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Extended Audio Sample Unfinished Desires: A Novel Audiobook, by Gail Godwin Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (880 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gail Godwin Narrator: Kimberly Farr Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2010 ISBN: 9780307576644
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From Gail Godwin, three-time National Book Award finalist and acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Evensong and The Finishing School, comes a sweeping new novel of friendship, loyalty, rivalries, redemption, and memory.

It is the fall of 1951 at Mount St. Gabriel’s, an all-girls school tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina. Tildy Stratton, the undisputed queen bee of her class, befriends Chloe Starnes, a new student recently orphaned by the untimely and mysterious death of her mother. Their friendship fills a void for both girls but also sets in motion a chain of events that will profoundly affect the course of many lives, including the girls’ young teacher and the school’s matriarch, Mother Suzanne Ravenel.

Fifty years on, the headmistress relives one pivotal night, trying to reconcile past and present, reaching back even further to her own senior year at the school, where the roots of a tragedy are buried.

In Unfinished Desires, a beloved author delivers a gorgeous new novel in which thwarted desires are passed on for generations—and captures the rare moment when a soul breaks free.

Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Godwin captures brilliantly the subtleties of friendships between teenage girls, their ambivalence toward religion, and their momentous struggle to define people—especially themselves.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A strong story populated by a host of memorable characters—smart, satisfying fiction, one of the author’s best in years.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Reserved yet powerful…Godwin has created several deeply affecting characters.”

    New York Times

  • A large, roomy story of love, loss, fidelity, secrets, rivalry and faith in the lives of a charming, flawed troupe of characters…. Provocative and rewarding. Boston Globe
  • This rich world…draws and holds the reader from the first to the final pages of the work. Denver Post
  • Tender but clear-eyed …Godwin’s South has always been a place where charm and good manners can barely conceal the emotional drama pulsing beneath the surface…Recalls the fraught family bonds of Godwin’s best novels… San Francisco Chronicle
  • Godwin’s reserved yet powerful new novel is set in a boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina…Though it’s a beautiful well-intentioned institution, the school is anything but serene…. New York Times Book Review
  • If you plan on reading just one great novel in 2010, this might be it… a big old-fashioned book about jealousy and passion at a Catholic girl’s school, written with Gail Godwin’s trademark depth and humor…. Bookpage
  • Godwin’s writing is … marvelous, engaging, clever. Christian Science Monitor
  • Poignant and transporting…convincing, satisfying. Publishers Weekly
  • Intoxicating… Godwin’s latest novel charms. Asheville Citizen-Times
  • Masterly. Dallas Morning News
  • A strong story populated by a host of memorable characters–smart, satisfying fiction, one of the author’s best in years. Kirkus Reviews starred review,
  • If you plan on reading just one great novel in 2010, this might be it. Unfinished Desires is a big old-fashioned book about jealousy and passion at a Catholic girl’s school, written with best-selling author Gail Godwin’s trademark depth and humor … Godwin’s 13th novel is filled with penetrating observations on women’s friendships, family and faith … The wise, human story she tells reaches beyond the boundaries of region and religion, satisfying any reader looking for a good story. Bookpage
  • What better setting for exploring female bonds than a Southern Catholic girls’ school where epic feuds and forgiveness pass through generations? Godwin’s take is smart and intriguing. Good Housekeeping
  • "Ten Titles to Watch For: This seasoned author revisits familiar territory. Fascinating, always. O: The Oprah Magazine


  • A 2010 Washington Post Best Book for Fiction
  • An Indie Next Notable Title, January 2010

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Frances Wood | 1/22/2014

    " Okay - so many things that I like! A Catholic girls school, in a fictionalized Asheville NC, historical as well as physical setting, multiple voices, characters developed in depth. This book may not be to everyone's taste, but I liked it, a lot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellen | 1/21/2014

    " Despite its sensationalist-sounding title, Unfinished Desires is a solid, thoughtful novel about power, control, adversaries and friends in a Catholic school in North Carolina in the early 1950s. Godwin does a good job traversing time and intertwining the lives of the characters, adding dimension and sympathy for all. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rachel | 1/13/2014

    " Double story told in flashbacks and in the present of drama among high school girls and head of a Catholic girls boarding school. I was never that interested in any of the characters- tedious read. Unless you have an interest in Catholic boarding schools and nuns. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rita Andres | 12/7/2013

    " I enjoyed this book, although many of my friends found it hard to get through the first 100 pages. The relationship between the girls at the Catholic boarding school and their teachers (Sisters) was the best part. I loved the end of the story. It is always great to find out what eventually happens to our classmates. But, don't look ahead! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lori Wunder | 11/24/2013

    " I appreciate Gail Godwin's ability to incorporate the life of faith into her fiction in a way that is completely natural and not "preachy". "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marianne | 11/2/2013

    " Characters were not interesting to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 7/3/2013

    " Good story, good writing, good book. For a story that's is pretty slow moving, this book kept my interest. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Peggy | 3/21/2013

    " I was hoping it would be like The Group by Mary McCarthy. I found the plot predictable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joanne Ader | 7/30/2012

    " this is a book by Gail goodwin and author whom I really like. It tells the story of an all girls boarding school in North Carolina in the early 50's. A great portrayal of teenage friendships and how they mature. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenn | 3/26/2012

    " Really well written from multiple characters' living in different decades. Looking forward to reading more Godwin. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shari | 11/1/2011

    " A very confusing tale that spanned generations of girls at a Catholic Boarding School. Many grudges, secrets, and revenge. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deb | 9/29/2011

    " Starts out a bit slow but by 3/4 way through I couldn't put it down. I don't think it is Godwin's best ( because of the slow start) but it was definitely a Godwin book by the end. I'm a huge fan of Godwin's books and this one didn't disappoint. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marianne | 4/23/2011

    " Characters were not interesting to me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary | 4/12/2011

    " too long, got bored waiting for the story to move on "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 3/22/2011

    " Good story, good writing, good book. For a story that's is pretty slow moving, this book kept my interest. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Debbie | 2/7/2011

    " really really hated this book. This week, I am 0 for 2. Hoping something will come along that is better "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julie | 2/1/2011

    " Thought it was slow and anti-climatic. Also, I really did not like any of the characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maelou | 1/16/2011

    " I thought it was very interesting and worth reading. I enjoy books about schools! "

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About the Author
Author Gail GodwinGail Godwin was born in Alabama, grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and received her doctorate in English from the University of Iowa. She has taught at Vassar College and Columbia University and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1981 Award in Literature from the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Her short stories, essays, and articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Three of her critically acclaimed novels, The Odd Woman, Violet Clay, and A Mother and Two Daughters, were nominated for the National Book Award. Her other highly praised books include The Good Husband, Glass People, The Perfectionists, Dream Children, and Mr. Bedford and the Muses.
About the Narrator

Kimberly Farr is an actress and eight-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for narration. She has appeared on Broadway and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Roundabout Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, and the American Place. She created the role of “Eve” in Arthur Miller’s first and only musical, Up from Paradise, which was directed by the author. She appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in the Broadway production of The Lady from the Sea and has acted in regional theaters across the country, including a performance in the original production of The 1940’s Radio Hour at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage.