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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.

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  • 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

Evolution in Three Parts

Like most of you, I’m from that awkward generation between people who grew up without computers and those whose thumbs are changing shape due to texting.


My office was proud to show off the Xerox 860, the ultimate in word processors.

I remember how excited we were at work to get our first word processor, a Xerox 860. We even hired a carpenter to build a special cabinet for it, to protect it from dust. It took up as much room as a small freezer. People came from other offices to look at it. I’m surprised we didn’t genuflect as we passed the thing.

My first office computer was an Apple IIe. Those two drives under the screen? For 5-inch floppies.


This was before Windows, when everything was DOS. You know when you restart your computer after it crashes and there’s a black screen with white letters and a blinking cursor, and you can only use the arrow and “Enter” keys to navigate because your mouse doesn’t work? That’s pretty much DOS. Try writing disciplinary memoranda on that sucker.

I’ve come a long way. Before they invented blogs, I built my own website using Dreamweaver. That was about ten years ago and I still have a headache.

When I first started using email, I was a little annoyed that a lot of my contemporaries weren’t. These are women who, like me, worked with IBM Selectrics and rotary-dial phones. At the time, a lot of them still shared an email address with their husbands. Something cute like Two4theRoad@BigFatRV.com. Or they got their email through the corporate server, which wasn’t accessible at home. Since they didn’t have a computer.

My kids, all Gen X, don’t check their email very often. Like it’s painful for them, due to the time and effort it takes. Much less tedious to text.

I joined Facebook three years ago. Seems like a lot longer. Now I’m addicted. It’s the first place I go in the morning, before email or news, and I check it throughout the day. There are a couple of groups I belong to – okay, ten or twelve – but one, GenFab, is like insanely active on FB. And I’m afraid if I don’t check in, I’ll miss something important. Like pictures of their dumbest outfits from the eighties, or what sex toys are hot now for boomer women. Weird how things change. Today they’re debating whether using “#FF” on Twitter is relevant anymore, or if it’s basically a scam. And if not, what is the etiquette that would accrue thereto?

You can only shake your head.

But technology has really enriched my life. My mother, who is 87 and has lived without it, is deprived. I’m not trying to be funny. She has a curious mind and if she were a few years younger, would be Googling all day long. About a year ago, I tried to show her how to use the internet, but I came pretty close to doing more harm than good. She got discouraged, and that tore me up. But that was before her cataract surgery. Maybe I should try again.

Still, sometimes my head hurts. I was born too soon. I was in my thirties by the time all this tech-stuff started coming out.


Early laptop. Really.

I remember bringing my first personal computer, a DOS laptop, to a union negotiation at the behest of my boss, the chief negotiator for Management. He intimidated Labor by setting it on the table between the two sides, turning it on (so it beeped), and frowning intently at the screen. Labor was nervous, but looking back on it now, I think we must have looked like monkeys with forks.


Leave a comment


  1. Good old DOS. I’d forgotten all about it.

    I remember my first email acct which I had through a university. NO ONE outside of academics knew what I was talking about when I mentioned email. I felt so alone.

    But look at things now…

    • Ally, I remember walking into my boss’ office, wide-eyed, and telling him that I thought I had discovered something: if you wanted to find a company’s website, you could just type the company’s name plus dot com and probably go right to it! And he said, really? and hurried over to his computer to try it. I mean, he was Mensa-level; it wasn’t about brains. Just everything was so new. Fun to remember!

      • It was new and so intriguing. Now it seems almost hum-drum, doesn’t it? I miss all that excitement like your experience with your boss.

  2. My mom is 87, too and she’s on FB and really tries to keep up with all the technology.

  3. I learned to type on a Selectric…and boy was I fast! 😀 I remember the first computer my husband and I had, it was one he brought home from work. Had the 5-inch floppies and was DOS. At that time, all you could really reach online (at least for a non-techy like me) was some FTP files at the library, and I remember exclaiming to my husband how exciting it is to watch that little cursor thingee twirl and twirl and twirl while accessing amounts of information beyond what I ever imagined. I was in heaven. My love for all things increased exponentially since then. In fact, one of my first articles published in a newspaper (in 1994) was “Confessions of an online addict.” I was addicted even all that long ago. Crazy the changes we’ve seen since.

    • Lisa, you are so right. I remember we were so excited in my office when we got to order two new Selectrics, the kind with a 750-character memory? What a thrill it was to just hit the Code key plus a numeric key and see that round ball flying from margin to margin. Hooey, we were something then!

  4. My parents are both 85. My dad uses both a computer and a kindle fire to access the internet. My mom won’t touch either, despite my best efforts. (She informed me that I was a TERRIBLE teacher, although I had, during my work life, done a presentation or two on technology usage). My parents were divorced 45 years ago, so that’s one thing we can’t blame on technology. Everything else is fair game.

