At nineteen, Marian Taylor cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family and left America to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War—an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties and diagnosed with cancer, Marian finally shares what happened to her during those years with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Marian’s secret history—of personal and ethical challenges nearly unthinkable to Amelia’s generation, of the unexpected gifts of true love and true friendship—compels Amelia to make her own journey to Spain to reconcile her grandmother’s past with her own uncertain future. Moving and deeply felt, There Your Heart Lies explores how character is forged in a particular moment in history—and passed down through generations.
In 1937, Marian Rabinowitz (n e Taylor) is 19 years old and newly married in name only to a Jewish doctor who had been her brother's lover. She has left behind Vassar and her bitter, Catholic Park Avenue family and is on her way to Spain with her husband to tend to the wounded fighting against Franco. Their marriage is a ticket out of Dodge for Marian and a respectable cover for Russell, and Marian in particular is giddy with the possibilities she hopes her courageous new life will allow. Her idealism, however, doesn't last long. Working in hospitals, she quickly comes to face the grim reality of both war and the limitations of her own circumstances. In this commendable new novel, Gordon (The Liar's Wife) presents Marian both at the beginning of her adult life and at the end, a woman in her 90s, living in Rhode Island with her 20-something granddaughter Naomi, who knows nothing of her grandma's earlier escapades until, not quite on her deathbed, Marian begins to tell the story of how, after her first husband left Spain, she fell in love with a Spanish doctor who died suddenly. Marian went on to spend 12 years in Spain, finding both despair and resilience. Marian's story eventually compels Naomi to begin an adventure of her own, hoping to understand more of the loss and renewal that shaped her grandmother. While much of the novel relies on heavy exposition and a structure that feels somewhat artificial, Marian is a delightful, absorbing character, illuminating both a period and a place.
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Where did this go wrong?
Wanted to like this book and get Spanish history as well. Did not like the characters, didn't understand the purpose of the book, writing was boring. What a disappointment.