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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

Finding Friends in Middle-Age

You spent your life working and now, God willing, you’re looking at retirement. You’ll have time, glorious time! So you blow out the candles, go home with your plaque and sleep in the next day.

At first your life is full. You repot those straggly houseplants and organize your closets. Take a bag full of business outfits to Goodwill. Cook from your dusty recipe book. Watch the morning news shows. Meditate. Go to the gym right in the middle of the day. Woo hoo, livin’ la vida loca, girl!

But pretty soon you get caught up. Your calendar says your week is filled, but it’s all mundane: take dog to groomer, get nails done, don’t forget mammogram. Maybe you start a business from the guest bedroom, and that keeps you so busy that you don’t mind the absence of those coffee-fueled morning conversations you used to have with your buddies at work. If you’re lucky enough to have somebody at home whose company you enjoy, that helps. But after a while, you notice you don’t have any women friends. There’s something missing in your life, and it’s uncomfortable.

That’s how it went for me, anyway. At middle-age, I realized I had few friends. Worse, I didn’t know how to find new ones.

I’m an introvert so it was even more daunting.

So I read The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore by Marla Paul. Marla says finding new friends at our age is harder because our peers aren’t looking. By now, they generally have all the friends they need, so you have to sort of sneak up on them. You go where the prospects are, engage in an activity that makes you happy on its own merits, and then you and the targets just naturally fall into conversation (keeping it light at first). If there’s a spark, you’ll know. Bonus points for meeting multiple times at the activity (pottery class, golf, book club) without the pressure of a first date (“Hey, want to get a cup of coffee sometime?” is awkward, IMHO).

I know you want me to end this with “…and then after a while I had tons of friends!!” but that didn’t happen. At the time I was living in Palm Desert, California, where half my neighbors were snowbirds who left town six months out of the year. The rest of the population was at work. Tumbleweeds blew down the street. So Bill and I moved to what Dr. Phil would call a target-rich environment: a 55+ community an hour away where the residents live year-round and are eager to make friends. I joined activities that made me happy, like book club and golf, and friendships began to form.

I now know that the best way to make friends later in life is to find the activity and let the friendship follow. That’s my advice, but maybe you have some ideas, too. Have you had this experience, and if so, how did you handle it?

Leave a comment

33 Comments

  1. Great post, Lynne! Having freelanced for many years, I know how daunting it can be to fill those yawning hours and to build relationships outside the home. You are so lucky to be retired. I won’t have that luxury because, unfortunately, I have no assets at age 50, so I will be working until I am 70 years old. Let’s pretend that’s a blessing. Might as well cast it in a positive light because unless I meet Mr. Right or win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, it’s not likely to change!

    Reply
    • Libbye, I’m retired but I work about 30 hours a week, and mostly for free, so I’m not sure what to call that. (Stupid?) But anyway, I hope your work puts you in the path of opportunity to meet – if not deep friends, at least jolly acquaintances who make you feel connected to the world.

      And I can’t say enough for the Internet. “Lonely” isn’t as bad as it used to be. In fact, I can’t say I ever feel that way anymore, thanks to my online friends, like you!

      Reply
  2. Great piece of reflection for all women, not only retirees. I moved dozens of times and had to make new friends cross culturally. It is never easy, but internet has opened a new avenue for friendship. I have always wanted to belong to a writers group, but haven’t lived near anglophones for the past 3 decades. Now I consider my favorite bloggers, like you, my buddies too. Even though we’ve never met face to face, I look forward to reading your blog every week and feel a valuable connection.

    Reply
  3. In 2004, my husband died. Although he had been suffering from serious heart disease, his death was ultimately hastened by a car accident. I found myself alone in a city far from most of my friends. I was 57 years old. I had some work-buddies, but not the kind I got together with after work. I found a couple of grief sites online that got me through the early intense grief. After a few months, I attended a local grief group, and found a new friend. About a year later, I found myself writing poems for the first time in 25 years. I decided this time to keep going with it. I joined a writing organization, doing some volunteer work with them. Through my poetry, I made a number of friends. These friendships have developed over the years into a strong support group. So, yes, Lynne. I found the friends after I found the activity. And it is a symbiotic relationship: the poetry interest strengthens the friendship, the friendship supports my poetry, and my friends and I support each other. (And I am still in contact with at least one of my online friends from the grief sites.)

