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“She will not say what is in her mind: I wanted her to be on my side, to vilify you, to be with me against you. But she wouldn’t. She said, ‘But you must understand he is my son. He has only one mother. I can never not be with him. I can never be against him. You want me to be against him, and this I can never do.’ “

What is this, “Love Story, Revisited”? I don’t mean to be harsh, but Mary Gordon has written some truly wonderful books (“Pearl,” “Final Payments,” “The Company of Women,” among others), and in my opinion, this just isn’t up to her usual high standard.

Also, some of her sentences are awkward (“She sees the desirability of what her daughter is moving away from her to approach…”) and others are simply cliches (“He loves her now as a weak thing, but he doesn’t love her as a tree loves the sun” and, at the bottom of the same page, “The darkness of the world has wiped its brush across her face…”).

There’s some nice writing at the end, but by then, the damage has been done. When Ms. Gordon finally reveals Adam’s great sin, there are fewer than 50 pages left in the book. I’ll leave it to you to judge whether the wait was worth it. As for me, I’m already waiting for Mary Gordon’s next novel.

John Greenya is a Washington-area writer.