Mary McGarry Morris

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Mary McGarry Morris (born February 10, 1943) is an American novelist, short story author and playwright. In 1991, Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times described Mary McGarry Morris as "one of the most skillful new writers at work in America today";[1] The Washington Post has described her as a "superb storyteller";[2] and The Miami Herald has called her "one of our finest American writers.[3]" She has been most often compared to John Steinbeck and Carson McCullers. Although her writing style is different, she also has been compared to William Faulkner for her character-driven storytelling. A finalist for the National Book Award[4] and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction[5] and best-selling author, Morris has published eight (8) novels and numerous short stories and has written a play about the insanity trial of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Published novels[edit]

Her first novel, Vanished,[6] was written over ten-year period with only her husband and children aware of her writing effort.[7] It was rejected by numerous publishers and agents before an agent, Jean Naggar, helped her sell it to Viking Press.[7] It was published in 1988 to favorable reviews and was a finalist for the National Book Award[4] and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.[8]

Her 1991 novel, A Dangerous Woman,[9] was named by Time Magazine as one of the "Five Best Novels of the Year"[10] and as one of the best books of the year by American Library Association (ALA) Library Journal. As a result of A Dangerous Woman, Morris won the "Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award".[11] The novel also was the basis for a 1993 movie of the same name which starred among others Debra Winger, Gabriel Byrne, David Strathairn, Barbara Hershey, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Her 1995 novel (her third) Songs in Ordinary Time,[12] sold one and one-half million copies; was a New York Times Bestseller; was a selection of Oprah's Book Club;[13] and was made into a CBS made for television movie starring Sissy Spacek and Beau Bridges.

Her 2000 novel, her fourth, Fiona Range[14] was published to critical acclaim. A reviewer for The New York Times Book Review stated about Morris' writing: "She can bring the ordinary to life with the sheer clarity of vision. She knows how a house with children in it sounds at night, what the heat and bustle in a kitchen feel like before a family dinner and how indiscretions arise in a dining room when everyone is flushed with wine."

Morris' fifth novel, published in 2004 was entitled A Hole in the Universe [15] and tells the story of what happens when a man returns to his community after serving 25 years in prison for murder. The Washington Post wrote the following: "Morris is a master at sympathetic portraits of those clinging to the peripheries of society. And nowhere is her talent more evident than in her extraordinary new novel, A Hole in the Universe. Morris [is] a superb storyteller...and [her] undeniable compassion for and intuitive understanding of her characters' lives make us know and care about these people, too."

Her sixth novel, The Lost Mother[16] was published in 2005 and from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy tells the story of what happens when the boy's mother leaves him, his sister and his father in the midst of the Great Depression. The Boston Globe described the book as "wonderful and absorbing" while The Washington Post wrote "The Lost Mother is the quietest, subtlest novel that ever kept me up into the small hours of the night, unable to look away."

Mary McGarry Morris stated the following about The Lost Mother:

"Inspiration was easy because it was during those same years that my grandmother abandoned her husband and three children. The day she left, she brought her four-year-old daughter and youngest child, my mother, to a friend's house, then, dressed in her very best clothes, my grandmother climbed into a taxi and rode away forever. The image of that little girl watching from the window as her mother deserted her would come to me whenever there was sorrow in my mother's life. Forgiving by nature, my mother tried to understand what had happened, but because she felt such love and fierce loyalty to her own children, her mother's actions remained a painful, troubling mystery. Growing up, I was keenly aware of the loss my mother felt as well as the great love and admiration she had for her father, a quiet country man who raised his three children alone in those desperate times, often working day and night to support them."[17]

In 2009 Morris' seventh novel, The Last Secret,[18] was published. In an interview on National Public Radio Morris stated that the idea of the book came into her head while she was listening to "Gimme Some Lovin'" written by Steve Winwood and members of the Spencer Davis Group.[19] The Last Secret depicts the nightmarish cinema that plays out in the life of an accomplished suburban mother when her world begins to unravel upon her discovery of her husband's betrayal and that it is a secret only to her, while at the same time a shameful secret from her past surfaces. A tautly told tale of psychological tension, The Last Secret accelerates to a shattering conclusion as it explores the irreparable consequences of two families' dangerous secrets.

Morris' eighth novel, Light from a Distant Star,[20] was published in 2011 to enthusiastic critical claim and drew comparisons to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." It tells the story of a brutal murder amidst family love in a town torn asunder. At the center of the novel is 13-year-old Nellie Peck a pre-adolescent who is forced to wrestle with the meanings of loyalty, love and truth and the growing realization that justice may come at an extremely high price to all three. Ultimately, the novel is about courage and heroism and how a young woman transforms the lives of the adults in her world.

Awards and honors[edit]


Morris was born in Meriden, Connecticut; was raised in Rutland, Vermont and currently resides in Andover, Massachusetts. She married Michael W. Morris and lives with him in Massachusetts. Her husband is a partner in the law firm Morris, Rossi & Hayes in Andover, Massachusetts. She and her husband had 5 children and, as a result, Morris spent many years writing late at night after her children went to bed. For many years before she was published, Morris did not share with her friends and extended family members that she was writing novels. Her first novel Vanished created a sensation not only for its award nominations, but also for the fact that few in literary circles and in her hometown knew she was a writer. Before she was able to dedicate herself entirely to writing, Morris worked as a social worker for the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Not surprisingly given her upbringing and her residence in Andover, Massachusetts, a number of her novels are set in fictional towns in Vermont while parts of Vanished, A Hole in the Universe and The Lost Mother are likewise set in Massachusetts.[7][21]

Morris is not related to the author named "Mary Morris," but may be a distant relative of award-winning writer Jean McGarry.[22][23]



  1. ^ Michiko Kakutani (January 4, 1991). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Longing to Be Normal, but Never Acting Normally". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "The Lost Mother by Mary McGarry Morris | Barnes & Noble". 
  4. ^ a b c "1988 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". 
  5. ^ "PEN / Faulkner Foundation | Promoting a Love of Literature". May 21, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  7. ^ a b c "A Writer Is Author at Last". The New York Times. June 20, 1988. 
  8. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  10. ^ a b "Best of 1991: BOOKS-Fiction". Time. January 6, 1992. 
  11. ^ a b "Discover Great New Writers: 1991 Discover Award Archive – Barnes & Noble". 
  12. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  13. ^ a b "ACTUAL ARTICLE TITLE BELONGS HERE!". August 7, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  15. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  16. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  17. ^ [3][dead link]
  18. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  19. ^ "Audio Player | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR". The Diane Rehm Show. April 7, 2009. 
  20. ^ a b "Synopsis". Mary McGarry Morris. 
  21. ^ Roger Cohen (January 28, 1991). "Author's Worlds: Benign Reality and Violent Fantasy". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ "What's in a Name - Letter". The New York Times. October 7, 2007. 
  23. ^