The aggressive, spirited, courageous Mary is a splendid creation, with all of her senses alert. O’Brien expertly depicts her reveling in the tastes, touches, sights, and sounds of nature, not only in the sexual. In a world full of birds, roses, and mirrors, Mary likes her own image, most of the time. She does include within herself some of the obverse characteristics of her extroverted personality—the “alternate characteristics” which she reads in the teacloth (as opposed to the tea leaves) that her father gave her for Christmas. Her former apartment-mate, Madge, who “riled against her maker that all her buzzies [her husband and men-friends] were hapless losers,” specifically brings out this darker side of Mary. Yet always she felt “there’s some valuable inside me. I will laugh and I will cry. There is little difference. What more do I want?” She has so successfully integrated the romantic side of her personality into the whole that, at her best, she is like the very minor character she remembers meeting in a queue, who said to her: “I am earthy but I dream sometimes.” When she is not recollecting her family in Ireland, to the chagrin of ultrafeminist critics, Mary’s dreams are most often linked to her memories of previous loves and her hopes for a man in her life.
This circle of men, now dwindling, includes in it the following characters: Nick Finney of the London Irish; the crooner back in the West with whom she first had sexual...
(The entire section is 484 words.)