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A wise and entertaining novel about a woman who has lived life on her own terms for seventy-five defiant and determined years, only to find herself suddenly thrust to the center of her family’s various catastrophes

Meet Florence Gordon: blunt, brilliant, cantankerous, and passionate, a feminist icon to young women. At seventy-five, Florence has earned her right to set down the burdens of family and work and shape her legacy at long last. But just as she is beginning to write her long-deferred memoir, her son Daniel returns to New York from Seattle with his wife and daughter, and they embroil Florence in their dramas, clouding the clarity of her days with the frustrations of middle age and the confusions of youth. And then there is her left foot, which is starting to drag.

With searing wit, sophisticated intelligence, and a tender respect for humanity in all its flaws, Brian Morton introduces a constellation of unforgettable characters. Chief among them is Florence, who can humble the fools surrounding her with one barbed line, but who eventually finds there are realities even she cannot outwit.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Combining a rigorous intellect and a deep humanity, this is the story of a feminist hero, a family coming together and apart, and the ways we interpret the past and attempt to face the future. Most of all, Florence Gordon shows how passion—of one type or the other—shapes a heart.”

    Alice Sebold, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lovely Bones

  • “Florence is one feisty seventy-five-year-old. A brilliant ‘feminist icon,’ she’s also a cranky pain in the neck, forever resisting her family’s attempts to corral her. In this smart, funny, and compassionate book, Morton brings the whole endearing bunch to life as they struggle with surprising events and get ambushed by unruly emotions. It’s a treat.”


  • “The realist novel is far from dead. Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon offers a lovely example of the quiet, nourishing pleasure it affords…With no pyrotechnics or special effects, Mr. Morton crafts an ending that is partly sad, partly hopeful, and, like life, inconclusive.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A clever and amusing novel about intellectual life.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “What a treat it is to read Brian Morton’s latest novel, populated with the prickly, civic-minded liberal intellectuals we’ve come to expect from him…self-aware and humorous…Morton doesn’t insult us with cheesy, sentimental breakthroughs, but he does offer this comfort—characters who are so believable you expect to run into them ordering from the deli counter at Zabar’s.”


  • “Morton is a quietly confident writer, who imbues even throwaway lines of dialogue with crackling wit and whose characters banter like actors in a screwball comedy…Morton, without ever seeming to worry about it, is a terrific counterargument to those who claim that men can’t write believable female characters…With Florence Gordon, Morton has written a heartfelt paean to a ‘gloriously difficult woman.’"

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Morton treats the material with a light touch and a dry sense of humor…He is compassionate without being sentimental, even when his characters face life-changing challenges. His take on the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is particularly refreshing…Morton creates individuals, not types, and makes what could be a familiar story fresh.”

    Columbus Dispatch

  • “That Brian Morton has made an engaging and appealing novel with this difficult septuagenarian at its heart is no small accomplishment…warm, funny and always deeply human…[Morton] develops characters worth knowing…Florence Gordon, for all her fine qualities, never ends up being lovable. But Brian Morton’s novel certainly is.”

    Buffalo News

  • “Morton offers up a fascinating family presided over by the irascible Florence Gordon…Morton’s characters are sharply drawn, vivid in temperament and behavior, and his prose smartly reveals Florence’s strength and dignity.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Seventy-five-year-old feminist and activist Florence Gordon, blunt, imperious, intolerant of distractions, has been fighting the good fight in obscurity for decades—until now. A front-page review in the book section of the New York Times has called her a national treasure…Morton’s intelligent, layered portrait of a feisty, independent older woman is an absolute joy to read, not only for its delightful wit but also for its dignified appraisal of aging and living life on one’s own terms.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Always a pleasure to read for his well-drawn characters, quiet insight, and dialogue that crackles with wit, Morton here raises his own bar in all three areas. He also joins a sadly small club of male writers who have created memorable heroines.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Morton has created an obstreperous, rebellious character who is likable for being true to herself.”

    Library Journal

  • Perceptive isn’t a strong enough word to describe Brian Morton’s insight into family dynamics; psychic is more like it. From the nuances of a long marriage to the inevitable, infinitely sad divisions and tender connections between grandparents and parents and children, Morton nails it all. And somehow he still manages to be funny, even as he breaks your heart.”

    Emily Gould, author of Friendship

  • “A marvelously wise, compassionate, funny, rueful, and altogether winning novel. Brian Morton knows inside-out this tribe of witty, thoughtful people who, for all their decent values and good intentions, can’t seem to narrow the unbridgeable distance between men and women, young and old, pride and compromise, solitariness and community. Florence Gordon is his most generously ample, humane, and vital book.”

    Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell

  • “Florence Gordon is a marvelous creation. Like many great characters in English literature, she is a sacred monster, fully realized and richly present in the pages of this thoroughly enjoyable book.”

    Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments

  • “Florence Gordon is one of contemporary literature’s most wondrous characters: flawed and brilliant, funny and serious, totally unforgettable.”

    Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng

  • Florence Gordon belongs on the very short list of wonderful novels about older women. Florence, the brilliant, cranky, solitude-craving feminist writer, is an indelible character, and her New York—the fading city of books and writers and melancholy oddballs—lives on in these immensely pleasurable pages.”

    Katha Pollit, author of Learning to Drive: and Other Life Stories

  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, September 2014
  • Finalist for the 2014 Kirkus Prize
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
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About the Author

Brian Morton is the author of several novels, including Starting Out in the Evening, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award and was chosen by Salon as a favorite book of the year, and A Window across the River, which was a Today Book Club selection. He lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University.