  5. My 91-year-old aunt emails and reads my blog. She does call to comment, though.

  6. I took my first computer course in 1965. (I was, of course, only two at the time!) FORTRAN and coding in machine language–it was one of the TWO, count ’em, computer courses that the university offered. When I was hired to manage faculty professional development at a community college in 1993, one of my major objectives was to convince the faculty to use email. It has been a “long and winding road” for sure.

    Sometimes I wonder if we/I will keep up. Or will our kids be saying when we are 87, “I wish my mom knew how to use xyz. I think she would enjoy it.”

    • Susan, I wonder about that, too. Like if something keeps replacing the social networks I’ve built up and am used to, if they go out of business, how will we all migrate together to the next new thing, and the next?

      • The one thing we can guarantee is that technology will continue to change at a fast pace. I’m just hoping that I keep up like some of the 80-somethings and the 90-something(!) that have been mentioned here. The alternative, I fear, is isolation and that dreaded creeping invisibility.

  7. Ah this is good. Made me smile all the way through remembering learning to type on a manual typewriter in high school, then the Selectric for years before graduating to DOS, then my first PC, … now Macs. My 97-year-old aunt emails and is on FB (but not active). But like your mom, my mom never got the hang of any of it. However, she was curious and amazed with the technology and especially appreciated Skype when she was able to talk to her great grandson in Australia. He was four when she died and that’s the only way they ever talked, but what a gift.

    • Martha, what a gift, indeed. Technology has improved the world. Look at the dissemination of information now in previously closed societies (e.g. Arab Spring activities) And we’ll never be alone, even if as we get older we are unable to leave the house!

    • Martha, I love stories like this. Technology can–and so often does–bring us closer together.

    • Martha, last spring my dear father-in-law, aged 90, was too ill to travel to our city and attend our Passover seder. So I had the idea of Skyping him in–we made a place for him at the table, put a laptop computer on a stack of books where his plate would be, aimed it down the table, and proceeded…with him present and accounted for! He loved it, and we were so glad we didn’t have to go on without him.

      • What a cool story, Karen.

      • This story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. What a gift to all of you.
        Reminds me of mom’s 100th birthday. We placed her birthday cake in front of her with the oomputer just past the cake. Three-year-old great grandson was on Skype from Australia and four-year old great-granddaughter was next to her as she blew out her candles (with help from both of them). I have photos of her arms wrapped around her body as if she is hugging GGS and photos of the two of them “together” on the screen. Thank you Skype!!

  8. sksorensen

     /  January 11, 2013

    In 1987, I enrolled in a course at the local junior college so I could learn more about computers. The class was an Intro to Basic Programming and boy was I surprised when I discovered I had to learn to write code! I got a B in the class, but was not any closer to understanding the workings of DOS. Thank goodness Windows came along. I’m now a diehard Mac fan.

    • My first desktops were Macs, so I understand the appeal. And me too, re CC. We had to do something with punchcards! Bleah.

  9. Boy, this brought back memories. I have to admit I loved the sound of the typewriter but was first buying my WP. And, I remember that freaking blinking cursor where you had to impact a:/ for a floppy disk. I even had to create computer training on that stuff. Great way to realize how far we’ve come. Thanks!

    • It’s my pleasure – good memories shared, Donna. And I really enjoy the convenience of where we are today, although it IS sometimes like trying to drink from a firehose.

  10. Yes, I remember DOS (*shudder*) and those long strings of commands required to accomplish the simplest task! My first experience with a PC terrified me. What if I broke it? Now a day without my PC causes withdrawal symptoms. But I’m still not into texting. Yet.

    • Oh, Sandra, try it! You’ll never go back.

      • I agree with Lynne for two reasons. First, texting is fast and efficient. But maybe more important, texting is also a gateway to the “next big thing.” You don’t want to be left behind when technology keeps marching on.

        • I agree, Susan–as well, this is the preferred communication medium for both our kids, so if I didn’t text, I’d really miss out. It’s not hard, and you don’t have to type in “text-speak” to do it.

  11. Does anyone remember the MTST? It was as big as a double keyboard Hammond organ and all it did was record typed documents on a cassette tape? Hoo boy, I thought I was high-tech back then. Knew something them new-fangled computers! It was more than forty years ago, back in ’67.

  12. I remember thinking that word processors were the greatest invention ever. Before that low-paid secretaries in offices sat at typewriters all day, typing long tedious things, such as budget documents of draft regulations, that were certain to change a whole bunch of times.

    Learning to use a word processor was great for me because I was a really terrible typist. I never wanted to get better since I didn’t want some guy asking me to type something for him. With a word processor, errors were easy to fix, and everyone–even guys–could type their own documents.

    • Plus it added a degree of professionalism, don’t you think, Madeleine? We felt like we were moving up from typist to technologist – I did, anyway.

  13. Oh Lynne, you are talking my language! But for someone who remembers life before computers, I am tethered to all my devices and think texting is the rage. How did that happen?

