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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

Divorce After 50

Late note: after I published this post we all found out about Arnold’s other child, so now I have to change my advice: RUN, MARIA, RUN!

Everybody’s talking about Arnold and Maria splitting. He’s 64 and she’s 56. With their fame and fortune, they’ll have their pick of future partners. Or maybe the motivation isn’t to find someone with whom they’ll be happier. Maybe the goal is independence. Said goal is probably hers, not his.

Here’s what I’ve read: woman 50+ are far more likely to initiate a divorce from their husbands than any other age group. And according to AARP, the top reasons they cite are “freedom, identity and a need for fulfillment.”

Carol Orsborn at Vibrant Nation wrote that divorce among Boomers is up because women want to pursue their own interests:

It isn’t so surprising, really, when you put this into the perspective of how vital we feel at our age…It is highly probable that our mothers (who were) formed in pre-liberation times, felt they had neither the time nor choice to upset the applecart and start fresh. But our generation of women, many of whom worked most of our lives, contributed to or dominated the family income and feel entitled to reinvent ourselves any way we please.

That last sentence wouldn’t sound so good if you were talking about the husband, but never mind.

I’m about Maria’s age, and I don’t think I’d want to start over with someone who is carrying around a half century’s worth of baggage.

My husband says if I died he’d get a dog. We laugh because I know that what he really means is that, at our age, it would be too exhausting to (a) date (b) risk the ups and downs of romance and (c) build a life with someone new. Partly it’s because I’ve worn him down. I know I have a lot of good qualities but I’m weird and it takes a lot out of him.

Could it be any easier for Arnold and Maria to contemplate divorce, especially with four kids? And all their ties, familial and professional?

I say just stick together.

This is my third marriage. Bill’s, too. In California, they have a “three strikes” law, so we’re serving a life sentence. The other day we got to arguing a little heatedly, and I told him it was way past time (after 16 yrs together) for him to be questioning the future of our union. “There’s almost nothing you can do that would make me want a divorce,” I said. “Stop worrying. I want to be together until we die. Okay?”

It’s a gift of old age. A bittersweet kind of security, knowing you’re the last mate, and one of you is going to die in the other’s arms, while one of you carries on. I’m sorry that, whatever Arnold and Maria are going through that it apparently is serious enough that they may have to start over after all the time they’ve shared together, and at this late point in their lives.

Kindle readers can email me with comments at Lmspreen@yahoo.com.

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23 Comments

  1. In my case, my divorce wasn’t my idea. I’m 57, he is 67. I thought it was till death, blah, blah, blah. Often, as I found out the hard way, it is very complicated. By the time we get to our age, we have a lot of baggage and often that baggage raises its ugly head and causes problems. I wish our marriage had had a different outcome, but since it didn’t, I now have to focus on my future and healing. I have found it is best to not make sweeping judgements. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors. For a couple, even a not so famous couple, to make that decision there are likely compelling reasons…sorry if I sound harsh, but my life is still an open wound. The only good thing I can think of is I am happy I am not having to experience my current situation in the glaring public eye.

    Reply
  2. Joan

     /  May 13, 2011

    Grace, you couldn’t have phrased it better. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors … before one can judge anyone else, one has to walk in their shoes. Sometimes it’s a long and painful road.

    Reply
  3. As a long-time single (divorced) woman I guess I’m a little surprised at all the hub-bub about this divorce. It saddens me that yet another famous couple has succumbed to the world and its pressures, but at the same time I understand that we’re at that time in our lives where we see over the hill. We’ve climbed to the top and made our choices which got us here. We want our lives to be about more, we want to reach farther out, we want to make a little difference. After all, isn’t that why we’re here in the blog world?

    Perhaps Arnold and Maria will help us all find a way to move forward in a new way together. Perhaps they will blaze a trail that will show us that love can exist in many different forms, sometimes as one unit; sometimes as two. I agree, Lynne, that I’m not sure I have the energy at this age to start over again with a new love and life. Certainly there are times when I wish there was someone to rub my shoulders or to kiss me goodnight, but mostly, I’m pretty comfortable with things as they are. I wish that we could all find that place where we become comfortable and settled.

    I hope that Arnold and Maria find that place too.
    Thanks, Lynne, for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s good that we can all listen to each other and see things from differing points of view.

    Reply
  4. Well, Lynne, you certainly have generated lots of interesting thoughts and comments here! Relationships can be a juggling act at times and I guess it depends on how badly each person wants to maintain the relationship balance. We all have our own take on that depending on our circumstances. I feel saddened when I hear of couples who decide to call it quits. I agree, it was most likely a long and painful road to reach that decision and when it is played out on national TV,it becomes even more painful. Thanks for another interesting discussion,Lynne! BTW, I loved your approach to Bill
    🙂

    Reply
  5. I would guess that divorce at any stage of life might prove difficult. After all, whether you’re the initiator or not, you’re leaving someone you once promised to love forever. Not only that, but financial considerations surely come into play, as do legal matters (especially if children, pets, household furnishings, etc. are present). After age 50, I would imagine things would be compounded by possible health issues, the scarcity of suitable life partners, vague fears of living alone, and time management (having to assume tasks your former partner performed). Even for famous couples this must be a difficult decision.

    Reply
  6. Vonnie

     /  May 18, 2011

    Hi Lynne,
    I married at 20 to a man that I didn’t really love but he happened to be the one I was dating when my parents divorced and sold the house. I grew to love him, had 2 kids and by the time they moved out for good I grew to despise him, so I left at 48 and 10 years later I’m happy as hell. When I told my current man why I married my first husband, he said, “Wouldn’t it have been easier to get an apartment?” Now why didn’t I think of that?? LOL!

