A fictional account of one woman’s struggle with marriage and faith.
K. (The Lent Hand, 2011, etc.) introduces us to Mary Stanley, a proper Catholic girl of the 1970s whose life plan could be plotted by a GPS: “It was all crystal clear. Marry. Mother. Endure. Ascend. Bingo.” And of course, remain a virgin until marriage and honor the other precepts of Holy Mother Church. Mary marries a good Catholic boy from the neighborhood, Bruce O’Kenna, and slow disaster follows. Bruce has an undersized penis (not a spoiler: we learn this on the very first page). Bruce lets his penis define his life and excuse him from finding real happiness. He is a passive aggressive, insufferable, controlling whiner. K. paints a wonderfully grim picture of this husband that faithful Mary endures—which would seem to have become the key word in her life agenda. Bruce does give her three children, however, and when the book opens, Mary is a middle-aged, divorced (in the eyes of the state, if not the church), empty-nester unjustly fired from her job as a bookkeeper for the diocese; she discovered a lot of fiscal hanky-panky—and mishandling of rogue priests—and could keep quiet no longer. Mary then volunteers at a women’s shelter. This section reads almost like nonfiction and includes anecdotes about women who keep screwing up—neither gender is spared in this book—and those who finally manage to take control of their lives. Mary, aided by her friend Sister Agatha, another fighter and realist, begins to come into her own spiritually. Eventually, Bruce dies, freeing Mary to remarry. This is a story of bad breaks and redemption, a story of choices. Bruce always sees the glass as half empty, and it impoverishes his life. Mary is no Pollyanna, but neither is she a quitter. At the end of the book, she’s a mature woman who has seen what life can throw at a person and has learned to deal with it. There are old truths here known to any true grown-up, but it is good to be reminded of them again.
A witty and wise read, especially for fans of tough-minded heroines.