What will a self-sacrificing daughter do when her life of caring for her invalid father ends abruptly with his death? In the midst of her loss and pain, she must now make decisions that will determine her future. Will she go ahead and cut her ties to the life she led? Will she find an independence she lacked all these years?
These are the questions before Isabel Moore upon her father’s demise. She had loved him, looked up to him, and now she must create a new life without him.
Isabel’s friends Liz and Eleanor begin to step forward to aid in this metamorphosis. But it’s Liz’s husband John who offers Isabel an opportunity for a job she seems well-suited for. A job assessing the caretakers of the infirm, who are doing so with a government stipend.
First she must sell her family home, but she does so; she moves into a small apartment in the suburban town where she will work.
Another side-effect of Isabel’s new life includes the reawakening of her sexual being. Two men become a part of her new life, but in an oddly unexpected way, the men bring about a self-doubt that will ultimately result in Isabel’s turning away from her new life and returning to a life of self-sacrifice. But will she find what she seeks? Or will she ultimately decide that self-sacrifice is not the answer after all.
I enjoyed this passage which describes the conflicts Isabel faced in her new life as she was struggling to decide if she should go forward with her lover Hugh, whose wife had unleashed her fury upon Isabel in a very public way:
“There had been a gradual darkening in the background of my life with Hugh since he had first suggested leaving his wife. But after she had publically accused me of theft I began to accept the identity of a thief. I lived as though I had been forced into a hideout. It was February; the light was bad, as I imagined the light to have been bad in wartime London. I was afraid to go out of the house. It took a new kind of courage for me to go about the business of my daily life. I drove around the supermarket several times before I went in, trying to calculate the possibility of meeting anyone who had been at the party. In the years that I lived as the daughter of my father I had always been greeted with reverence and delight by shopkeepers, by people carrying groceries. I was the good daughter. I took care of my father. I had nothing to fear. Faces were open to me, for mine, they believed, was the face of a saint. Now faces would be closed to me, and I myself would learn to close my face…As the daughter of my father I was above reproach…..”
Exploring themes of good vs. bad; the pull of desire weighed against the unique place of self-sacrifice in one’s life; and the joys of the flesh contrasted with the possible rewards of giving to others, especially the undeserving–these provocative issues, and characters acting out these issues, populate this very compelling novel. Final Payments is all about what can happen when one makes choices, and it’s also about the consequences of those choices.
I could not help but award this wonderful book five stars. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Mary Gordon’s work, as well as those who enjoy the exploration of these issues.