    Reply
  7. >>My husband says if I died he’d get a dog.<<

    I work in an all-male office. When one of us completes an obviously unpleasant phone call with a wife, we all chant "laundry, whorehouse, restaurant, dog."

    Oh yeah… we recently decided that life would be more pleasant if men and women were not allowed to use telephones on the same day.

    Reply
    • Michael, you crack me up. Thanks for weighing in. Loved your info BTW about the crooked ways of self-publishers, and your blog.

      Reply
  8. Don’t have any of the answers Lynne — celebrity lives must be so different. I can’t even imagine what goes through their minds at a time like this. I just hope they find lasting peace and spiritual awakening … all else is minor in comparison. Best wishes for a sunny weekend! –Daisy

    Reply
  9. Rebecca

     /  May 31, 2011

    Oh please, rumor has it that he told her she had a “great ass” when they met. Why not trust people to be who they are–not who we fantasize they are? I’ve gotten in way too much trouble with my unrealistic expectations. Life is too short to compromise your principles. Be at peace with yourself–in or out of marriage.

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, I remember reading that he said that. As for fantasizing that our friends, lovers, siblings are somebody else, I agree with you. Just accept them. Or as Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who he is, believe it.” Thanks for dropping by. Any future comments won’t have to go through the approval process and will appear online almost instantly. Look forward to hearing from you.

      Reply
    • RE: Why not trust people to be who they are–not who we fantasize they are?
      where were u when i married my Ex 30 yrs ago—:)
      this kind of wisdom comes with aging—i don’t think there’s a shortcut to it—my 3 daughters live their own version of this–it’s youth & thinking ur more powerful than you really are….sigh…..
      great post Lynne

      Reply
  10. loribelle

     /  June 22, 2011

    I’m freshly divorced and just turned 50. Working for just over minimum wage in a small-town grocery store doesn’t allow me any extra for a lawyer, and the property distribution part of the divorce has gotten ugly. It’s a tough world for an older woman living in relative poverty, and without good legal advice it’s probably going to get tougher. It’s amazing to me that there are no resources for people like me; if you can’t spend thousands on attorneys, you’re easy prey in court.

    I will never regret leaving a horrible marriage to an alcoholic, but I agree with you, Lynne, that if there’s any way to work things out, DO IT! Ladies, unless you have complete financial independence, figuring out how to date will be the least of your worries. On the other hand, I’d personally rather starve than spend another year with a man who lived to make me miserable; at least now I sleep in peace and have joy when I wake!

    Reply
    • Wow, Lori, you’ve got cojones! I surely do wish you well and am glad you are sleeping in peace and waking in joy. That’s worth almost everything! I hope you’ll visit again – future comments will go up instantly on the website without the moderation process. Best wishes!

      Reply
      • loribelle

         /  June 22, 2011

        Someone once told me “change will come when the pain is great”, and that is proven again and again. My life was no different. Change was inevitable and essential.

        Reply
    • RE: Ladies, unless you have complete financial independence, figuring out how to date will be the least of your worries.
      AMEN!
      guys are everywhere—-just go to the market after work—-they’re all over the place! they’re also likely to be some women’s reject…:)

      Reply
  11. Vonnie

     /  June 22, 2011

    Loribelle,

    If you have a university in your area with a law school, check and see if they have students doing externships. They may not be a cut-throat divorce attorney but I bet they’ll try their best.

    Also, most divorce lawyers offer free consultations. Visit two or three in either a crappy neighborhood or a small town, depending on where you live. I had found a woman in a old house with crappy furniture and a tiny office piled with paperwork. She charged me $175 for the separation and and year later another $175 for the divorce. Nobody could beat that price!

    We also had property and my ex spent thousands trying to make it ugly for me, but my lawyer was tough. She did everything through letters so we didn’t go to court. In the end, everything was split 50-50. I refer that lawyer to everybody I know, now. 🙂

    Good luck to you – I remember the scariness of it all.

    Reply
  12. loribelle

     /  June 22, 2011

    Thanks for the great suggestions, Vonnie! I now live 200 miles away from my ex, so I’ll have issues related to that distance, but I’m going to look into these options tomorrow.

    Reply
  13. loribelle

     /  June 22, 2011

    Your lawyer did herself a huge favor taking you on! You’re a wonderful advertisement for her… what town was that? I’d love to talk to her.

    Reply
  14. Vonnie, that was really nice of you to share that info. Lori, I wish you smooth sailing.

    Reply
  15. Vonnie

     /  June 22, 2011

    Lori – I was living in Ithaca, NY at the time. That was 10 years ago, but my daughter just used her last year and she had only raised her rates $100. Apparently, she’s not working for the money. lol!

    I wish you well and thank you, Lynne, for allowing our correspondence. 🙂

    Reply
  16. It’s a village, Vonnie. Thanks again.

    Reply

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  • Lynne Spreen

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  • my read shelf:
    Lynne Spreen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
  • 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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Still the Lucky Few

Reflections on Life as a Senior

Writing Contemplative life Essays

Examining experiences and exploring possibilities

Live & Learn

David Kanigan

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Helping each other master the art of a senior life.

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks

self-publishing tips for authors

Waiting for the Karma Truck

thoughts on the spaces in between

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

Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

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