Florence Gordon; Brian Morton
Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt - 2014
Florence Gordon is a blunt, smart, grumpy, senior citizen and life-long feminist. She’s divorced from Saul, but hasn’t gotten him out of her life 100% as he always seems to need a favor from her now and then. She’s a woman who beats to her own drummer, has never tried to look younger than her years, and now she’s writing her memoir. She’s also very self-aware, and as she writes wonders whether anyone would want to read a memoir about her……
Quote---Florence Gordon was trying to write a memoir, but she had two strikes against her: she was old and she was an intellectual. And who on earth, she sometimes wondered, would want to read a book about an old intellectual?
Maybe it was three strikes, because not only was she an intellectual, she was a feminist. Which meant if she ever managed to finish this book, reviewers would inevitably dismiss it as "strident" and "shrill".
As the story opens she’s taken away from her work when a friend throws her a surprise 75th birthday party. When she arrives and sees all the people who have showed up for her party, she thanks them for coming (thinks to herself that she really doesn’t care what these people think nor does she need them in her life) and, she immediately leaves to go back home to continue with her writing. This sets the tone for just the type of woman Florence Gordon is. Florence also has strong opinions of how people should behave – even the pan-handlers in NYC, she stops and tells one pan-handler to “stand up straight and look people in the eyes” when asking them for money.
Florence has still more life-interruptions during her memoir writing summer as well. Her son Daniel a Seattle police officer, much to Florence’s disapproval (after all he is the son of two intellectuals) returns to New York from Seattle with his wife Janine (who Florence considers a “suck-up”) and their college age, daughter Emily. Their summer in New York and personal drama adds an interesting element to the story, especially when Emily begins spending time with Florence and helping her with her work.
The story is told in short, quick flowing chapters. I thought that the author, Brian Morton, did a great job with all of his characters, showing their flaws and vulnerabilities, and most of all making them seem so human. He gives the reader a lot to think about in terms of how we view our own lives and situations that we are forced to deal with. Florence is definitely center-stage throughout the novel, yet the character development with Daniel, Janine and Emily added other elements of interest to the story as well. I was happy I read this novel.