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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

Backstabbing Women, Part 1

You know the old sayings about women competing with each other, and stabbing each other in the back. Every fiber in my being resists these petty stereotypes.

But.

A couple days ago, my friend Jim P. alerted me to a provocative essay which asks that we women stop sniping at each other. The author, media expert Gini Dietrich, laments as follows:

It’s in our DNA, our genes, our chromosomes to be catty and judgmental. But we have to stop being that way. The circle repeats itself because young girls see us behave that way and they learn the behavior. It must stop.

I think she means that part about DNA metaphorically, and I agree with the part about younger women. But I started to pay attention when I read this:

…there were only two women speakers (minus the panelists) at SocialMix on Thursday…Women (speakers) are not being invited to events as much as men. But plenty of women organize and coordinate those events…there are plenty of women speakers who are fantastic. Invite them to speak at your next conference…and pay them the same fee you would pay the men (I’ve noticed women are paid about half of what men are paid, but that’s a different story for a different time). Pay them the same.

Yikes. Half? Gini continues:

Supporting other women is the very first step…Stop judging what they’re wearing, how they speak, how they do their hair, and whether or not we think we could live their lives better than they do.

I know this is just Gini’s take, but there’s a certain measure of truth in it. (Just for fun, here’s a mean girls video) I have a theory that the reasons women are critical of each other are: 1) fear. They subconsciously perceive themselves as underdogs, so feel uncomfortable when a peer gains a big advantage; and 2) training. We learn this bad behavior, generation to generation. Criticism of women is pervasive in our culture.

For example, it’s the whole reason “women’s magazines” exist. Have you ever really looked at their covers? Almost every article is about self-improvement, or getting your house in order, or being a better you.

        

          

If you’re thinking men’s magazines are probably about self-improvement too, they’re trending that way, but here’s a list of the top 5 men’s magazines. Do you think they’re writing about organizing the house or making sure the kids get fed wholesome meals?

  1. Sports Illustrated
  2. Maxim Magazine
  3. ESPN The Magazine
  4. Men’s Health
  5. Playboy Magazine

But back to the issue at hand – women picking at each other. I agree with Gini on this important point: Change starts with us, ladies.

At 58 I am trying to completely stop making any comments about a woman’s appearance unless I can phrase it in terms I might use to describe a man. As in: she’s so full of energy! Or, she acts as if she’s lost interest. It’s not impossible, but once I started, I noticed how often I had to stifle myself when a comment sprang to my lips about a woman gaining weight or looking like she’d had work done.

It was interesting, because then I’d ask myself, “What’s my motivation?” How does it serve me, to point this out?” Any shrink will tell you that all behavior is motivated. What do I get from making negative observations about a complete stranger? If I’m with a woman friend, it might bind us more closely, in that we’re tittering at the same thing. If I’m with my husband, such a remark might do the same thing, or it might convey the message to him that I’m aware of the dangers of obesity, say, or excessive plastic surgery, and that I would never let myself sink to that other woman’s level. But doesn’t that make Bill the boss, and me the supplicant? Who gives a shit what he thinks about that other woman’s weight or plastic? It’s my choice to hand him, or any man, the power to select and discriminate.

I guess this means I believe that vying for men’s approval, in whatever context, is still the main motivation underlying this unsisterly behavior. Men being the ruling class (Don’t agree? Look at the gender balance in the legislative branch of government, or the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. There are no more significant indicators of power in America than these two), maybe we’re subconsciously trying to align ourselves with the power gender, by whatever means possible. Building ourselves up by tearing our sisters down.

If true, that should be an easy thing to break free of. All we have to do is ask ourselves what our motivation is for making the negative comments. Then take it up a notch: help a gal get ahead. A rising tide lifts all boats. Once we’re all eatin’ good, the sniping should stop. That’s my take, anyway. What do you think?

