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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

Inspired to Change in Midlife

Whether you lost your job in midlife or feel the need to change/reinvent yourself for more benign reasons, it helps to see what other people our age are doing. In this article, a half-dozen older workers describe how they picked themselves up off the floor and created new work lives. I felt inspired by their stories. Maybe you will, too.

Joanne Hardy

Joanne Hardy

Sometimes success takes a while. Author Charlotte Rogan got her first book contract at the age of 57,  but she’s a baby. My friend Joanne Hardy is from the generation ahead of Charlotte’s, and Joanne just published her magnum opus, The Girl in the Butternut Dress.

I asked Joanne how she learned to write so well. She described persevering, and said:

imgres

The best class I ever took was Robert McKee’s three day seminar called “Story.” It is so dense and so thorough…I have taken it three times. He is just fantastic. When you go there you will see a block of seats reserved for well-known media groups, like Disney; they send their writers to him…I thought it well worth it. I came home and restructured my novel.

Not all of us are climbing career ladders. Some are struggling to figure out who and what we are at this stage, which can be intriguing in itself. My friend Ellen Cole created a blog, 70Candles, where women share their thoughts about aging mindfully. My own reinvention took the form of letting go of my corporate identity, and refusing to be judged for shedding my power suit. I decided I was good enough as a person, without the trappings of career to prove my worth to the world. One of my proudest accomplishments at this point in my life is providing day care for my grandbabies. It’s a big shift for a gal who never got to be a stay-at-home mom, but I think I’m at a point in my maturity where I can appreciate it better than if I were younger. Except for my aching back.

Yes, we’re getting older, but there are definitely some great benefits.

More Magazine surveyed 1200 women age sixty and up, asking them to rate their lives. What were they happy about? What did they regret? What have they learned about finding their true paths? Here are the high points:

  • The Betty White Boost: A distinct spike in confidence occurred at the uppermost end of the respondents’ age group. Quite simply, the older the women were, the more likely they were to give themselves high marks for life decisions. Women age 80-plus were the most likely to feel satisfied with their life choices. (Although More only surveyed women, this phenomenon has been documented in men, too.)
  • Know Your True Path: A majority of respondents said they found their true path in life after age forty.
  • Cool with Not Being Superwoman: a majority said having it all is a crock. Do what you can and pat yourself on the back, and that it’s okay to ask for help or to say NO.

I’m curious about you. Are you starting over in any way, with work or family or personal truths? If so, what did you change, and is it working? Are you feeling stronger or are you drifting? Do you have any bits of advice for us? I’d love for you to share your thoughts if you’re so inclined. (And now the baby is waking from his nap so I have to run!)

Morgan babies Xmas pic 2012

Leave a comment

29 Comments

  1. I’m in my early 40′s and as your post states, this is when many women find their true path. I think this is true for me as well. I’m working hard to get out of the 9-5 this year, and pursue art. No telling how it will go, but I’m willing to take the risk. I didn’t feel confident enough before now. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • Good luck, Denmother. I had a passion for writing, and although I couldn’t pursue it seriously until I was about fifty, I still did whatever little things I could during the “waiting time.” If you’re bitten, it’ll never let go of you. Have fun.

      Reply
  2. I left the IT world behind to concentrate on my writing. I could have probably worked there for much longer but could not take the red tape, the changes to off shoring and the politics. Sometimes you are tied to a position simply for the paycheck, and I decided not to do that any longer. The only thing I regret is the, um, paycheck. It was a good decision for me.

    Reply
    • Lynn, yep, that paycheck thing can be addictive. You know, eating and having a roof over your head? BTW, my friend was in commercial printing. She managed projects like menus for big chains and checks for banks. That went away, so at 58 she had to find a new job, but did: managing sales and shipping of all kinds of pipe for the energy sector. Less money but gets to keep the house. It’s life in the 21st century.

      Reply
  3. Love this post, Lynne. Nice job. I’ve always written, but it wasn’t until I was 57 that I tried my hand at popular fiction (I was always too snooty to have any interest in anything but high brow non-fiction, literary fiction or the classics before), but I’m loving writing satirical fables and supernatural mystery-thrillers. Bug bit me for sure…but I had NO idea I had a talent or even a desire for this kind of lit until damned near 60. They may or may not be picked up by an agent and publisher, but I feel like a happly little kid while writing these books, and I’m having the time of my life.

