Learning About Myself from "The Odd Woman and the City", by Vivian Gornick - Book Review

There are books I love; that leave their mark. But there are few that are so impactful that I feel the need to reread again and again. I’m not sure what compelled me to select The Odd Woman and the City, as I was not familiar with Vivian Gornick’s work, but I am so happy I did.

Gornick is a New Yorker through and through. She’s lived there all her life and has embraced its darkness, beauty and eccentricities. She has found her own rhythm in a city that hums along with or without you - either you’re on board for an incredible ride or you can’t wait to get off the wheel. In her memoir, which is a series of brief essays, Gornick replays for us conversations she has overheard while walking the streets of New York - some laugh-out-loud funny delivered with quirky banality; though the majority of her essays and musings focuses on her perspective of friendships, lovers and life itself. Gornick is able to dig deep to bring clarity to emotions, and articulate these feelings with such meticulous language I found myself rereading passages just for the enjoyment of the flow. 

I loved this book not only for the clarity of her prose, but for her acute self-awareness and the precision with which I was able to identify with many of the essays. I felt epiphanies throughout; Gornick my analyst as I lay on my own sofa clutching the book and saying, “yes; I see it now!”  Gornick delivers her story with keen observation, often referring to her close relationship with her friend Leonard who helps bring her (and us) to a better understanding of human nature.

Gornick was a journalist with the Village Voice in the 1970’s and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic and numerous other publications. I’ll be picking up another one of her books soon.

Published: 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Vickie’s rating: 5 stars