Leave a comment

38 Comments

  1. I think women have made tremendous strides here. But I also think its an innate characteristic for us to want to feel and look our best. As a gender, I think we are more complex than men with the ability to juggle a myriad of thoughts, feelings, activities, responsibilities and the like as simply a part of our constitution.

    All people are judgmental, not just women. It’s just that women also tend to be more outspoken. At least that’s my two cents worth.

    Reply
    • Joyce, you are right about all people being judgmental. And sometimes it seems like we’re more complex, but then it’s hard to know what’s going on in the minds of men.

      Reply
  2. I’ve been thinking about all this and trying to make some changes in my attitude. It bugs me when women snipe at the few women who are in the highest leadership roles. For instance, a female relative makes comments about Hillary Clinton’s weight, and that makes me angry. What does a Secretary of State’s weight have to do with job performance?

    I teach, and in the college classroom I get upset when only the male students tend to speak up. I’ll point out that the women must have something to say, also, and shouldn’t let the men (by far the minority) dominate all discussions. I get weird looks from students sometimes, but it’s an issue I want them to think about! It’s my problem too, because I sometimes find myself looking at male students, expecting them to be the first to respond to a question.

    We still have a long way to go.

    Reply
    • I feel ya, Melanie. I so often feel like I’m very much in the minority – and I question myself, as in: why am I spending energy on this? Nobody else thinks it’s important, so maybe I’m overreacting. So it’s reassuring to get your comment.

      Reply
  3. Lynne, wow! What a great post! First, thank you for continuing the message that women will do better when we support one another. And, you’re right, there is something about making fun of – or judging – complete strangers with other women that somehow binds us. It’s sad, but I’m no saint… I do it, too. I like your advice of describing women like you would a man. I’m going to take that advice.

    Reply
    • Thanks for giving me the idea of writing about this in the first place, Gini. Glad you stopped by. Keep up the good fight!

      Reply
  4. Lynne
    I agree with Joyce. Both sexes have their fare share of being judgmental, its just that women tend to be more vocal and expressive wtih theirs. We also tend to be more detail minded (Did you notice Ginger got her brows lifted?) where men are more general (Ginger looks hot.). I might be wrong, but it seems to me that women (for the most part) are still trying to protect their nests, where as men just want to conquer and rule.

    Reply
  5. Lisa Calderone

     /  August 3, 2012

    Lynne, I love your point about self-improvement being the overarching theme of the “women’s” magazines, and how you uploaded the graphics of the latest issue covers to support it. Noticed the “Seventeen” and “More” mags side-by-side – same message pushed throughout the female lifecycle. Would love to see a gender-blind lifestyle magazine come out….how would you imagine the cover stories?!!

    Reply
    • Wow, Lisa, I didn’t realize, but what a great point! Yes, in More, we worry about a lot of the same stuff! A whole lifetime spent anxious about our looks, for crying out loud! Good catch.

      Reply
  6. When I was in high school (many years ago) there was one girl in the class ahead of me who was “the mean girl.” I didn’t have any interaction with her, but I remember she was disliked by many of her classmates. To use your phrase, you could sense her negative energy. Fortunately my experiences with women have been positive. I have learned from them, been supported by, and in return support them. When I’ve felt wounded, it was women friends I turned to. My daughter’s experience has been different. She feel’s in the work place many of the criticism expressed in the article are true. She has women friends but prefer working with men because they are more work focused and less petty.
    Is it “DNA” or environmental and experiences?

    Reply
  7. When I read Ashley Judd’s post about this topic, I was pretty convicted about my own tendency to criticize other women’s appearances, and have made a real effort to stop. It’s hard. Definitely a lifelong habit. I LOVE your comment about making Bill the boss and you the supplicant– that perspective is really important.

    One thing I try to remember is that all women, at least in similar cultures as mine, are subject to the same pressures and expectations about femininity and beauty that I am subject to. Some women deal with them differently, like by getting plastic surgery or making certain fashion choices that I might not make– but they’re fighting the very same fight I am, intentionally or otherwise. It has helped me to be more compassionate and less critical, and to shut up when I’m about to say something nasty.

