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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

Quick Question for You

Sometimes I have a hard time reading all the blog posts arriving in my inbox every day. Some bloggers post several times a week or even several times a day. It’s a challenge to keep up, and I worry that I’m missing something.

Some bloggers are even doing newsletters now! Thus instead of one post in my inbox, they’re sending me a collection of six or seven articles at a time. Holy cow.

On the other hand, a few of the longer-winded bloggers are cutting back, worried they’re overloading their readers. That’s why I’m thinking of switching to every other Friday to make your life a little less cluttered. I’d like to do what works for you. So spill it, good buddy, and we’ll go with the majority. Let me know what you’d prefer, and thanks.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi Lynne….will you be sharing the results with all of us? I would really like to know this for my own blog too! Thanks! ~Kathy

  2. I voted for every Friday and then thought every second Friday would also be OK with regularity being the key. There are certain blogs I know come in on certain days which I look out for.
    Whilst I agree keeping up with daily postings is exhausting, some bloggers I follow cut their postings to about once a month but now the posts are very long which I also find exhausting. Balance is the key.

  3. Thanks for doing this Lynne. I Ditto Kathy. Please let us know your results. I think we’re all overwhelmed! I just can’t read them all!

    • I will, Nina. Things are changing every day. Normal practices are changing as well. It seems to me there’s an overload of blogs and blogging. I’d rather be of service than a burden.

  4. Cate Russell-Cole

     /  September 10, 2013

    I understand what you’re saying. You can go into your Reader settings and stop those emails in WordPress, which does help. I post 3 times a week, except for months like this when I have a special initiative to promote writers going on. There is a limit as to how much anyone can read a day: plus it’s good to cut down on how much blog promotion I have to do.

    The whole problem stems from the search engines ranking you higher if you post every day and the peer pressure to blog seven days a week. It can lead to both writer and reader burn out. It also leads to far less comment being left as there is no time!

    Please do whatever is right for YOU. You have a great blog. I wish you the very best of luck with your writing journey.

    • Thanks, Cate. I started this blog back in 2009 because I was a couple years from publishing my novel and everybody said “You must have a blog.” So I did. But then it became something way more than a means for publicizing my book. (In fact, sales ebb and flow completely independently of the blog.) It became a – well, soapbox isn’t quite right, because we’re all on the box together. It became a conversation about something that I came to feel very, very deeply about: a conviction that we’re wasting ourselves, self-immolating to show solidarity with the youth-obsessed. I wanted to find examples of that, that we might all learn, and from that gain power, and from THAT gain joy and satisfaction in the second half of our lives. My book is about that, but if I never wrote one more word of fiction, I would still need to pursue this path. So I’ll keep doing it, at the pace I can, and if I need a week or two off, I’ll let everybody know and go away for a while. But you guys are all being crushed by the weight of the words coming at you from every corner of the Internet, and I wondered if I might back off a bit, to keep from burning you all out. So that was why I did it. Good to hear from you.

      • Cate Russell-Cole

         /  September 16, 2013

        Don’t worry about the weight of the rest of the Internet. We read what we want to read – end of story. If that’s you, then be there for us as much as you want to be. You can’t take responsibility for everyone’s craziness. Just be you. 🙂

  5. sortaretired

     /  September 10, 2013

    You’re only doing one post a week, aren’t you? That’s just about right for me. Keep up the good work!

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Terrie andrade

     /  September 10, 2013

    I look forward to every post on every blog to which I subscribe! Sometimes I have to go back and catch up…depending on what’s going on in my life. I suggest you write when you have something you want to say and that we read it when time permits. I do not have a blog ( yet) but if and when I do…I will write whatever and whenever I’m led to do so…and I will trust that my readers will find time for me…at some point. I love your words, Lynne, no matter when I get around to reading them!

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts, Terrie. If I ever find myself without something to say (probably never; my apologies!) I’ll just say I’m taking a vacation day.

  7. I think you are perfect just the way you are. I so look forward to your blog and YOU. your humor is just perfect…for me…thanks lynn please continue to hang out with us once a week. smooches

  8. Jo Ann V. Glim

     /  September 11, 2013

    Thank you for asking this question. What ever you choose to do, will be fine with me. I read your blog because it’s well thought out and interesting. And because you’re not loading up my inbox with posts, I look forward to receiving it. I’m glad to see you question the validity of blogging, monthly… weekly… daily, though.

    As a general comment to the blogging community: Blogging can turn into a full-time obsession/passion for some. I would much prefer to get a blog every other week knowing the blogger had something to say than to be inundated daily with blah… blah… blah.

    • Jo Ann, I so agree with your last sentence especially! Today someone posted on one of my Facebook groups a post about how Cottonelle wipes are clogging up the sewer systems. Good Lord.

  9. Hi Lynne, as in my poll vote whenever you choose and whatever you choose is fine with me I’ve never felt overwhelmed by your posts.
    Of course I’m an author interview/reviewer blogger so I have posts most days so when I follow a blog like yours it’s strange to not see a post more often.
    Love yours

  10. I agree with you and Joanne. I would prefer to get a blog every other week and have something to say, etc. Whatever works for you, I will follow. However…I say let’s just going shopping at Chico’s or Fresh Produce, think about it and do some serious shopping.

  11. As far as I’m concerned, you could write multiple times a day and I’d be happy…

    • You’re such a doll, Mimi. One of my nicknames at work used to be The Queen of BS. Because I worked in HR, and was diplomatic and loquacious. On my fourth date with Bill, I told him that factoid. He took my hand, looked all moony at me and said, “Those are my initials.”

  12. I use a RSS feedreader, so all I see are the titles to posts. When a title catches my eye, I’ll click through to read it and I enjoy seeing the list every day. Sometimes I’ll browse through it during breaks throughout the day, so it doesn’t matter to me if someone posts daily. Their titles go to the list with the rest and I pick and choose which ones to read when I have the time. I had to resort to this because my inbox became far too cluttered with blog post emails and I ended up deleting them all because it was overwhelming to try and filter out the ones I had time or desire to read. Feedly is the service I use, and I like it.

    • Hi Madison,
      The prospect of getting organized will never lose its appeal. I can’t resist the siren’s call, and will go to Feedly right away to see if they can help me. Thanks.

      • It’s time-consuming at first to enter the urls of the sites you follow, and then find the ones which use feeds that aren’t the same as the url (some WP blogs require you to enter the feed addy, not the blog addy). But after that it is oh so much easier. If you need help figuring out how to locate feed urls, let me know and I’ll be glad to lend a hand 🙂

  13. Hey Lynne – every other week would be fine for me, I also know your posts will be special, but sometimes I don’t have a chance to read them for a few days. Thanks for asking.


  14. I agree with those who put the emphasis on the quality of what is being posted rather than the frequency. Readers have to take responsibility for selecting what they spend time on – writers for what they put forth. If more of the latter upheld their obligations, the former would have less to ‘wade through’ looking for the gems. Since you do accept your responsibility as a writer, your readers are guaranteed that their time with you is worth it.

  15. I get on some sites where some bloggers blog all day. It gets difficult for other bloggers to post. Does that ever happen?


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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

  • Blogs I Follow

  • This Blog Got Five Stars!

Still the Lucky Few

Reflections on Life as a Senior

Writing Contemplative life Essays

Examining experiences and exploring possibilities

Live & Learn

David Kanigan


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


Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

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