Tag Archives: women

*** Hourglass by Dani Shapiro

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is a memoir that’s really a reflection about time and is full of wonderfully observed details. How minute body language changes tells her that her husband is rattled by a surprise encounter, how her aunt’s china symbolizes her happy engagement, how successful people may have amassed truly awful report cards, how we can wonder about a path not taken. It will make you wonder about your own choices.

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Filed under True story

*** Something to Hide by Deborah Moggach

 

Something to Hide is an utterly unpretentious and fun story of four women whose fates are shown to intertwine after many twists and many secrets (most from one woman to the other). I was concerned at first that the four far-flung locations would be exploited with heavy descriptions of travel and local attractions, but they end up fitting completely into the story and giving it the mysteries it needs. Yes, it’s a madcap pace but the emotions of the women are real and well-rendered.

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Filed under New fiction

*** The Widow Nash by Jaimee Harrison

The heroine of The Widow Nash is not a widow, but an escapee of an abusive suitor and an oppressive family who, in her mid-twenties, settles in a small Montana town where she tries to rebuild a life, incognito, and even find love. What would be impossible today (disappearing without a trace) is rarely possible in 1904, at least with a determined ex-fiance, but it works, just about, and we get a story  that mixes small-town gossip and violence with a life very well-traveled, since Mrs Nash has accompanied her mine-owner father around the globe. Despite a few longish and not entirely needed stories about developing Yellowstone attractions, bravo!

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Filed under New fiction

** Because of Sex by Gillian Thomas

Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work is the clever title of a book that reviews famous sex-discrimination lawsuits that followed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which beside protecting the rights of minorities also contained provision (Title VII) to protect women against discrimination. We find mothers who are denied jobs because they have young children (when fathers would get said jobs, no questions asked, state troopers who must weigh more than most women, regardless of their ability to run, or fight, and would-be partners in consulting firms that are just not “lady-like enough” to become partners — along with a string of victims of more or less egregious sexual harassment. We’ve come a long way, painfully for all the plaintiffs who all waited years for justice, got very little money, and had moved to other careers, for the most part, by the time the final judgements came down.

(I found the detailed rendering of the legal maneuvers tedious, hence the two-star rating. Still think the book is worth reading, if you are comfortable flipping pages in the middle of each chapter.)

To close: the author notes that Title VII only applies to employers with less than 15 employees, which means that up to 20% of workers do not enjoy its protection. Maybe we should change that, right?

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Filed under Non fiction

* The Answers by Catherine Lacey

The heroine of The Answers, a woman with undiagnosed and expensive health concerns, and the bills to go with it, finds herself needing a second job to pay off her debts (how she can work when she is so ill is never made clear). So she enters a very strange, manipulative “job” working for a demanding filmmaker, which turns out to be even more manipulative and exploitative than she thought. This could be a standard “young woman gets conned” story, or perhaps an imaginative dystopia, but it seems to sit somewhere in the murky middle, and although her back story is told in skillful flashbacks, it was hard for me not to constantly questioned why she was so easily conned.

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Filed under New fiction

*** Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane reminded me of Someone, another apparently simple story of a woman who is born, lives, and dies, in one place. In this case, a woman born with a urogenital defect, inoperable at the time, grows up slightly apart, although at first it’s mostly her parents, not her, who struggle with her disability. The supporting characters are wonderful. Besides her parents, there is a wonderful figure of an enlightened country doctor (he’s not perfect, he copes with cocaine and alcohol), the young man who falls in love with her, and her wild sister. But Miss Jane is the star, along with her quiet way of life.

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Filed under New fiction

* The Unmade Bed by Stephen Marche

I had high hopes when I started The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century since the author, a man, gave up a tenured professorship to follow his wife and her dream job, continuing to write but also taking on care taking duties for their son. What better spokesperson for men and women equality? Also, the text is amusingly annotated by his wife, who provides commentary on what was really going on, from her perspective, during the various anecdotes he recounts. And indeed, the best part are the tales from the trenches: the weird comments by well-meaning stay-home moms, the isolation of living with a toddler 24×7 (see Monday’s review) and the wonders of day care (free in Canada, let’s all dream…). The rest does not work so well, with tedious homilies (yes, we know men and women should have similar opportunity, and bizarre, unsupported statements (no, we should not institute separate boys’ and girls’ schools because your children happen to have very different learning styles, we should instead train teachers to use more diverse methods — and hire a few guys to teach kindergarten, to boot).

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Filed under Non fiction