Picks and Pans Review: The Company of Women

updated 04/06/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/06/1981 01:00AM

by Mary Gordon

In her second novel, Mary Gordon threads her misgivings about Catholicism through the familiar theme of victimized women. Her heroine, raised and influenced by a coven of five doting women and an arrogant, uncompassionate priest, manages to escape their stifling love. But in college she becomes politicized and loses her virginity to a swinish professor who soon discards her. Her tragic fall from grace—from independent young woman to unwed mother and dropout—is the fulcrum of the plot. As penance, she must retreat to the country to raise her child among the same women and priest she had fled. Gordon, 31, as exquisitely precise with her language as she was in Final Payments, almost compensates for her tired theme, but in prostrating her characters under the jackboot of religion, she redeems neither them nor the novel. (Random House, $12.95)

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