irresistible to middle-aged women who were betrayed and devastated by their first loves, (and I'm guessing that's a huge demographic). However, even if you aren't, 1) a middle-aged woman and, 2) possessing of a wounded heart, you will enjoy this story about the joys and sorrows of revisiting the past. OR, if you just love the city of Rome (as I do!) you'll enjoy this peripatetic journey through the Eternal City. Gordon's descriptions are gorgeous; you can richly imagine the shade of the umbrella pines, the color of the leaves in autumn, the aromas of the Campo Di Fiore, and the feel of the cold stone monuments.With plenty of foreshadowing but little detail about what Adam did to Miranda that was so unforgivable, the story follows the two of them around Rome as they get to know each other again but teasingly skirt the big issues of the past. Interspersed are flash-back chapters of their young love. I was charmed by the things they kept secret from each other, such as Miranda's love for salsa dancing and Adam's protectiveness about his wife's profession; we never really do know other people as intimately as we think we do.Finally all is revealed and it's as you might have guessed. But what's lovely and noteworthy is how Adam and Miranda process their pasts (shared and unshared) in their individual minds and hearts, that gives this novel it's "just right" ending.


Poignant look at first love and its aftermath

by Mary Verdick "Mary Verdick "Another Time,...
(5/5)

Miranda and Adam, once high-school lovers, meet almost by accident in Rome, where close to 40 years earlier they spent an unforgettable summer. Now in their late fifties, with grown children, at first they're ill-at-ease and don't know what to say to each other. But then Adam suggests that they meet every morning for a walk and gradually they start to explore the past and the deception and betrayals, on both their parts, that drove them apart. Can these two middle-aged people remember the young lovers they once were and forgive their transgressions? Neither of them has achieved their earlier ambitions--Adam wanted to be a concert pianist and Miranda longed to save the world--but they are relatively happy in their present lives. And as they explore the ancient city of Rome, with all its majesty, and where once they knew such bliss, they begin to understand what happened to them long ago and what matters to them now. More important, in the process, they are able to forgive and go on. A masterful portrait of first love and the joys and sorrows of maturity.


4.5/5 stars ~ very enjoyable

by My2Cents
(4/5)

Have you ever wondered about that old flame you had in high school or college? The person, who at least at that time, you imagined you'd build a life with. We all know that sometimes, even the best plans don't turn out the way we hoped. Such was the case for Miranda and Adam, first loves from high school.In The Love of My Youth, Miranda and Adam experienced the highs of first love which continued throughout college. Adam was a gifted musician (pianist) and Miranda committed to political activism and social awareness. After college, their passion and optimism took the couple to Rome where they set up housekeeping briefly, but soon after, their relationship ended on a bad note, on June 23, 1971. Each of them eventually moved on, and they married other people, raised families, and had careers.Now, some (36) years later, October 7, 2007, Miranda and Adam, have the opportunity to meet once again in Rome. Both are there for different reasons, and they are invited by an old college friend to dinner. Uncomfortable about the situation, yet curious as well, they accept the dinner invitation, and for the next (24) days the Miranda and Adam spend time together each day. They meet for daily walks, talks, lunches, visit gardens, museums and other sites where the couple had been decades before. Each day more a bit more is revealed about their lives, and each of them reflects privately on their past relationship, and about each other. On day number (3) of their time together, Miranda and Adam reflect about the time spent together,"The day before had been a disappointment to the both of them; each had found the other wanting; both telephoned their spouses, flush with the pleasure of being able to speak critically, yet truthfully: to make the point that really, there was no danger. 'I'd forgotten what a pedant he could be,' she told her husband. 'What did we do in the days before we could invoke the term 'politically correct'? he asked his wife."Throughout the next (21) days, each time they meet the explore their past together, their past apart, and they examine what it all means. It is through this examination of their past, their dreams and disappointments, where they've been and who they've become, that each is able to find peace.Although the majority of this novel is about Miranda and Adam in October of 2007, there are a few flashbacks to their time together in the late 1960s and early 1970s, that enable the reader to see the differences in background and ideologies, that young lovers might well gloss over.I really enjoyed this novel, and thought the author did an amazing job developing the characters, and of creating a memorable story. This is one novel that should especially appeal to the baby boomer generation.


You'll wish they'd done Rome in a day

by N. B. Kennedy
(2/5)

If you approach this book as a study in the tentative, awkward way two people with a history try to connect after living separate lives, you might be able to slow down and adapt to the pace of this novel.Mary Gordon writes in a very nuanced and recognizable way about the way people think. In this book, the reader is immersed in the minute-by-minute monologue rolling around in the heads of two former lovers as they stroll around Rome.But... just as I tire of my own inner monologue, I quickly tired of these characters and their endless thoughts, not to mention their conversations. It is all very mannered and proper: "Your constant kindness to her gave me leave to be impatient." I just don't know anyone who talks like that.The main characters, Adam and Miranda, seem merely to be mouthpieces for the author's contemplations rather than people in their own right. I was interested in the book's setting in Rome, but the languid descriptions didn't perk things up any for me. And the reason that the once-couple imploded back in the day is pretty unremarkable.I love Mary Gordon's nonfiction (Circling My Mother), where she can express her thoughts outright, so I'm happy to continue reading anything she writes in that genre.


