Gallagher, Nora 1949–

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Gallagher, Nora 1949–


Born 1949; married Vincent Stanley (a writer). Education: St. John's College, graduated. Religion: Episcopalian.


Home—Santa Barbara, CA. E-mail—[email protected]


Time magazine, West Coast bureau chief. Lecturer.


Fellowships from Wesleyan Writers Conference, 1992, Blue Mountain Center, 1995 and 2000, MacDowell Colony, 1996, and the Mesa Refuge, 1999.


Parlor Games, illustrated by Annie Gusman, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1979.

Simple Pleasures: Wonderful and Wild Things to Do at Home, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1981.

How to Stop a Sentence, and Other Methods of Managing Words: A Basic Guide to Punctuation (for children), Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1982.

Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith (memoir), Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor) Patagonia: Notes from the Field, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Changing Light (novel), Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, DoubleTake, Village Voice, Mother Jones, Life, Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, and Utne Reader.


Journalist and author Nora Gallagher has written books on a variety of subjects. Her first two books are guides to passing the time. Parlor Games describes fifty games that readers can use to while away the hours. Simple Pleasures: Wonderful and Wild Things to Do at Home presents a number of ideas for family recreation, ranging from simple things like sorting pictures to unusual ideas such as trading houses. Reviewers noted that it is a particularly useful book on rainy or snowy days. How to Stop a Sentence, and Other Methods of Managing Words: A Basic Guide to Punctuation is a book for children that explains to them a variety of ways to construct interesting sentences.

Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith is an autobiographical work about Gallagher's re-acquaintance with religion. Having grown up attending the Episcopalian church, she rejected it at the age of twenty. But over a decade later she found herself inclined to return and began to tentatively and secretly re-explore her spiritual side. Eventually, Gallagher found a church where she wanted to become actively involved at a time when its membership was falling off sharply. At the Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, she helped to establish a soup kitchen, traveled with a group of women to Nicaragua, and became a member of the church vestry. These experiences gave her what she was searching for: a sense of community and purpose.

The process of reestablishing her faith, which, Gallagher says in Things Seen and Unseen, took about a year. The author structures her very personal tale by juxtaposing everyday events with church rituals and holidays. It begins with Advent and continues through Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent, concluding with "Ordinary Time," a term borrowed from the Roman Catholic calendar. As Gallagher observes these holidays, she also deals with profound moments in her personal life, such as the death of a friend and learning that her brother has been diagnosed with cancer. Gallagher's narrative paints not only a portrait of her own experience but of the personality of her congregation as well. The money and member-poor church suffers from its own obstacles, like the necessity of "earthquake-proofing" their building and the touchy issue of their homosexual rector.

Several reviewers praised Things Seen and Unseen for Gallagher's unique and honest point of view and her sense of clarity and detail. Describing the work in Christian Century, Debra Bendis wrote: "Things Seen and Unseen is in some ways a '90s spiritual soup pot. Gallagher is a skeptical, irreverent and determined seeker. She sorts through experiences before investing in the Christian faith…. Nothing is taken for granted or simply accepted as tradition; everything must be reconsidered." On her quest for spirituality, Gallagher consults a number of interesting sources, from Margaret Drabble and M. Scott Peck, to Van Gogh, Theodore Roethke and Dorothy Day. In another memoir, Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace, Gallagher writes of her life after her brother's death from cancer and her examination of her place within the church.

Changing Light is Gallagher's debut novel. It is set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the summer of 1945, a time in history when the atom bomb was being created. The three primary characters include a physicist who is working on the bomb and having misgivings about his work in Los Alamos, a female artist, and an Episcopal priest. Eleanor Garrigue has left her older, gallery-owner husband in New York and has been living in Santa Fe for three years. Bill Taylor is the priest with whom she forms a friendship and who also falls in love with her. Eleanor first meets Leo Kavan, the physicist who has walked away from the secret project, near the woods where he claims to have become lost while camping. Leo, the scientist who presented the prospect of the neutron chain reaction (nuclear fission) to Einstein, who then offered it to President Franklin Roosevelt, is now ill from a radiation exposure that left his best friend dead. Eleanor takes him into her home to care for him, and he soon reveals his involvement with the Manhattan Project. Eleanor tells Bill of Leo's dissatisfaction with the government's plans, and Bill tells his chess partner, David Stein, a machinist who is, in fact, a spy.

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat reviewed the book on their Web site Spirituality & Practice, commenting: "Gallagher's novel is suffused with Christian terms and rituals. The characters reflect upon prayer, faith, grace, and resurrection. The imagery of light plays a major role in the story as Eleanor tries to delineate the light of the place where she lives, the scientist wonders about the consequences of his work on the bomb which gives off blinding light, and the priest learns a little about the light of love."



Gallagher, Nora, Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

Gallagher, Nora, Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.


Booklist, November 1, 1979, review of Parlor Games, p. 434; January 1, 1982, review of Simple Pleasures: Wonderful and Wild Things to Do at Home, p. 580; February 15, 2003, June Sawyers, review of Practicing Resurrection,.

Books & Culture, March-April, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Practicing Resurrection, p. 38.

Christian Century, March 17, 1999, Debra Bendis, review of Things Seen and Unseen, p. 308; August 23, 2003, Thomas H. Schmid, review of Practicing Resurrection, p. 39.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of Practicing Resurrection, p. 1034; October 15, 2006, review of Changing Light, p. 1034.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, L. Kriz, review of Practicing Resurrection, p. 143; December 1, 2006, Barbara Hoffert, review of Changing Light, p. 109.

Los Angeles, February, 2007, Robert Ito, review of Changing Light, p. 70.

New York Times Book Review, December 6, 1981, review of Simple Pleasures, p. 91.

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003, review of Practicing Resurrection, p. 179; Lavonne Neff, "Eternal Life All around Us: PW Talks with Nora Gallagher," p. 181.

Sojourners, January, 2000, Jo Ann Heydron, review of Things Seen and Unseen, p. 59.


Los Angeles Times Calendar Online, (February 11, 2007), Susan Salter Reynolds, review of Changing Light.

Nora Gallagher Home Page, (May 21, 2007).

Spirituality & Practice, (May 21, 2007), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Changing Light.