Synopses & Reviews
An unforgettable novel about love–and the first work of fiction by the author of the groundbreaking nonfiction bestseller In a Different Voice
Kyra is an architect, involved in a project to design a new city. Andreas, a theater director, is staging an innovative production of the opera Tosca. Both have come through political upheaval and personal loss. Neither wants to fall in love. Yet when she asks him, “What is the opposite of losing?” and he says, “Finding,” it galvanizes a powerful attraction, and they risk opening themselves to love once again.
When their love affair leads to a shocking betrayal, Kyras fierce determination to see under the surface, to know what was true and real, brings her to Greta, a remarkable therapist. As the therapy itself repeats the themes of love and loss, Kyra challenges its structure, and the struggle that ensues between the two women opens the way to a larger understanding.
Passionate and revolutionary, Kyra is an exquisitely written love story, imbued with gentle humor. This is an extraordinary work of fiction by one of the most brilliant writers of our time.
“A triumph. Carol Gilligan has always dazzled and moved us with her brilliant mind, visionary wisdom, and compassionate heart. Now she gives us, as well, an irresistible novel about the power of history to hurt us, but the power of love to heal these wounds and redeem us. She is amazing.”
–Catharine R. Stimpson
"Psychologist Gilligan's landmark study of gender and moral thinking, In a Different Voice (1982), set off a generation's worth of Mars vs. Venus debates. In Gilligan's poised debut novel, Kyra is a Cambridge-based architect and professor of architecture who meets Andreas, an opera director, at a friend's Thanksgiving dinner. Both have lost spouses to political turmoil. They are intrigued by each other, falling first into companionship as he persuades her to design sets for his nontraditional production of Tosca, and later into an affair. When Andreas leaves suddenly to pursue his work, Kyra spirals downward, bottoming out in a dramatic attempt to find out what is 'real.' As Kyra begins an unconventional, sometimes combative course of therapy, Andreas floats in and out of her life. The novel's great strength is Kyra's voice, which Gilligan renders with assurance and lyricism. The result is a powerful portrait of a complex character." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Carol Gilligan is a writer best known for her book In a Different Voice. She was a member of the Harvard faculty for thirty-four years and held the universitys first chair in gender studies. She is currently University Professor in the Humanities and Applied Psychology at New York University, and she lives with her husband in New York City and the Berkshires. Kyra is her first novel.
Reading Group Guide
1. Kyra says, “I dont think you can fall in love with a man unless you fall in love with his work.” Does Andreas have to fall in love with Kyras work?
2. Kyra tells Anna that with Andreas she feels a freedom she has never felt with a man before. Andreass feelings for Kyra are also new (“I love you in a way I have never loved anyone before”). Does the strength of their feelings also, paradoxically, explain some of their reluctance to become involved with each other?
3. In their conversation about love, Kyra, Anna, and Roya each say things that surprise them. Did anything they said surprise you?
4. From the beginning, Greta intuits that in cutting herself Kyra was seeking emotional integrity. How do you understand the cutting scene? Do you believe Kyra when she says that she did not want to die but to cut through the surface to see what was real?
5. After Kyra reads the letter from her mother, Greta says, “So you know what love is.” Does this change your understanding of Kyras responses to Andreas?
6. Referring to therapy, Greta says, “You cant do this work without love.” How do you think about love in the context of a therapy relationship?
7. As an architect, Kyra is guided by the vision that to change the way people live, you have to change the structures they live in. When she casts her eye on the structure of therapy, Greta takes her concerns to heart, coming to see that people need to feel free to challenge structures that are not of their own making. At one time or another, most of the characters in the story wrestle with this question. Does this issue come up in your life?
8. When Kyra hesitates to break her vow and open herself to Andreas, Anna encourages her to do so. Why do you think she does this?
9. What do Andreass letters to Kyra tell you about him?
10. Abe, Andreass father, plays a key role in the life of Jesse, Andreass son. What do you make of this three-generational family? At critical points, both Jessie and Abe express their feelings for Kyra to Andreas. Do you see it as a strength in Andreas that he allows himself to be moved by what they say?
11. When he returns to Budapest, Andreas realizes that “what loyalty meant was no longer simple.” How does his understanding of loyalty change, and how does this alter his response to Kyra and also to his work?
12. Do you imagine the relationship between Kyra and Andreas continuing? How do you envision their future? How would you resolve the issues of love and work raised in the novel? When Andreas tells Kyra, “I want to be with you,” and then thinks how difficult this would be to arrange, can you see a good way for them to arrange it?
13. What function do dreams play in this story? Why do Kyra and Greta decide to begin their post-therapy relationship by writing each other their dreams? Do you imagine their relationship continuing? What form do you think it might take?
14. In her letter to Greta, Kyra writes, “Whats always said about my work is that I saturate my buildings with natural light. I think of Louis Kahn, ‘the shadow belongs to the light. ” Does this apply to the novel as a whole?
15. The characters in this story love to think; they give lectures, go to faculty meetings, direct operas, design cities, talk about paintings, and are passionately engaged with their projects. The history of Europe in the twentieth century has played a central role in their lives. What is the relationship between their experiences as survivors of huge historical traumas and their passion for their work and for each other?
16. The action of the story takes place on three islands– Nashawena, Cyprus, and Bardsey–as well as in the urban centers of Cambridge, Budapest, and Vienna. Do the mood and action of the story on the islands differ from those in the cities? Does being on an island affect how the characters see and feel?
17. From the opening scene at Felicias to the midnight supper on Bardsey, food is a recurring theme. What does this tell you about the characters and their way of living in the world?