Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lauren Grodstein’s novel, Our Short History

 I have read almost everything Lauren Grodstein has published, and this is my favorite book of hers, hands down. Though Our Short History is the story of a single mother who is fighting stage IV ovarian cancer, the story is not a tearjerker, nor will you find it depressing. It is actually a very funny and at times acerbic love letter from a mother to her young son, explaining to him why she made the choices she made, and detailing the beautiful and challenging life they made together during the brief time they had. There are sharp, funny observations about life in Manhattan and Seattle, and wise insights into how to stay sane in a crazy-making world. The book is also about the fierce joy of having a sister, the morally ambiguous choices routinely made by a political consultant living in NYC, and the lushness of living a life of privilege and in Seattle. Though there is a death in the book, it is not the death you expect, and the book is funny, absorbing and memorable. Grodstein, the mother her own young son, writes brilliantly about the permanency and power of the mother-son bond. The book is ultimately not sad, but energizing and thought-provoking, and you will ache to read more about all the characters when you arrive at the last page.

Lauren Grodstein, an old friend from graduate school, directs the MFA program at Rutgers/Camden and speaks to book groups. If you’re interested in contacting her, please go to her website, www.Laurengrodstein.com.

Here are some of my favorite lines from her new novel:

“How could I have missed dinner with you? That’s an hour we will never have again.”

 “I remember wondering how I would live without the hormonal rush of nursing, the calorie-burning-life-affirming sigh of it.”

“I lay down next to you for a while, hoping your breathing would hypnotize me to a calmer place.”

“Megan had blonde hair in a chic cut along her jawline, blue-green eyes like a Disney doll’s.”

“Allie loved being pregnant and loved being a mother, and of course her husband, unlike my mother’s, went on to a multi-million dollar career, which I suppose made the whole maternal enterprise a little easier.”

“In all my years visiting Seattle, I had never heard anybody call anyone else an asshole. In fact, their life had always seemed one of almost comical tranquility.”

“New Yorkers, as I’m sure you know, are different: we like to squeeze into small places, make the most out of hidden corners. I’ve never met a Manhattanite, no matter how wealthy, who has a single empty kitchen drawer.”


“I had spent the better part of the past seven sleepless nights figuring out what to wear for today’s meeting and had settled, rather glumly, on an Eileen Fisher getup that made me look middle-aged and polite.”

 “Her blondish-brownish hair was dyed an icy shade of yellow, the color of peed-on snow.”

“I put on sixty pounds when I was pregnant, grew as swollen and unmanageable as a tick.”

“I looked at the blue veins tracing my own white arm, a pattern that could decorate a mosque.”

“Or was it simply, the magic of you?"


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