    Reply
  4. At 57, after teaching high school English for 28 years, I decided to retire early and write full time. It meant living on less, but it also meant living my dream. For years I’d gleaned early morning hours to write before going to teach at-risk teens – how I had the energy, I do not know – but in 2004 I took the leap. Four months later my novel, HOT WATER, sold to Berkley/Penguin, and the fun began. Soon I was commissioned to write GLADYS AND CAPONE (about Silent Screen star, Gladys Walton, who was Al Capone’s lover – what fun channeling Hollywood in the 1920s). On weekends I researched and wrote in a room at Two Bunch Palms. Late at night I’d slip into the grotto pool alone, naked. OMG! I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
    In 2009 I tackled the “main book I ever wanted to write,” a story that grew out of my years teaching at Cairo American College in Egypt. I returned twice to Egypt for “research,” and now, finally, my magnum opus, IN THE TIME OF APRICOTS, is being read by NY editors. I’m in that awful, nail-biting stage of waiting for my agent’s call that we have a deal. There has been doubt and angst, but I would do it all again. Age? Who cares? There is no retirement from a dream.

    Reply
    • Just prove you are never old to start life anew, Kathryn. Good for you, really. I have a friend who is writing her first work of fiction. It’s a knock out SCI FI piece that I know will sell. She’s 83 years old, for goddess sake! Why not? My agent, Denise Dumars from The Ashley Grayson agency in San Pedro retired and at 58 I’m searching for a new one, but even if I don’t land another (I think I will, though), I’m finally doing what I love. In the last year, I’ve written two books, have started a third, and can’t stop. Who knew writing popular fiction could be so damned fun!!!

      Reply
    • No retirement from a dream – words to hang on a poster on my wall, Kathryn! And everybody, Kathryn let me read the MS for Apricots, and it is just drop-dead fabulous. Cross fingers it gets the mass attention it deserves.

      Reply
  5. Lynn,
    I loved this bit of inspiration. Here is a short vignette of my journey: At 58 years old I went back to school to recreate myself and freshen up my knowledge base. Not a bad goal. I received a 2nd master’s degree in library & information science (MLS) with a 4.0 GPA (had a previous master’s in biology). I thought I would fit the stereotype of ‘the silver-haired mature wise woman sport a tight bun’ who could help the community with their information needs. NOT! Even though I had a solid handle on research and the latest library computer technology (in addition to teaching experience, a bubbly personality and a decently attractive exterior), i was NEVER hired by a library in my hometown (not even part-time). Agism? Perhaps. Lack of connections to the important people. Perhaps. Waste of money and two grueling years studying. Definitely. [Warning to all who think a degree will open doors at this age--unless you are looking to be self-employed, then perhaps an MBA, MFA or MSW may be a benefit]. It was not my karma.
    Today, I have lessened our household budget by $700/mo. to make up for my lack of “hirability” and I blog, quilt, garden, cook, and babysit too.
    I am in bliss anyway, and as for the libraries, they don’t know what they missed by not using me!!

    Reply
    • Hedda, what a bummer that so much excellent scholarship didn’t result in $$$. But thank God you are balanced enough to figure out how to enjoy life anyway. I grew up very blue collar; not poor but close. After a couple of false starts, supporting layabout husbands, I married a man with an actual job and, frankly, wealth. But I was never comfortable. I sensed his wealth depended on the good graces of his family and their business. In the end, we left the family biz to achieve mental health and independence. Our lifestyle was greatly reduced, but coming from my side of the tracks, I knew how to enjoy life on a budget. My husband happily adapted, and we are less well off economically now but proud of our flexibility and resilience. Life is better now.

      Reply
  6. Hi Lynn, love your article.I just wanted to say hello…Jan Carlsen

    Sent from my iPad

    Reply
  7. I’m in my late 50s and feel like I’m living my life in reverse of most women I know. My early years were spent working my life away in a career that felt like a dream come true. I loved going to work just about every morning. I spent 50 – 70 hours each week keeping up with a commanding work load and rarely felt over-stressed; I was just too much in love to notice. Never had kids, moved to various cities and friends were the people I worked with – rarely socializing on weekends.

    3 years ago I stopped working, motivated by a job that was yielding more frustrations than satisfactions and decided to discover who I was and what I wanted to do outside the confines of my professional title.

    Since then I haven’t discovered 1 over-riding passion or 1 compelling calling that beckons me. I’m playing with myriad directions, all of which constitute an engaged personal life for the first time in my life.

    It’s fun, meaningful and, surprisingly, fills me with a sense of achievement that I thought only professional work could do. I’m actually proud of myself that I’m able to enjoy a life that’s not driven by responsibility to a job and a boss. Odd — but true.

    Good topic Lynne. Thanks

    Reply
    • Joyce, thanks for the affirmation and best wishes with your quest. For me, I needed to escape a domineering dad and victimized mother – it made me crave financial independence. Now that I’m retired, it’s harder to come to grips with the lack of a corporate identity. Or it WAS, but I’m thrilled now with my lack of visible power in that world. All they need do is make the mistake of underestimating me and – FUN!

      Reply
  8. OK, I’m an artist, but I wanted to expand my world. Loved the computer, loved reading blogs, loved the connections that people formed with each other. So I decided to become a blogger. I’m now writing, which I have NEVER done in my life and I’m now taking photographs, also something I’ve never done in my life and I’m loving it. So this artist is now writing and photographing and having a wonderful time.

