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The Falling Woman [Paperback]

Pat Murphy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1993

Elizabeth Waters, an archeologist who abandoned her husband and daughter years ago to pursue her career, can see the shadows of the past. It's a gift she keeps secret from her colleagues and students, one that often leads her to incredible archeological discoveries - and the terrible suspicion that she might be going mad.

Then on a dig in the Yucatan, the shadow of a Mayan priestess speaks to her. Suddenly Elizabeth's daughter Diane arrives, hoping to reconnect with her mother. As Elizabeth, her daughter and the priestess fall into the mysterious world of Mayan magic, it is clear one of them will be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice...

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Orb Books; Reprint edition (Aug 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312854064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312854065
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 13.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,911,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Book Description

The NEBULA AWARD-winning novel of Mayan magic in the modern world. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Patrice Ann Murphy was born in Washington in 1955, and is an award-winning American science writer and author of science fiction and fantasy novels. Her second novel, THE FALLING WOMAN (1986), won the NEBULA AWARD, and she also won a NEBULA AWARD in the same year for her novelette, 'Rachel in Love'. Her short story collection, POINTS OF DEPARTURE (1990) won the PHILIP K. DICK AWARD, and her 1990 novella, 'Bones', won the WORLD FANTASY AWARD in 1991. She lives in San Francisco. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as debut 4 Dec 2002
I bought this book because I enjoyed Pat Murphy's first novel so much and her short stories. I have since discovered that this book won the 1987 Nebula Award for best novel. This surprised me a little because it is not actually science fiction: the category on the back cover is Fiction/Fantasy.
The novel is again written in the first person which is unusual in that there are two major characters, mother and daughter. The way she achieves this is by subtitling each chapter with the name of the character.
The story is set in an archaeological site in Yucatan. Elizabeth Butler, the mother, sees 'ghosts' from the past. Some consider her mad and she has in the past been locked up in a madhouse. Her daughter who's going through a bad patch, due to the death of her father and break-up of a relationship goes to stay with her mother who she hasn't really known since about 5 years old. The daughter also starts seeing images of the past. One of the shadows of the past is a priestess who can also see them and talks with the mother. There is a subplot about the daughter and one of the other women on the dig having romantic interests in the local town.
I didn't think this novel was as good as her first, or the short story Rachel in Love. She seems to be trying to say something about relationships between mother and daughter, male and female. This aspect of the novel is unsuccessful as far as I am concerned. The fantasy side works fairly well however.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I just couldn't put it down for a minute!!! 16 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Pat Murphy skillfully weaves a tale of a Mother and Daughter brought together by only one thing that they have in common, they can see the past. Elizabeth Butler is a quiet woman who keeps herself to herself, she does not become attached to material possessions, it seems that all she has is what she sees, and this is the past. Her daughter Diane, who she left when she was 4 years old, suddenly becomes a part of her life again after Dianes Father dies of a heart attack. Diane goes to find her Mother in South America, where she is on an archaeological dig. Pat Murphy tells the story of how Elizabeth and Diane save each other from the past, from the images that have haunted Elizabeth for many years, and those images which her daughter has also started to see. This book is one of, if not the best novel I have ever read, such thought and skill has produced a "must read" book. Especially for any archaeolgy enthusiasts!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural, paranormal mystery 1 Jan 2008
By Mary Chrapliwy VINE VOICE
Elizabeth is a troubled woman archeologist. She left behind her husband and daughter to pursue a dream. She also sees the shades of the past. Are they just visions of what once was, or are they ghosts? This haunts her through her life and she wonders about her own sanity.
Her daughter Diane comes to the latest archeological dig in search of her mother. Why did her mother really leave her? What haunts her, troubles her? Diane seeks to understand her mother while just barely able to bury her own resentment for the abandonment she experienced.