    • Exactly, Kathy! We’re so techno-geek now, and loving it. Weren’t we supposed to be knitting and watching Jeopardy or something?

  14. I learned to type on a manual typewriter but the IBM selectric was so cool because you could change the little sphere and have different type! I have been through it all, including the 5-layer carbon paper, each with its own special color of whiteout… baby blue, pink, canary, green, and beige. I am amazed at how much has changed in my lifetime. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • And thanks for traveling that path with me, RR. The SPHERE, that was the word I wanted. Remember they came in a little plastic box? So precious and innovative.

    • Ooh, yes! Multicoloured white-out (though is it still white-out if it’s not white?)…and carbon paper! I had to explain this concept to my 18-year-old a while back, and felt incredibly ancient doing it. Kind of like talking about crank-operated telephones and party lines. 🙂

  15. I learned to type in high school on a manual typewriter that didn’t have any labels for the keys so we wouldn’t cheat. My final test score was 80wpm. After graduating from high school, I bought myself an IBM Selectric and typed other students’ papers to pay my way through college (something nobody does anymore since everyone has their own computer).

    Years ago when I started meeting people online other people thought I was insane (and very likely to end up stalked and murdered by all the weirdos out there). I have met hundreds of wonderful people and have yet to be murdered by anyone.

    GenFab is fantastic. It is the community I dreamed I could be a part of. I’m glad you are there. I loved this walk down technological memory lane. My mother passed away a couple of years ago, but I wish she’d had a blog. She had so much to say that is lost now. I tried to encourage her, but she just couldn’t seem to grasp it. She was bright as could be, but there was some block that she couldn’t/wouldn’t push through. It’s my loss.

    • Oh, Chloe. Everything you say touches me. I hardly know where to start. Only know that I feel blessed to be a part of this community of sisters, standing at this window, looking out at all that is now available to us and saying, “WOW.”

  16. Joan Winnek

     /  January 11, 2013

    My first computer, bought in 1982? was an Apple 2e with 512K memory, no mouse, and Applewriter had to be memorized. I was so glad no to have to learn WordPerfect. We’ve had four macs since. Each time the full package including printer has cost about $2000. Now I couldn’t live without my iPad and iPhone.

    • Joan, isn’t that the truth!? I remember the 512K feature. It was huge at the time! The tool that slays me now is my Android phone. At some point, phones just plain became mobile computers. I love it, esp. that I can leave my Kindle at home and, if I’m stuck in a line somewhere (e.g. doctor’s office) continue reading the book on my Kindle at the same place where I left off. Amazing.

  17. Oh my gosh, Lynne…you brought back the memories. But you were so far ahead of the game compared to me. I remember pecking away at the various versions of the old typewriters from manual to electronic. I am still struggling to get my head around texting, Twittering and all the rest. Your GenFab facebook group sounds intriguing…how does one join?

    • Pat, I don’t remember but will find out and tell you – I’ve already asked the organizers what the deal is and expect an answer PDQ.

  18. Well, when we first started using computers, the prevailing operating system was CP/M, which I believe predates even DOS! We had an ancient KayPro II, which cost something like $10,000…in 1984 currency. 🙂
    I think one of the main benefits of the “information superhighway” (remember when they used to call it that?) is that it has forced many of us to expand our minds and our horizons–though it also plays hell with my attention deficit disorder, as I find myself getting so distracted that I forget what the heck I’m supposed to be doing in the first place.

    As for GenFab…well, they’re the best. Fascinating, challenging, supportive, funny–everything we bloggers of a certain age could ask for in an online community. Thanks for this post, Lynne!


  19. Fascinating glimpse into how far we’ve come, Lynne! My mom is one of the 80-somethings who won’t touch a computer, sad to say. I’ve tried to help her, so has Domer, so has my sister. She’s even taken a class at the local college and at the library. Still, she’s too afraid to venture into the online world, though she’s interested in all the happenings there. If you get your mom computing, do share how, okay?!

    • Wow, Debbie, another family coincidence, Sis! I asked her about it last night and she didn’t give me the brush-off. We live in a 55+ community where the clubhouse has a bank of computers. I keep telling her this is the BEST setup! Because no creeps can follow her home, and if she “blows something up” (I think she thinks this might happen) it won’t be her own personal computer! I’ll let you know.

  20. I relate to the techno headache, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, I fake my way through Twitter trying to sound kitschy or smart or taking the easy way out and retweeting someones else’s brilliance, I am still working out the bugs in my blog site and I motivate myself by remembering an article I read that said learning new computer skills reduces the chance of alzheimers.

  21. I am just identifying all over the place here, Lynne. I’m the daughter of an engineer and have always had a love of whatever new thing there is to play with. I got my first computer in 1983 or 84, an IBM-PC that I chose because I knew that IBM was a reliable brand and they wouldn’t sell me something that wouldn’t work for a long time. Ha! and double ha!


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  • Lynne Spreen

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    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.

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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."

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Helping each other master the art of a senior life.

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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


Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

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