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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

Boomer Achieves Lifetime Dream

After wishin’ and hopin’ and plannin’ and workin’ and prayin’…

After earning a self-created, home-cooked degree in How To Write A Novel (with a minor in How To Build a Platform)…

After writing and throwing away hundreds of pages that just weren’t quite good enough…

After years of answering my friends and family: “Almost!” and “Pretty soon!”

Two big things happened.

I discovered a passion for the topic of aging powerfully, and

On July 17, a date that would have been my mom and dad’s 63rd wedding anniversary,

I published my very first novel!

Dakota Blues is about:

  • midlife reinvention,
  • the quest to find meaning and empowerment in the second half of life,
  • the need to feel a connection with our ancestors,
  • dealing with the issues that hit without warning as we age,
  • whether we’re too old at a certain point to start something new,
  • whether it’s selfish and ungrateful to want more, and
  • finding the courage to change later in life.

Or, putting words into pictures, here’s what you’ll find in Dakota Blues (available now in paperback, and on Kindle in the second week of August, +/-):

I can’t tell you how much this means to me, to have reached this goal, and to have done it at fifty-eight. This is a time when many of us are rethinking our lives, and wondering whether to break through the age limitations placed on us by an earlier set of beliefs.

This is what we’re supposed to be doing, folks: chasing our dreams like there’s no tomorrow, excited as kids, refusing to lie down and let the culture of low expectations steamroll us. This is how to live in the second half. This is how to live, period. That’s what my character, Karen Grace, struggles with, and that’s what Dakota Blues is about.

I hope you buy a copy, and if you do, I hope you love it enough to add a rating to the Dakota Blues page on Amazon or Goodreads. Ratings mean everything in this online, digitized society, where there’s far too material to sort through without help.

Thanks for standing by me while I struggled. I hope I can do the same for you someday.

PS Today is the fourth anniversary of my father’s passing. I hope he can see what I’ve done. I miss him more than I can say.

Love,
Lynne

Leave a comment

53 Comments

  1. I admire your drive and resolve Lynne, and your follow through provides a model for the rest of us. I started the book last night and am getting to know Karen.

    Reply
    • I named her after my elder sis, Joyce. I hope you enjoy the story.

      Reply
      • Since your character Karen is in HR, separated from her husband – I’m wondering how closely it may resemble your life scenario …

        Reply
  2. I’ll be buying your book today, Lynne. Can’t wait to read it. I’m sure your father is watching over you this very minute and shares in your triumphs!

    Reply
  3. Congratulations, Lynne! You’re such an inspiration to us all. Can’t wait to read the book :).

    Reply
  4. I have known you a long time and always knew that you were a very special person… articulate, witty, compassionate, passionate, motivated and motivating and very smart. I loved being your friend, but I didn’t know for a long time that you were a writer. It doesn’t surprise me that you would achieve your dreams, but I am so tickled that I am here as a witness. I can hardly wait to read Dakota Blues. Huge Congrats, my friend.

    Reply
    • Nanci, you knew me when I was The Suit! the Terminator! the Queen of BS! do you realize we go back almost 30 years? I love that! Thank you for all your kind words. I hope you find DB to be an enjoyable and inspiring read (I’ll let you know when the Kindle version comes out.) xoxo

      Reply
  5. You go girl!! I remember my “first time.” There will never be anything like it. I wanted to dance, to cry ( and I did).The past year has been a hellofa ride (July 11,2011). Enjoy yours.
    http://www.sportsteranme.com

    Reply
  6. Congratulations.

    Reply
  7. Congratulations, Lynn!! I’ve been following you on facebook and your blog and when I read this post, it brought tears to my eyes! Really!! It is SO my story, too! I’m also 58 years old…have always wanted to write a novel (my dream since I was a teenager) and right now I’m going through some major life changing “stuff.” It’s been a rough year. I can’t wait to read your book! I need to be inspired. Going to order it right now. Congrats, again! Hugs, Cindy

    Reply
    • Cindy, I hope you’re keeping a journal. All that “stuff” is the stuff of novels! Best wishes with your writing dreams.

      Reply
  8. Ah, Lynne, you know I can’t say Congrats loud or often enough!! I’m proud of your accomplishment, proud to know you. Yes, I definitely plan to get a copy of Dakota Blues and read it — I’ve been hearing about it for years now (ever since we all went to Cincy), and I’m thrilled to see you accomplish your dream. This is just one of many, my friend — keep ‘em coming!! And yes, I suspect your dad is nudging my dad and saying, ‘My daughter beat yours to publication!’

    Reply
  9. This is huge, Lynne. I will look forward to reading the book. I expect it to be as inspirational and empowering as you are. Many congratulations, my friend.

    Reply
  10. Lynne, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am for you! I recall our parting words in the lobby in Cincy- as you grabbed your suitcase to catch your cab- having to do with your pitch for Dakota Blues. I met you in your “pregnancy” and when I held your book in my hands yesterday,I felt like I’d just witnessed the birth of something wonderful, your beautiful baby. Your Daddy is cheering you from above,along with Debbie’s Dad and my Dad who are now waiting for Debbie and I to deliver.:-) I’m so excited and proud for you and I know you’ve only just begun. You show how Boomers rock! Hugs and cheers, Sistah!

    Reply
    • Kathy P, I couldn’t wish for more of a hug than this. You make me feel so proud. And ditto what you said about our dads.

      Reply
  11. Lynne
    So excited for you. Can’t wait to read it. Your blog is one of my weekly inspirations. :)

    Reply
  12. Kathy Shattuck

     /  July 27, 2012

    Lynne, again, Congrats….and all the best of Luck!

