March 15, 2016 · 11:47 am
Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre; Edited by Tracy Chevalier (An Anthology; William Morrow, $15.99, 304 pages)
The concept of a short story collection is not new. What is new, at least to this reviewer, is the breadth of topics covered by the 21 well-known female authors who contributed to the collection titled, Reader, I Married Him. The variety of voices and themes of these short stories are tied to the quote from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is a favorite of many readers and as such is an excellent jumping off point or conclusion for authors. Tracy Chevalier, also a celebrated author as well as the editor of this collection, sets up the premise in her forward. Each story has its own pace and locale; however, all of them touch on the premise set forth in the book’s title. A wide variety of cultures are woven into the book. Many are indicative of the author’s roots. Most of the authors are English-speaking and based in the UK, Canada and the USA. Also, many of them are professors at well-regarded institutions of higher learning.
Reader, I Married Him is not a breezy read to be tucked in with one’s swimsuit and sandals along with sunblock and a floppy hat. Rather, it is meant to be deliciously savored one story at a time. A brisk read may be confusing and cheat the reader out of the quirky and sometimes deeply moving sentiments offered by these masters of their craft.
A review copy was provided by HarperCollins Publishers. This book will be released on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.
These are the writers who contributed to Reader, I Married Him: Tracy Chevalier, Tessa Hadley, Helen Dunmore, Kirsty Gunn, Joanna Briscoe, Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Susan Hill, Francine Prose, Elif Shafak, Evie Wyld, Patricia Park, Salley Vickers, Nadifa Mohamed, Esther Freud, Linda Grant, Sarah Hall, Lionel Shriver, Audrey Niffenegger, Namwall Serpell, and Elizabeth McCracken.
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Tagged as 21 stories, a book review by Ruta Arellano: Reader, A book review site, an anthology, Audrey Niffenegger, book preview, book review, book review site wordpress, book reviews, Charlotte Bronte, Edited by Tracy Chevalier, editor, Elif Shafak, Elizabeth McCracken, Emma Donoghue, Esther Freud, Evie Wyld, female authors, fiction, Francine Prose, HarperCollins Publishers, Helen Dunmore, I Married Him, Jane Eyre, Jane Gardam, Joanna Briscoe, Joseph's Reviews, Kirsty Gunn, Linda Grant, Lionel Shriver, March book releases, Nadifa Mohamed, Namwali Serpell, new book release, original stories, Patricia Park, recommended books, Ruta Arellano, Salley Vickers, Sarah Hall, Savory Stories, short stories, Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre, story compilation, Susan Hill, Tessa Hadley, Tracy Chevalier, trade paperback, William Morrow, women writers, women's literature, Wordpress book review site
December 5, 2010 · 3:00 pm
So Much for That: A Novel by Lionel Shriver (Harper; $25.99; 433 pages)
“…the biggest tipoff that she was not in as much denial as she feigned was that Glynis had no interest in the future. That left everyone pretty much stumped. When you weren’t interested in the future you weren’t interested in the present either. Which left the past, and she really wasn’t interested in that.”
This is a fictional tale of two American families in 2005. They are typical, yet atypical in that they are both being worn and ground down by the twin pressures of a fiscal recession and deadly diseases. The primary family, the Knackers, is composed of Glynis, sculptress, wife and mother and mesothelioma victim (a form of cancer that is killing her quickly); Shep, the ever dutiful husband who is a millionaire on paper; their absent college age daughter Amelia; and their clueless teenage son Zach. Their friends, presumably Jewish, are Jackson and Carol Burdina. Jackson is an angry co-worker of Shep’s who is insecure about being married to the ever-beautiful Carol. They have two daughters, Flicka, who was born with Familial Dysautonomia (FD) – which will likely kill her by the time she is 30 – and Heather, their healthy overeating daughter who is growing larger by the hour.
Shep Knacker’s longtime dream is to cash in on his home improvement business in order to live what he calls The Afterlife on an island. However, just as he sells his business for a cool $1 million, Glynis is diagnosed with the cancer that gives her a little over a year to live. The longer Glynis lives, the more Shep’s Merrill Lynch account will be drawn down. Shep quickly learns that a million dollars does not last long in a world where an aspirin costs $300 and a regimen of chemotherapy goes for $30,000.
“That had been one revelation, insofar as there was any: everything was equal. There were no big things and little things anymore. Aside from pain, which had assumed an elevated position… all matters were of the same importance. So there was no longer any such thing as importance.”
One of the ironies of this tale is that while 51-year-old Glynis fights to hang on to life to the point where she becomes a near madwoman, young Flicka looks forward to the day – at 18 – when she can end her own. And while they trouble themselves with such basic issues, Jackson becomes obsessed with penis enlargement surgery – something he presumes will please his attractive spouse.
“(It was) a world where oblivion was nirvana, where one was never allowed the hope of no pain but only of less.”
Glynis eventually becomes angry as her supposed friends either treat her like a woman already dead, or fail to follow through on their original promises to be there for her when the going gets rough. Yet, she stubbornly refuses to ever accept a fatal diagnosis, even while undergoing a year-long regimen of toxic chemo. She begins to view herself as a marathon runner who never seems to be able to complete the 26th and final mile.
Shep is a man who has prided himself on being responsible his entire life. He’s the man who has always paid his own way and played by the rules. But others tell him that he’s a responsible taxpaying sucker especially when Medicaid won’t buy Glynis even a single aspirin for her pain. He’s not sure what to do until, surprisingly, his ever raging and thought-to-be-dense friend Jackson sends him a message.
This is a work about human values and morals in the face of impending financial ruin and death. What would we do – any of us – in order to keep our health and our homes for an extra day, week, month or year? In this weighty and timely fictional tale you will find an answer.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher. So Much for That is also available as an unabridged audio book and as a Kindle Edition download.
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Tagged as 2005, A Hazy Shade of Winter, a novel, American families, audio book, bank accounts, bankruptcy, best authors, book review, Bookends, books, cancer, chemotherapy, death, debt, disease, Double Fault, drama, Familial Dysautonomia disease, family novel, FD disease, fear, fiction, financial ruin, Glynis Knacker, hardbound release, Harper, HarperCollins, health care reform, hospitals, human values, irony, Jewish, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, law suits, Lionel Shriver, litigation, Manhattan, marathon runners, Medicaid, medical diagnoses, Merrill Lynch, mesothelioma, morality, New York City, New York Times bestselling author, Ordinary Decent Criminals, pain, personal values, popular fiction, recommended books, responsible taxpayers, revelations, rising health care costs, savings, sculpture, Shep Knacker, Shepard Knacker, Simon and Garfunkel, social responsibility, The Female of the Species, The Post-Birthday World, U.S. recession, Unabridged audio book