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NO LONGER AND NOT YET: Stories ~Joanna Clapps Herman

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

“Death, when you weren’t actually faced with it, was something like that.  A small boat in a large body of water going toward a vague line that never came any closer-death always the same safe distance from your boat.  No matter how long you moved toward it, it continued to move off ahead of you.  Then when someone you knew died, death appeared in your boat, and you were supposed to contend with its abrupt, confusing arrival, for which you had no talent, no gift.  It was never as if you came to believe it.  You were just very confused.  Full of refusal.  After a time of stunned confusion it moved back out there far away where it belonged.  And wasn’t considered again until it had to be again.  The horizon what is not yet.”  (Page 102)


NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a collection of 26 stories which are all connected to the Upper Westside of New York City. As of late, I have been reading a number of books that for varied reasons keep me reading long into the night and wanting to savor and finish them right away.  As much as I love short stories and like to read one a day when partaking, this was an exception to my rule for the fact that I have a fixed review date and because the stories touched each other in ways that made the reader want to know.

Tess, Max and eventually Paul were the thread that held the weave of the stories together.  Tess has a wealth of friends right in the neighborhood and they then became their own stories and found connection back to Tess for advice and support.  Tess told the stories of living and what she is aware of and then interpreted these ideas to the reader to get the whole picture.  Her best friend Naomi lived in a building on Riverside Street and the residents within added the breadth of the friendships. The reader is able to get a clear picture and attend to the day’s experience.

It made a section of NYC cozy and connecting and the writing and details brought clarity with the exquisite use of words. The reader is connected and feels present; for me particularly about the “mother thoughts” going on inside each woman during her day or excerpt.  The problems seemed normal and not overblown and were infused with moments of wine, a sigh of relief and laughter.

These are everyday stories which make sense in our everyday and yet we are privy to the thinking and the actions in a way which reminds us that we are not alone.  There are others living plain lives and having questions and concerns just like ours and yet they are drawn together because of their communications and sharing.  The words tighten the threads of connection and understanding.  There are two thinking about the crazy flower woman in the park and two attempting to help the box man not freeze to death on a rare cold snowy night.  Can you imagine being the only mother and son playing in a NYC park – no one else on the swings?  Is the teacher always right or does she say the wrong things to your child?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it was so wonderful to have a summer rainy day to wander and walk through years with these delightful characters into their lives and resolutions.  NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a 5 star read.

tlc logo  TLC online book tours  sent me a copy of NO LONGER AND NOT YET for review and it was a pleasure to share this book with you

“Joanna Clapps Herman teaches creative writing in the MFA Graduate Program at Manhattanville College and at the Center for Worker Education, a division of City College of New York, CUNY.  She is the author of THE ANARCHIST BASTARD:GROWING UP ITALIAN IN AMERICA, also published by SUNY Press; coeditor (with Carol Bonomo Albright) of Wild Dreams: The best of Italian Americana; and coeditor(with Lee Gutkind) of OUR ROOTs ARE DEEP WITH PASSION: Creative Nonfiction Collect New Essays by Italian-American Writers.  She lives in New Your City.” (Cover)

Joanna Clapps Herman Online 
Joanna Clapps Herman on Facebook

I am counting on folks sharing this review – please share and like – Thank you – Sharing is a good thing to do.

Related:
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THE UNFINISHED CHILD: A Novel ~Theresa Shea

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

“Her mother’s words came back to her.  It’s a woman’s lot in life to bear the shame. But why should it be?  Why didn’t men carry the burden of their own bad behaviors?”


THE UNFINISHED CHILD is a very sensitive read about the moral and technical dimensions of sharing life with a child with Down’s Syndrome.  This is a fictional story so it can tell a bigger story and fill us in on the thought processes, the feelings, the hopes and dreams and the historic experiences.  This book is also a story about mothers and how they parent, what they tell their daughters about being a mother, and what they withhold; the secrets behind the scenes to the conversational outcomes.  This is a well-researched story about hope with sensitivity to the rose petal delicacy of each individual’s patterns of emotion.

Elizabeth and Marie are best friends.  Marie is a fulltime mom to two delightful daughters and discovers she is pregnant at age thirty nine; this pregnancy feels very different from the previous two.  Elizabeth owns a florist shop and has been attempting to have a baby for 17 years with no positive results; she was adopted as an infant but will not consider adoption as an option for herself.  Marriages are put to the test and friendship becomes difficult as these women sort out what they will be and do next in their lives.

There is a third mother highlighted in THE UNFINISHED CHILD – Margaret.  Margaret was raped as a young girl on her family farm by the doctor’s son and learns about classism and shame.  After she is married her first born daughter is born with Down’s syndrome and is institutionalized under doctor’s recommendations within a few days of birth.  Shame, classism, and medical – technical issues enter into the story line, in the 1940s, this is just the way life happened.  There were few studies, people did not know what to do, and they expected the infant to be sickly, mentally retarded, and survival rates low.  Margaret and her daughter inspire a newly minted doctor to learn more and provide hope.   Children with Down’s were referred to as UNFINISHED CHILDREN.

Raw complex feelings are explored in these three women, the reader uncovers the complexities of feelings and actions surrounded by the pressures and expectations put upon the role of being a mother and developing a family spirit.  It is honest and searching and THE UNFINISHED CHILD will definitely touch your heart.

What a dynamic book group discussion starter, there are so many avenues to explore, including self-exploration of feelings.  How do these ideas and concepts fit into community and society?  What is it that we tell our children – our daughters?

“Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted…but to weigh and consider.”  Francis Bacon.

Theresa Shea on Facebook.  Shea was born in Maryland and now resides in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her husband and three children “Having come to motherhood relatively late, Shea has always been particularly sensitive to the technological and moral issues surrounding women’s choices regarding childbirth.”

Related:
Incendiary Girls
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Coincidence 
The Moon Sisters

tlc logo TLC Online Book Tours shared a copy of this book for me to review.  The depth and width of this story encouraged me to let you know about – THE UNFINISHED CHILD.

Would you purchase a book that was a story about Down’s syndrome and infertility?  Do you find it helpful to read about life dilemmas and the resolutions?

Sharing is good.