Josephine Hendin's landmark study explores the fiction that erupted from Flannery O'Connor's enigmatic contradictions: she was the dutiful daughter of a conservative Southern family, the uncompromising Roman Catholic, the stoic figure enduring a painful fatal illness, and the author of strange and violent tales that exploded all the virtues of heritage, obedience, and faith. The tension between those disparate selves drives the complexity of Flannery O'Connor's literary achievement into the center of American experience.
While other critics have chosen to treat Flannery O'Connor as a traditional Southern or dogmatic Catholic writer, Hendin takes a perceptively fresh view of her work in the context of contemporary fiction. Hendin illuminates all her fiction, beginning with the early novels and ending with Everything that Rises Must Converge. Differentiating her from other Southern writers, Hendin shows how O'Connor created a unique art, remarkable for its portrait of the agony of American yearning.