For many writers, the places in their past are great storehouses of memory, wonder, meaning, and purpose. This is certainly true for Mary Gordon who in this lyrically written collection of essays ponders some of the significant spaces that have formed and informed the geography of her soul.
In a marvelously rich piece on her grandmother's house, Gordon notes: "My grandmother had no interest in having a good time that is, doing anything that would result only in pleasure and her house proclaimed this, as it proclaimed everything about her." After describing the kitchen as "a monument to her refusal to accept the modern world," the author muses on the house as a place that "demanded strength, but did not give it." After her grandmother's death, Gordon's mother tried to take charge of the house but it was beyond her ability.
Gordon describes herself as an odd child always out-of-place in her own home. "As a child I was not good at playing, which means I was a failure at the duties of my state in life." The author tries to find just the right spot in several visits to Rome, which she calls a city of display. She has a heart-affecting essay on giving up a house in Cape Cod where she had written "happily and well." And in the last piece, Gordon ponders how good it feels to be living in New York City where she teaches at Barnard College. "I am where I want to be, where I have always wanted to be. I might have longed for temporary sojourns in one or another of the great capitals of the world, but this is the place I've always wanted to call home."