    Age, probably older than all of you!

    Reply
  9. loved reading this post Lynne. The examples you shared and the stories from readers. I got divorced at 48. I closed a business with my new husband, we both sold our homes, and we have been traveling in an RV since last May. We make about 1/4 of what we did, but both felt an overwhelming need to regroup. To figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. This is not to say I’m not enjoying life right now. I don’t think we can live for, you know, that fulfillment out there somewhere ahead of us. Good to work toward goals and dreams – but not to the exclusion of appreciating and celebrating today. And like a few of your readers commented, I took up blogging and photography and so, so enjoy both. Don’t know where else I’m going to go with things and a means of better income, but have to allow myself time to figure that out. I think it will come….as I continue to do things that bring joy. And a slower pace? that’s been priceless.

    Reply
    • Barbara, I crave a slower pace. I’ve gone thru several stages since my first retirement and at first I stayed busy to avoid downtime. As I learned to relax, I began to treasure the days on which I had absolutely no requirements or appointments. I went from fearing downtime to enjoying it. Priceless is the right word.

      Reply
  10. As usual, Lynne, your posts inspire me. It’s just wonderful to see how many women in our age group have given up the rat race to pursue their dreams.

    I quit my job in May 2011 to persue freelance writing. I really wanted to write fiction, but thought I’d make more money writing articles. Then in December 2011, eye pain, cloudy vision and a diagnosis of Corneal Dystrophy threw a wrench in my plans. I had two corneal transplants in 2012 and a much longer recovery time than I ever expected. Needless-to-say, poor vision and eye surgery can really slow a writer down.

    I had stopped looking for writing gigs and the online sites where i was already writing started drying up as well, so on top of vision problems, my old depression and anxiety kicked in with a touch of agoraphobia sprinkled on top.

    But, on a positive note, my vision is close to perfect now (or as perfect as it ever will ever be) and I go for my final post-op exam next week.

    The good news from of all this funk I was in is that I’m writing fiction again. That was my dream in the first place. Luckily, my live-in boyfriend is a great supporter both financially and mentally and I have a retirement account that I’ll use eventually so I won’t end up homeless. :)

    Congrats to all you and all your commenters, and me. We’ll keep reinventing, pursuing, and living the dream on our own terms. Who knows, maybe we’ll become inspirations for younger women to follow. :)

    Reply
    • Oh, man, Vonnie, YOU are the inspiration! You got a real kick in the teeth and didn’t let it flatten you. As we go into this later phase of life, we’re going to have more physical and emotional challenges, making normal life even harder. So we MUST encourage each other – we’re all we’ve got! Thanks for sharing your story, and I am so happy that you are recovering and that you’re able to pursue fiction again.

      Reply
  11. Love this post Lynne & love your blog. I’m still in my early 50′s and have a long way to go before I can think of retirement (if I want to keep this house/”hotel” we’re running until our twenty-somethings are off the ground). But last night I had a dream I figured out a way to get to China – a daydream I’ve had for years. I dreamt I had a book contract that took me there, all expenses paid! Ha! It could happen, right?!

    Coincidentally, a good friend of mine whose had a lifetime career as a career coach just came out with a book about “second-act careers.” She used to specialize in careers for moms but now we’re at “that age.” Your readers may find it worthwhile:

    Here’s to dreaming, night or day, until we all get to where & who we want to be…

    Reply
    • Oh, Lisa! What a fabulous dream. Yes, who’s to say it WON’T happen?! And you’re more likely to achieve it than I am mine: flying by just lifting up my arms, peddling a bit and whoosh! I’ll check out the link, and thanks.

      Reply
  12. Lynne – you’ll appreciate this one. So today is my youngest son’s 17th birthday (youngest of 4) and we all went out to brunch where I shared last night’s dream. Of course my oldest son, Will, listened carefully & then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mom, the only subject worth writing about will be someone the Chinese government won’t let you near.”

    Whoosh is right! Dream deflated.

    Reply
  13. Hmmm….well I’d like to be succinct. Torturous marriage to an abusive cop for 13 years. Found the strength to leave when I saw it affecting my son. The three years following the divorce were hell as he spun out of control. I walked the tightrope of fearing for my son and not wanting to insight his father. Mercifully, although that might sound terrible, he took his own life…..and didn’t take anyone along with him….although he had considered it.

    Recovering from that was hard…five years later the dust is starting to settle. I am writing again. I up and moved out of NY down to Florida and am busy building a new life,…by the beach…with the pelicans…and my son….life is good!

    Reply
    • Cydney, sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Was away at a conference and had trouble signing in on my Android to WordPress. But YIKES! What hell you’ve gone through, and your son. So glad you are both safe now.

      Reply
  1. Writing the Concerto of Us | The Unforced Rhythms of God's Grace

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  • Lynne Spreen

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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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  • 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.

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  • 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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