This novel tells the story of Isabel Moore who must, as her father is dead, finally face the world at thirty. No longer safe, she discovers that she is beautiful, that men desire her and that she desires them. She turns from a 'good Catholic girl' into a warm, vital woman, hungry for life.
The strenuous, sinewy chronicle of one woman's leap over walls - Isabel, whose first 30 years of life have been defined by and devoted to her widowed father, an austere, Catholic, Queens, N.Y. intellectual. Shortly after catching 19-year-old Isabel in bed with one of his students, Father suffered a stroke and for eleven years Isabel has woven her own secure bondage of martyrdom, as attested to by the neighborhood: "she's a saint, I swerta God, an honest-to-God saint." Now, at her father's death, the exhilaration of freedom sends Isabel stumbling after the little girl life she fantasized - men and lipstick and high heels - but she retains the glisten of goodness. Two friends walk alongside as she plunges into a job, attempts to deal with the hot hands of one friend's husband, and reels with the newness of it all. Then comes unhappily married Hugh, love, and finally Hugh's wife - who shakes Isabel out of an unrealistic new-found land. "To regain her goodness" before finally rejoining the living and the adult, Isabel does penance by giving up all she loves to wait upon and live with the unlovable, in the person of a sour former housekeeper Isabel had once abused. Although the characters of Isabel's friends and lovers seem oddly overheated and hastily sketched, Gordon captures the sad quietude in a house of shadowy spiritual contests, in a drift of old people, in a gentle priest. A thoughtful, vigorous, and highly readable debut. (Kirkus Reviews)