    Carol

    Reply
    • Carol, here’s a hug via the Internet. I am sorry for your loss. Kudos to you for fighting your way back to the sunshine. Your comment really validates all my strategies. As a writer, I have also found other writers to be a great source of support and kindness. Best wishes.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Lynne. And thanks for your blog! You often post about something right at a time when I am needing your message.

        Carol

        Reply
  4. Let’s see if I can say this in less than 25,000 words. Middle aged husband & I chose to move cross country to retirement spot prior to actual retirement so we could be settled w/new friends upon actual retirement. Selling house, moving belongings, getting new jobs, buying house in new location: easy. Friends: not. Have been here 2 years. We do not have the required big three: a) children, 2) religion, 3) a job at the local university, so making friends has been a Sisyphean (is that a word?) ordeal. We are just now beginning to make friends, but after enduring near solitary isolation, culture shock, and meaningless employment, I keep the thought of spending the rest of my life here out of my head. The despair would be unbearable. However, I have grown exponentially through this experience, the Internet has been an absolute GODSEND, and the friends we are now making will last a lifetime. (Less than 200 words; goal!)

    Reply
    • You did good, Linda! Just keep doing stuff that makes you happy anyway, and maybe helps you sidle up to your targets. Catch ‘em unawares. You might see something you like enough to do it twice, three times…and here’s another thing: I don’t look for DEEP friends at this age. I look for comfortable friends. If something happens and I need deep, they’ll come through. Happy hunting!

      Reply
  5. Lynne – I think you read my mind sometimes.
    I, like Libby, am a freelancer and missing the social environment from work. I quit my job last May, but still having trouble trying to figure out what to do about friends. Still connecting with work friends, but less and less. Besides, one is moving to the other coast next month (i’m in S Florida), one is getting ready to retire and move to the Villages. My sweetheart is retired and much less fun than he used to be.
    We live in a retirement development but most are at least 20 years older. I tried to join in at the pool, but then they want to suck you into working at lunches, etc. And all they talk about is – what needs fixing around here, or other friends that are out of earshot. Don’t want to get into that.
    I really need to making a living, but my emotional well-being needs real conversation sometimes. I’m going to look into volunteering – somewhereeeee!

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • Vonnie, you’re such a go-getter you’ll get there, I know. And I hear you about the retirement community thing. I live in one where the residents are more active and busy than maybe is the norm, so I might have an inflated sense of how cool these places are. But still.

      I volunteered in the sense that I joined a women’s writing/art/music group, and after a couple years got on their board. It opened up all kinds of doors to other activities (resulting in teaching this webinar – http://www.nlapw.org/pen-women-on-line/ – next week on selling your product via social networking) that actually pay genuine money. So keep your eyes open for that pathway, which incidentally led to a heck of a lot of nice friendships.

      Reply
  6. I did not make friends comfortably until now. I told my therapist, okay, I think I’m ready, and she said now they’ll show up. Living in a same-age community helps!

    Reply
  7. Volunteering is a great way to meet people passionate about something that is dear to your heart, and some solid friendships can be made fairly quickly. All while you do good!

    Reply
    • Ann, that’s usually a solid pathway toward friendship, but I tried it once and it didn’t work for me. Probably because the actual volunteer activity and setting was a total bust. But again, if the ACTIVITY gratifies you, friendship may or may not follow but you’ll be happy and around other people, which comes pretty close.

      Reply
      • Lynne, I’ve had that experience volunteering also. I’ve found it difficult to find a niche there, since the majority of other volunteers are either much younger or much older. I’ve learned for myself that my best “good” work is done anonymously.

        Reply
  8. Lynne, you always speak to me! I couldn’t agree with you more about finding the activity and the friends will follow. I have been lucky enough to retire recently and transition from 44 years of nursing to writing fulltime and look at how many friends I’ve found here! Church, Zumba, Writer’s Group,etc also all help me stay connected with my girlfriends. I’m busier than ever and loving it! Thanks for another great post that resonates.