A Bittersweet Story

by Robin Friedman
(4/5)

Set largely in Rome in 2007, Mary Gordon's new novel "The Love of my Youth" tells the story of high school and college sweethearts, Miranda and Adam, who meet each other after 36 years and revisit their past. When the reader meets the characters, they are both 59 years old, married, and with grown children. Miranda is a successful epidemiologist living in Berkeley happily married for nearly 30 years to Yonatan, an Israeli physician and with two grown sons. Adam teaches music and directs a chorus at a private school, a position he has held for more than 30 years. He has been married twice, with a grown son from the first marriage and an 18 year old daughter from his happy and continuing second marriage.When Adam and Miranda meet by chance in Rome, introduced by an old college friend, Valerie, they had not seen each other since the unhappy end of their relationship in 1971. At that time, Adam was a serious, aspiring pianist hoping for a concert career. Miranda was a social activist, with a dream of changing the world, ending the Vietnam War, and working for an end of poverty. Both their dreams changed in different ways with life. When they meet, Adam is in Rome because has 18 year old daughter is studying the violin with an Italian master. Miranda is in Rome for a professional conference. They agree to meet each other in the mornings over a period of about three weeks, Miranda's time in Rome, to talk.Most of the book is a daily account of their meetings set in different parts of Rome with its history and beauty. A good deal of the book focuses upon Rome and Adam's and Miranda's different reactions. (They had lived in Rome when they were young and lovers.) As their meetings go forward, the two gradually become more open with each other and with the feelings they once shared and with the passage of time. The stories of their meetings are interspersed with three extended flashbacks to their youthful relationship. Their early romance was intertwined with American times during the 1960's: its changes, idealisms, opposition to Vietnam, growing feminism, and perhaps dogmas of its own.There is a great deal that is true, poignant, beautiful and sad in this story of love and loss. The former lovers respond differently as Miranda has moved forward rather easily with her life while Adam has been plagued with feelings of guilt. But they each reach an understanding with themselves and each other.The problem with this book lies in some of the expression. The dialogue between Adam and Miranda has much that is valuable in the content. But much of it is formal, academic and stilted. The emotions the book captures are true, but not the speecifying. In addition, the book suffers from the narrator's sense of total omniscience. As Adam and Miranda talk, the narrator's voice is sure and complete about what they are saying, what they mean, and what they leave out. In the narrative, as opposed to dialogue, scenes of the book, the narrator's voice is likewise too thorough and knowing about where Adam and Miranda have been, what they think, and how and why they respond to each other. One would have wanted more indirection and more scope for the reader. Adam's and Miranda's story needs a certain lightness (early in the story, we learn that Adam's pianism has been criticized for its over-seriousness and lack of lightness) while Gordon's treatment is heavy-handed.I still cared about this book and its characters. I was won over more by Adam, with his difficult life and his love of the piano and of Beethoven and Schubert than by Miranda. The story of American high school and college life in the 1960s seemed to me to capture the era and to be painful. The book will resonate to those, such as myself, of a certain baby-boomer generation.Although the execution of this book seems to me awkward, this book is a thougtful emotional look at youthful love and loss and the process of continuing life.Robin Friedman


A Curious Reunion

by Sam Sattler
(4/5)

Although Miranda would never consider Adam to be the "love of her life," beyond a doubt, he was the "love of her youth." Adam, in his turn, feels the same way about Miranda. In what was the first serious experience with love for both of them, Miranda and Adam fell madly in love in the mid-1960s when both were 16-year-old high school students. They seemed destined to spend the rest of their lives together until Adam made one terrible mistake - a mistake he has felt guilty about for more than thirty years, a betrayal of her trust so terrible that Miranda has never gotten over it.When, in late 2007, the two of them, now not having spoken for three decades, find themselves in Rome at the same time, each rather reluctantly agrees to a brief reunion there. Adam hopes to find that what he did to Miranda did not destroy her, that she is healthy and happy with the life she created for herself after the shock of his betrayal - most importantly, that an apology from him is not something she needs to hear. Miranda, who takes pride in her personal courage, decides to meet with Adam because she feels that a woman her age should not have anyone in her life that she feels incapable of facing.Thus begins a series of long walks around the city during which Miranda and Adam have long philosophical conversations about everything but what tore them apart in their early twenties. Both are as reluctant to confront that horrible memory directly as they are to discuss any details or feelings about their families. The more the pair talks during their exploratory walks around Rome, the more the reader begins to wonder whether their relationship was doomed even before Adam's fatal error - whatever that error may have been.By alternating flashbacks to the 1960s with scenes from the present, Gordon emphasizes how little Miranda and Adam have changed. As a young man, Adam was focused exclusively on a future as a successful concert pianist; he demanded that his girlfriend (and any future wife) dedicate her life to helping make his dream come true. In Adam's mind, Miranda's dreams and ambitions were secondary to his, if they were to be considered at all. The young Miranda, however, believed she could change the world, and she was willing to place herself in danger in order to do so. What she was not willing to do was to view her ambitions as less important than Adam's.The Love of My Youth builds slowly, steadily increasing the reader's curiosity about what really happened, what terrible thing Adam did to destroy the relationship forever. Gordon adds layer after detailed layer to the characters Miranda and Adam until they become very real, if flawed, people. Gordon has, in fact, achieved the difficult task of making this reader care about her two main characters without liking either one of them. Fans of previous Mary Gordon novels are likely to enjoy this one.


They thought love would last forever. They were wrong. Then, nearly 40 years later, there comes an invitation...

by Sharon Isch
(5/5)

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.


Mary Gordon is wonderful

by Southern Bard
(5/5)

What continues to impressses me about Mary Gorden is that her characters feel so real; You put the book down and hours later you will be reflecting on their lives and how they are similiar or different from you own. I laughed aloud as one night brushing my teeth I found myself worried about the man she describes, "who had not given up his calling." In short, she creates real people - that you feel priveledged to know.


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