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Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide


"The Edge of Sadness" by Edwin O'Connor



• Andy Warhol mocks ads and supermarkets via soup cans
• Ed Roberts, paralyzed, wins fight to attend UC Berkley
• Bob Dylan writes protest anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind”



Edwin O’Connor was an Irish American born in Providence, RI. The novel is dedicated to Frank O’Malley, the alcoholic Notre Dame professor who encouraged O’Connor to pursue writing and to avoid booze.


Diane Greenwood, Wayne, PA

Featured Reader

"'The Edge of Sadness' explores isolation/loneliness and business as an escape from dealing with the psychological impact of despair from isolation/loneliness. The “self-performance review” of the main character reveals the critical need to be inclusive in community.
“This novel is a story of the struggle of connectedness versus loneliness. When we sometimes feel desperate to connect, we isolate the most and that can lead to the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Years ago, as a young idealistic social worker, I worked at a treatment center for priests and religious. As much as I hated to admit it, having grown up Catholic, I came to the position with pre-conceived notions about those who entered religious life. In my clinical role, I learned to accept each individual, and hear each person’s OWN story and struggles. Through a wider lens, humanity shares a universal need for love and connection. The collective need for connectedness binds individuals and humanity, regardless of position in life or vocation. Self-reflection and forgiveness are the secret sauce to restore hoping.”
Diane’s Inclusive Cause: Now, National Organization for Women


Hard times for Boston parish and its alcoholic priest


Priest lies about his father to a wealthy, pitiless elderly man on his deathbed. Old man lives on believing the priest’s father liked and respected him.


American Catholic writer takes on how the church dealt with alcoholism and isolation of its priests. First Irish American to win a major literary award.


664 pages of sadness.


Safeguard second chances. Ensure community safety as well support and supervision.


Focus on the Catholic church through the lens of a priest with related problems: loneliness and alcoholism. Addresses class divides within Boston’s Irish community.


Guinness and mocktails for book club participants in recovery.


“They (the faces) belong to human beings who, after a lifetime of struggling to become one thing or another, have succeeded only in becoming the rough sketches of their species, recognizable but empty, the bruised and wretched bodies and souls of the saddest people on earth: the people who no longer care.” 


Outdoor lawn of Catholic Church or closed parish setting in urban area.


Why is Willie closer to his midshipman classmates on day one than he is to his family?


Church tour of Boston or another city. Be sure to visit churches in very different kinds of neighborhoods.


No known adaptations of The Edge of Sadness.
O’Connor’s “The Last Hurrah” is a 1958 film.


O’Connor’s “The Last Hurrah” is also set in New England and is about a leader struggling to stay in the game (be re-elected as mayor of an unnamed city assumed to be Boston).

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