    Reply
    • Thanks Meg. I feel kind of bad now for illustrating such a negative aspect of humanity; I know it’s not 100 percent true of everybody. But speaking for myself, when I let go of my competitive feelings and simply celebrate another woman achieving a milestone or gaining confidence in herself, I feel stronger somehow. It’s a joy and a relief.

      Reply
  8. sally

     /  August 3, 2012

    To paraphrase – you only get one chance at a first 1st impression. So your choices will be judged, off-putting demeaner, clothes – most popular, trendy, or what really states who you are. We can’t always have time or a opportunity to get to know the real you, so yes you will be judged, hopefully on your choices, things you can change, not things you can’t.
    Staying power, hopefully goes to the better performers, not cheaters or undercutters. In the long term everybody is judged, isn’t that how we learn what we like or don’t like. Trying different foods, colors, activities, etc, helps us define our choices in life. According to some that is what makes a human superior to other species. To me it’s not male or female it is the individual..

    Reply
  9. Barb - The Empty Nest Mom

     /  August 3, 2012

    One of the things I’m most pleased about in my life is that my girlfriends are not the kind who speak negatively of other women. We give people and strangers the benefit of the doubt. We’re not ones to slam. I guess we prefer to lift – although it’s not a conscious decision. Conversations can be so much more enriching and there’s so much more in the world to discuss. Great post. It, too, has a positive energy.

    Reply
  10. This was a terrific post and a fascinating discussion. I think that DNA is not a factor in female-to-female cattiness. After all men and women have the same DNA, the same genes, and the same chromosomes, except for the XX/XY difference.

    The cattiness is comes from a complex mix of fear, self-doubt, competitiveness, jealousy, and related factors.

    I was particulary interested in Melanie’s comment about her relative’s negative remark about Hillary Clinton. The Secretary was also criticized for wearing a scrunchie and for looking “tired” awhile back–none of which has anyhing to do with her excellent performance representing our country abroad.

    This topic deserves a whole book or two.

    Reply
  11. That’s one reason neither I nor my husband like to work with women. The drama and cattiness make one crazy! My 10 yo granddaughter is already a master at whipping out that tongue and slicing away at her sister. Why?? I think women would make greater strides everywhere if this behavior were eliminated. I love this post and appreciate the movement to grow up! Angie :)

    Reply
    • Ang, it’s even worse for the young girls. They grow up on crap like this (which is a joke but still makes the point): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQeTlxhhmEo

      Reply
      • It’s crazy. We’re so into anti-bullying, but no one talks about the way girls bully each other. I’d rather they hit me and be done because girls can stick the knife in and twist it. If you look at television and other media, hmmmmmmmmm. I’m working hard on the granddaughter to break this pattern!

        Reply
  12. Very thought-provoking post, Lynne. The tendency toward bitchiness seems to start young — it’s a pity it starts at all and more a pity that it’s allowed to continue. Building someone else up doesn’t mean you’re tearing yourself down. Tearing someone else down only casts you in a negative light. Why don’t we see this??

    Reply
  13. Pamela Hanks

     /  August 4, 2012

    Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts be accecptable in thy sight…. Bob Marley’s song shares a truth in a palatable way. I see, that we do the tearing down across the board. We create when we speak, words are powerful. Think upon those things that are good and true. Setting aside that sometimes we need to tear down a faulty constructed structure, building is better than destroying. Little foxes spoil the vine. The seemingly small thoughts that turn into words can and will harm. Placing a watchman at the gates of our mouth is, indeed, a good thing. Thank you Lynne, for a reminder.

    Reply
    • Pamela, one of our writing group, a gentleman in fact, was the one who made me aware of Gini’s article in the first place. I’m grateful that he did.