    Reply
  9. I’m still working, but I work for myself and have very few colleagues around who do what I do. Sometimes that can get lonely. Fortunately, I have friends from other professions to be pals with. Having spent a great number of my earlier working years moving around a bit, I know how hard it can be to make friends, too, at any age. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head — find activities you love and the friends will follow! Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    Reply
  10. This is a great post, Lynn. It is difficult to make new friends as we get older, and I stay so busy working on my new venture that it makes it even more difficult. I know that I don’t put enough time into it, but I do miss having women friends.
    Laura

    Reply
  11. nanci

     /  February 17, 2012

    This is a real issue for those of us who have had wandering feet through the years. Now that I am settled in one spot I am opening casual friendships here through yoga, Book Club and art classes.
    There are a few people from my last few years at work who I stay in touch with, but I don’t have the one or two BFFs that are in constant contact that I had when younger and friendships seemingly appeared like magic. I miss those sorts of friends, but I am happier with myself than I have ever been so I don’t feel desperate.
    I find it difficult to connect with someone outside of the activities I meet them in. I am a bit introverted and I know that I just need to make the call to invite someone to do something. It seems hard though. Ya know, there are a lot of people like me who are waiting for someone to make the first move. I know I just need to get over myself and do it…. nothing tragic will happen if I do, and nothing magical will happen if I don’t. Here’s to the chutzpah!

    Reply
    • Nanci, you are so precious to me for the fact that we met and became buddies before there was EVEN AN INTERNET. Remember that 3-day cruise to Mexico? Priceless memory.

      Reply
  12. nanci

     /  February 18, 2012

    Absolutely…. I still have a photo of Pam, you and me by the ship’s life preserver. I looked at it recently when I moved. I feel so fortunate to have reconnected through your wonderful blog.

    Reply
  13. Hi, Lynn, and thanks for the great article. Because I can make friends on an iceberg, I have not had the problem that you talk about. However, I do go in with engines roaring to every new place. The first place I lived after my husband died was in a Tennis resort. I still had to support myself and did medical transcription from home. This allowed me time to either play in the morning and work at night, or vice-versa. The first thing I did was go into the office and ask if they had a newsletter. When they said no, I said…Well I’d be happy to do one for you, and they asked me how much I would charge. I didn’t even think about the money, I just thought it would be a good way to meet people. I figured if I did an article on the home-owners, that would get my foot in the door. By year’s end, not only did I know everyone, but I knew all about them and the horse they rode in on. So my advice to some of your lonely readers is to get out there, offer to do something in the community where they might meet people. Working from home is a lonely job, but get on that iceberg and start marketing yourself.

    Reply
  14. Peggy

     /  February 22, 2012

    Perfect post at a perfect time in my life, Lynn. Since we just moved here, other than my next door neighbor, a couple of ladies in Los Angeles (nearly 2 hours away) and the people in our critique group, I don’t know ANYONE in or near Hemet. I feel pretty isolated and I really miss my “gal pals” from northern CA and from Colorado. I tried to get the women from the critique group together for lunch. That seems to kind of be fizzling…I think too many of us have things to do afterwards. Probably around March my husband and I will join Friends of the Library and the Diamond Valley Art Association in hopes that we can do some good for our community and maybe I’ll make a friend or two there, but I’d love to make friends with another woman or two to have lunch with some days, to go wine tasting with, to enjoy “girls night out” for a movie, or just invite women over for “social hour” or even just be able to pick up a phone and talk to another woman…all my dear friends are far, far away.

    I’m lucky to have a great husband, but a husband is not the same a girlfriend… I’m a bit lonely, to tell the truth. I’m thinking about starting a “Newcomers” group for women past 50 who are new to the Hemet area and just want to get together for some fun activities once or twice a month in hopes that I can connect with some other women that way, but not sure how to go about that. For six years up north I belonged to a “Goddess Group” — a small group of women who met socially once a month. Someone would do a short presentation on one of the Goddesses from one or another tradition…it was informative and fun, not “religious” in any way, and then we’d enjoy pot luck lunch and champagne. Sometimes we’d go on a “field trip.” I made wonderful friends that way. Maybe we need a Goddess group in Hemet? Although my home is small, I’m willing to host if anyone is interested. Looking to make good friends in a good way.