    Everyone, you can also get this book through Barnes&Noble.Com, and they do encourage you to write a review for their books. I will be. There is also a link on this page, that I’ve given you below, to notify the “Publisher” if you want their e-reader, Nook, version. The Nook is B&N’s counterpart to Amazon’s Kindle.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dakota-blues-lynne-spreen/1112170545?ean=9781475191332

    Also, Lynne, I’ll promote your book on B&N, and If at any time you’d like to be the featured author, and book, on our General Fiction Board discussion group, and would be willing to join us in that discussion, I’d be more than happy to try and make that happen.

    Kathy

    Reply
    • Kathy S, thanks for everything in your email. BTW, I’m working to get the ebook version out there; it’ll be on Nook and Kindle eventually. And I would love to be in the GFB discussion. I’ll ask you how to go about that when I see you next Thursday.

      Reply
  13. Wonderful, congratulations, and we knew you could do it. The journey and the challenges that you faced and overcame will always be your reminder of commitment and dedication. Dakota Blues is on my to buy and read list.

    Reply
  14. CONGRATULATIONS!!! What a huge accomplishment. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  15. Congratulations and thank you for being so inspiring. I’m gonna buy it for sure! I wish you big time commercial success, but I also believe that the achievement of your lifetime goal is a huge success in itself.

    Reply
  16. Your creativity and courage are inspiring, Lynne! I am with you on this journey. Would love to read your book.
    Congratulations and Best Wishes!
    Michelle Bentcliff

    Reply
  17. Joyce, you asked how much Dakota Blues is based in my life. I have to admit, much of it is: Mom is from North Dakota immigrant stock, and many of the stories of what our American forbears endured are based in Mom’s stories of her family. My own HR history plays a part, because my love and not-love for the profession comes through as well. Ultimately, though, I think the biggest autobiographical aspect about the book is that Karen’s questions are mine: are we ever too old to start over? Should we kick back and be grateful? Are we hurting ourselves by following the rules, and who should make those rules? How much should we sacrifice for others? How much of a role does / should family play in our lives? And of course, there’s the fact that I have always wanted to do a road trip in a Roadtrek 190!

    Reply
  18. peggy

     /  July 28, 2012

    I look forward to my own copy! Congrats.

    Reply
  19. peggy

     /  July 28, 2012

    Oh, and I’m working on an Amazon review that I hope will help you sell a gazillion copies. I’m so happy for you to have realized your dream, Lynne.

    Reply
  20. Cynthia

     /  July 29, 2012

    Congratulations Lynne!! I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Reply
  21. Pamela Hanks

     /  July 29, 2012

    It’s an OMG moment!!! Just opened Any Shiny Thing to the best news…
    The prize now will be in getting my own copy, reading the finished product and getting it autographed. Way to go Lynne!

    Pamela

    Reply
    • Wondered where you’ve been, Ms. Hanks. Good to hear from you! BTW, my jade plant is very happy on the front porch. She reminds me of you every day. Hope you’re well.

      Reply
  22. Vonnie

     /  July 30, 2012

    OMG – WOW!!! Lynne – I’m so happy for you! Congratulations!! I just went to Amazon and added Dakota Blues to my cart. You must be on cloud nine right now. Go sis!

    Reply
  23. Kathy Ortegon

     /  July 31, 2012

    WOW Lynne! I am so proud and excited for you. When will you be going on tour? I am so looking forward to buying and reading DB and having it autographed by the author. A dream come true.

    KO

    Reply
  24. Congratulations!

    Reply
  25. Oh Lynne CONGRATULATIONS! I am so excited for you and can’t wait to read your book. What a beautiful way to honor your heartfelt memory of your father. I will definitely be writing a review and adding ratings, but bear with me while I attain a copy. I have been living like a recluse spending time with my folks & recording family stories in Northern Wisconsin at family cabin without internet. Super bravo!!!

    Reply
  26. kate granado

     /  August 1, 2012

    hip hip hooray for you lynne, you deserve all the acolades that are coming your way. you are my inspiration. i’ll buy it, i’ll read it, i’ll write the review. your blog is in “perfect pitch” with our generation of woman. thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Kate, you are just too kind! Thank you! And I do wonder why more women aren’t talking about this kind of stuff. We have the numbers. We could make the second half of life into the desired, default setting!

      Reply
  27. kate granado

     /  August 4, 2012

    i’m convinced my second half/next phase will be even better…i think i’m a little smarter, wiser, more confident. acturally i am contemplating my next career move and i’m 65, but hey i’m always mixing up my numbers maybe i’m really a 56 yr old hot babe! bought your book today, i know it is going to be inspirational…later girlfriend

    Reply
    • Wow, Kate, thank you! I hope you love it. The second half really is better. I’m so happy. You know, when I’m not staring at the ceiling at 3am wondering if that’s a lymph node or what ;)

      Reply
  28. Hey Lynne,

    I know this is mostly a site for women…..not that I feel like a stranger in a strange land (my mother, sister, and wife are all women)…I am of the mind (at 60) that transitions are Jungian in their applicability to human beings regardless of gender…..Thank you for letting me a part of your journey.

    And most importantly….congratulation.

    Grace and Peace,
    H. Stephen

    Reply
  29. Just ordered your book! Can’t wait to read it. I’ve notified my library to please order copies for public use as well.

    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

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    10. MIDDLE-AGED MAN BLAH'G
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