Unfinished Desires; Gail Godwin
This is the first novel I've read by this author, and although I loved the setting, and the novel is beautifully written, it was not an easy read.
Briefly, the story begins in 2001, Mother Suzanne Ravenel is an 85 year old, former headmistress of Mount St. Gabriel's, Roman Catholic boarding school for girls. The school was founded in 1910, and closed in 1990, and the school is located in the mountains of North Carolina. The school serves as the background for the well written novel.
Mother Suzanne Ravenel attended the school in the 1920s, and is recruited to write a memoir and record the history of the school. As she reflects back some 50 years, she is haunted by the events that occurred during one particularly "toxic year", 1951-1952. It was the year she became the headmistress of the school were prominent families for generations sent their daughters. What happened that "toxic year" involving a group of ninth grade girls, and those responsible for their education, causes even the nuns to wrestle with their own demons from the past, about such issues as faith, love and their chosen vocation.
MY THOUGHTS - Most of the story is told from the third person point of view of the many characters involved, except for Mother Ravenel. The story covers shifting time periods and points of view, and at times I felt that the characters and their relationships with others, was very confusing. This book took me about one month to complete, because I found that I needed to read it very slowly in order to understand what was going on. I actually thought about abandoning this 400 page novel, but I am glad that I hung in there. In the end, it was worth it. Unfinished Desires touches on so many themes: families, friendships, power struggles, buried memories, but the most important theme was that of forgiveness -- forgiving others as well as ourselves. RECOMMENDED (4/5 stars)
(Review copy sent to me for review through the Amazon Vine Program)