This story, however, isn't just about family dynamics, or lack thereof. This is a story of the present which abruptly becomes entwined with the past. One of Elizabeth's visions see her and talks to her. Elizabeth and Diane become embroiled in a dangerous game where they may not survive. Can love triumph over the danger they face? You'll have to read this WONDERFUL book to find out. This was a truly satisfying read that kept me up past my bedtime and wishing for more. Read this book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful novel recommended to all serious students. 28 Jun 1999
By R. D. Allison ( - Published on
This intriguing novel won the 1987 Nebula Award for best science fiction novel of the year. This is actually more of a psychological fantasy rather than a work of classical science fiction, although there are clearly science fiction elements present. A female archaeologist working on a dig in Central America is able to identify with the spirit of an ancient Mayan woman. The attempted sacrifice of this woman is apparently linked to the destruction of the Mayan civilization. The archaeologist's ability to link herself with the early inhabitants of an archaeological site has given her great advantages in her field. The interactions between the Mayan, the archeologist, and the archeologist's estranged daughter result in a healing embrace across time. All serious students of science fiction and speculative literature should read this book.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book 27 Nov 1999
By L. Blumenthal - Published on
It's hard to tell how this is science fiction, or even fantasy as it's branded on the spine. I rather think it's magical realism.
But whatever it is, it's just a beautiful, mesmerizing look at the world of the ancient Maya and how misunderstood they are by today's anti-spiritual world. Lovely writing, and some amazing craftsmanship went into the making of this novel.
Plus, I learned a great deal more about the Maya.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Falling Woman is a classic 31 May 2000
By Rebecca Brown - Published on
After a long & fruitful life as an archeaologist, Liz Butler remembers that dig, long ago in the ruins of a Mayan city, when the shade of a long-dead priestess toppled her into a pool of twilight Mayan magic. This little adventure leapt off the best-seller shelf of a general store in a tiny town over a decade ago. One of those tourist racks, here this month & gone with the summer except that this one has some gristle, guts & a timely, riveting premise. Notwithstanding a fascinating heroine, hair-raising drama & suspenseful scenes. I'm glad to see it in reprint!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly beautiful, sombre, yet intense! 9 Feb 2007
By Snowbrocade - Published on
This haunting novel is centered around the theme of the ancient Maya human sacrifice of messengers to the gods. The messenger would be ceremonially thrown as much as 80 feet down into a cenote, a deep water-filled sinkhole. Most of the messengers would die upon impact. The ones who survived would be sacred and become very influential by providing messages from the gods.

Elizabeth is an archaeologist who had a serious psychological event as a young woman, resulting in her hospitalization. Her estranged husband made a bargain that if Elizabeth would not attempt to contact their daughter, he would assist her release from the psychiatric ward. She becomes an accomplished academic and treasure hunter. Twenty years later, while on a dig in the Yucatan, her daughter shows up in an attempt to mend the wounds of her past.

In her own way Elizabeth is a modern version of the messenger of the gods. She survived a serious suicide attempt and now sees ghosts from the past. They direct her to ancient sites and she is considered to be very lucky--if eccentric--by her peers.

This story of the making peace with the past in order to live fully in the present is compelling and well written. At times its portrayal of human relationships is bleak--there are no easy answers or Hallmark moments. Murphy intriguingly questions the boundary between talent and insanity. A challenging yet fulfilling read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Writer 10 Sep 2008
By Lisa In Berkeley - Published on
Sit back and enjoy a well-written, well-researched novel. Pat Murphy is an excellent writer. This novel is one of the best in this genre. I loved the sensory detail: visual, olfactory, audible, gustatory. The intellectual details are fascinating; the art and science of archeology, Mayan mythology, history, and culture. And woven into the fabric of the tale are rebirth and death, this world's timeless cycles. The contrast that becomes congruency between the mother's worlds, reality, mythology and needs vs the daughter's vibrant urban ways, reality and needs is striking, jarring, and palpable. This work was described by one critic as "psychological". I would describe this story as compelling and insightful. We all exist somewhere in and out of time: those quiet perceptual moments-experiences beyond this world, those disruptive side-trips into unreality in the fiction of disconnected encounters, all transcended by life itself within our deep meaningful and sacred connections. So take a deep breath, gather your tea, lap blanket, and this book to enter other worlds. This may be your first adventure there. But if you live and read in Berkeley, you are already here. Come, see, read, and you will want to dig up Murphy's other tales!
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