      Reply
  14. Wow, Lynne. There’s lots to chew on here. I’m recalling several female executives I have worked with in my career who , quite frankly , have been brutal, to the point of being bullies. I don’t know if they felt they had to defend themselves against the “good old boy “network or if it was their nature. They never outgrew their “mean girl” stance. I got to the point of preferring men bosses even though some of whom were equally as difficult. I always think there is a reason behind why people act as they do and I like your call to be more supportive to one another. Unfortunately girls do learn at an early age to act mean, so often out of petty jealousy. It does behoove us to model more compassionate behavior toward one another.

    Reply
    • Kathy, I mentioned this in my comment above to Madeleine, above, that there might be an actual, logical reason we do it, and I’m reading “In the Company of Women” right now to unlock that mystery. I’ll write a follow-up. It’s pretty deep. It’s more, I think, than just our mothers or society teaching us this bad habit. It may be an evolutionary thing. More later!

      Reply
  15. Lynne, your blog columns are so interesting – I always look forward to them. I love the subjects you come up with :)

    Reply
  16. Kathy Ortegon

     /  August 8, 2012

    You bring up some very good points Lynne, but I don’t see our society getting away from the “Back Stabbing Women’s Society”, The so-called “Reality Shows” on TV encourage this type of behavior in all social circles. It makes me MAD everytime I see this stuff on TV. Then there are the magazines you pointed out. (Don’t forget about GQ). I work in an environment full of testosterone, (oil; gas), with a woman boss who seems tuff on the outside but I can tell she is scared to cross boundaries…I have been fortunate to have some strong, intelligent women friends (such as yourself Lynne), to help guide me with the experience you have acquired in your professional career.

    Reply
    • KO, I am almost finished reading a book about this, and there’s a lot of research to show that women just are that way. Different degrees, different levels of confidence, different amounts of warmth they’re willing to share, different appetites for conflict…BUT, there is still more to this behavior than meets the eye. It’s quite shocking, and in my opinion, a total bummer! I’m going to talk about it this Friday. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
      • Pamela Hanks

         /  August 10, 2012

        In my opinion it stems from whatever level of integrity a person is at. Compassion is taught, it is not a given. Integrity, it would seem, would be learned as well. The younger one is taught these, of course the better. What are we teaching our children? How much integrity do we use when we open our mouths or conduct in our behavior? Little foxes can spoil the vine.
        Narcissism is the extreme, and I’m not referring to having narcissistic actions. Instead it is the inability to see things that pertain to anyone else. This worst case scenario is an ‘emotional illness’, Borderline Personality Disorder. If one looks at how that comes about, there is a crucial time frame in a child’s development where this ingredient is void. I think the age is 15 mo. to 24 mos.
        Learning Integrity and compassion is enviornmental.

        Reply
  17. I agree with 90% of what you’re saying, Pamela, but I’m just finishing a book that says it’s more genetic (linked to being a woman) than environmental! I’ll have more next Friday.

    Reply
  18. Great points Lynne. Part of the reason I loved playing team sport is that girls put the bitchiness aside to work together toward a common goal…winning the game!
    Just ordered Dakota Blues today and will carry it back to Switzerland with me to read on the plane! Can’t wait!

    Reply
  19. Dear Lynne, Today is my birthday and I am reading your blog like a really long birthday card. It’s just what I needed. I love the point about hiring women speakers. And your Power posts: I’ve always thought that Hollywood is missing the boat by making movies aimed at 19 year old boys. All the drama is in middle age! And I also get annoyed by the middle-aged actresses who botox themselves out of any believable roles and then complain there are no parts for them. I keep thinking, “Stop going to the dermatologist and start producing something that people our age would want to see, and cast yourself in it!”

    Reply
  1. Backstabbing Women, Part 2 « Any Shiny Thing
  2. Wise Women Speak « Any Shiny Thing

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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.

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    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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    View all my reviews

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    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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    2. How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks
    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
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    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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Thoughts on work and life and everything in between

Live & Learn

David Kanigan

Platinum Boomer

fabulous @ any age

How the Cookie Crumbles

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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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