    Reply
  15. Peggy, have you tried Meetup.com? There might be some options for you. I identify with the ladies who have too much to do to get together for meals or whatever after a meeting. Everybody is rushing, so don’t take it personally but it’s bound to happen! I’ve noticed that one of the groups I’ve been with for a couple years is starting to plan outside activities. It came up sort of organically. One noticed an author reading in a distant city; then there is the monthly music thing at the Diamond Valley Art Center in Hemet. Now that group is looking to ride the train into LA one day for a free exhibit of wardrobes from the movies. It started with somebody bringing in a clipping from the newspaper, or something they printed out from the Internet, and the question, “I don’t know if anybody else would be interested, but…” So a tentative new habit is forming. This kind of gathering is less intense than a shared meal, esp. for people who might be shyer than you think but are still sociable. Best wishes!

    Reply
    • Peggy

       /  February 22, 2012

      Thanks, Lynn. Waiting for a call-back from the dentist….so decided to check on comments. Your suggestions are great. And, nah…I’m not taking it personally that some people are too swamped to meet for lunch after our critique group…I’m one of those who “fizzled”…those things last half a day as it is, and everyone I know (including moi) lead busy lives. But, I think the friendship of women is important and I miss those connections…hoping to make new connections, soon. I’ve never heard of meetup.com. I’ll try that. Thanks so much.

      Reply
  16. Lynne, I have told you before how I enjoy reading what you write. You always tell it like it is. I appreciate that. At age 63, I can relate even though I am not retired. There is no Bill in my life and I have faced the fact that time is moving fast. I had a dream to be able to move to a 55 conmunity. Now that dream has changed to a senior apartment community when I can meet their qualifications. Like you, I enjoy my online friends which sometimes substitute for family. The lonliness now is just much needed quiet time. We are all different. Friendships are special and I have a great appreciation for each person that has been put into my life along the way. That includes you with what you write. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ann, I am humbled by your comments. This world which now includes the Internet can really keep us from feeling alone, but as busy as I get sometimes, just to BE alone for a few days, unplugged, would be heaven. I hope you can get into the senior apartments. I’ve checked some out in the southern California area with friends and many of them are really great!

      Reply
  17. LOVE to reprint some of your blogs (and cross promote each other) on the website I’m working on: http://www.betterafter50.com. Can you email me at Jeanne@betterafter50.com? Love to talk!

    Reply
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  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

    View all my reviews

  • Blogs I Follow

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    3. Fifty 2 Ninety
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    5. Live & Learn
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    7. My Mother is Losing Her Memory and I am Losing My Mind
    8. How the Cookie Crumbles
    9. Grandma Got STEM
    10. MIDDLE-AGED MAN BLAH'G
    11. The Parking Lot Confessional
    12. beyondthea64's Blog
    13. Not quite at my wits' end...yet
    14. All the small things
    15. Writing Out Loud
    16. Guerrilla Aging
    17. Memoir Writer's Journey
    18. www.rockthesilver.com
    19. The Woman Doctor's Guide
    20. Life in the Boomer Lane
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Feed the Beauty

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self-publishing tips for indie authors

Fifty 2 Ninety

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Waiting for the Karma Truck

Thoughts on work and life and everything in between

Live & Learn

David Kanigan

Platinum Boomer

fabulous @ any age

How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Grandma Got STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (+more!).

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Let's Win it in the 2nd Half! Middle-agedman.com

The Parking Lot Confessional

Write until your fingers bleed.

beyondthea64's Blog

The daily musings of a fiftysomething adventurer who has left the rat race to explore the world.

All the small things

A mother-daughter diablog

Writing Out Loud

A Place of Observation

Guerrilla Aging

Navigating the Third Half of Life

Memoir Writer's Journey

Sharing hope one story at a time

MIDLIFE MAGIC

The Woman Doctor's Guide

A guide to good health, women's wellness and getting it all done

Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

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