The Longings of Women

Marge Piercy gives us her most involving, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming novel yet. Through her three unforgettable female characters – women whom we recognize in ourselves, our friends, and our chance acquaintances – Piercy reveals a deep, often secret, part of a woman’s life: the need for a place in the world that cannot be lost to the vagaries of relationships, work, or the economy.


Leila Landsman has long known that her theater-director husband has affairs with young actresses he casts. But it takes the death of her best and oldest friend for Leila to confront how little is left of her marriage. Adrift with this new knowledge, she decides to investigate a subject that, as an academic expert on abused women, she might consider too sensational: the notorious case of Becky Burgess and her teenage lover, who are accused of murdering her husband.


Becky Burgess grew up longing to escape the overcrowded, shabby house where her fisherman father and gentle mother raised seven children in undisguised poverty. She studies the women she sees on television: the way they speak, dress, act. She knows she’s every bit as smart and pretty as they are. Once she makes the rest of the world notice, the rewards will come her way, rewards she will never, ever, willingly give up. A Becky Sharp of the malls, she seeks a way up and into the light of the media.


Mary Burke does well by her ladies. As a cleaning woman to the affluent of the Boston area, she never fails to be on time, meticulous, respectful. What none of her clients know, and must never guess, is that at sixty-one, Mary is homeless. Once she lived as they do, until her husband “traded her in” and her children made lives that don’t include her.


To outward appearances so different, Leila, Becky, and Mary share the same longings: to be seen for who they are, to be valued, loved, but most of all, to have a physical and emotional home that can’t be taken away. And as their dramas unfold, Marge Piercy probes their minds and hearts sharing the frustration, rage, determination, and joy that thread through every woman’s life.


Leila, Becky, and Mary are a triumph – characters who keep us turning the pages, and linger in our minds long after their stories are told.


“Marge Piercy can seat 15 strangers around a Thanksgiving table, and by the time dessert is served you’ll know all of them. Her paragraph on Leila’s interview techniques for talking with battered women is a miniature master class. These characters are so authentic, you’ll want to shake them: ‘Leave that creep!’ ‘Get a shrink!’ “Work at Legal Seafood!’ ”
— Patricia Volk, New York Times Book Review


“It would be a public service to distribute THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN to anyone facing the flu or a long train journey. Marge Piercy’s 11th novel id addictive, engrossing and remarkably successful in replacing the reader’s reality with its own. And yet this examination of modern American life is not an escape into fantasy but a window on the world of hard facts.”
— Anna Mundow, New York Daily News


“What Piercy has that Danielle Steel, for example, does not is an ability to capture life’s complex texture, to chart shifting relationships and evolving consciousness within the context of political and economic realities she delineates with mordant matter-of-factness. Working within the venerable tradition of socially conscious fiction, she brings to it a feminist understanding of the impact such things as class and money have on personal interactions without ever losing sight of the crucial role played by individual’s responses to those things.”
— Wendy Smith, Sun-Times, Chicago


“Like a painter with favorite colors, Piercy has themes and elements she returns to in every book. In THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN, she combines them in three entwined stories that are the most interesting and consistently balanced she has ever written.”
— Susan Hall-Balduf, Detroit Free Press


Mary, Leila’s homeless cleaning lady, is a character to haunt your dreams. Mary’s plight generates the novel’s anguished suspense.
— Kennebunk, ME Coast Star


“Every new novel by Marge Piercy is cause for celebration. THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is a rich tapestry filled with passion and rage and real love, a book that gets under your skin and stays with you long after the last page has been turned.”
— Alice Hoffman


“This is about the best account I’ve yet seen of the condition of women in America during the recent past….It vindicates what every woman over fifty already knows only too well, and presents young women with a chance to gain wisdom without actually aging….I don’t know when I’ve been so fascinated by a novel…What a book!”
— Elizabeth Marshall Thomas


“Hurrah for Marge Piercy! Her novels are rich with fascinatingly complex, sexy, and decent human beings; her prose is always insightful and profoundly compassionate. THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is no exception to this rule. It is a spellbinding and passionate tale full of mystery, erotic tension, and secret yearnings. Piercy’s world is as terrifying as it is timely; it is also touching to the bone. You will not forget Mary, Leila, and Becky, nor the surprising forces that drive their lives through trauma, love, and even murder, to redemption. Piercy is a great poet and a wonderful novelist, and THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN is as good as everything else she has written.”
— John Nichols


“I very much enjoyed Marge Piercy’s THE LONGINGS OF WOMEN. It is full of her special brand of tough compassion. If I was a bit surprised at her answer to What Do Women Want, I also had to admit there was much truth in it.”
— Marilyn French