Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shout Her Lovely Name (and a Giveaway!)

Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 6/26/2012
Advanced Reading Copy, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780547634524
Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husband’s fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place. And in a suite of stories, we follow capricious, ambitious single mother Ruby and her cautious, steadfast daughter Nora through their tumultuous life—stray men, stray cats, and psychedelic drugs—in 1970s California.
Gimlet-eyed and emotionally generous, achingly real and beautifully written, these unforgettable stories lay bare the connection and conflict in families. Shout Her Lovely Name heralds the arrival of a powerful new writer.

My Thoughts:

Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber is an exquisite collection of eleven short stories featuring mothers and daughters. All of the stories in this collection are poignant and impressive in the complexity and depth of emotion captured. With the exception of three stories, nine of them follow the same woman. The stories included are: "Shout Her Lovely Name," "Ruby Jewel," "Alone as She Felt All Day," "Free to a Good Home," "This Is So Not Me," "Manx," "Take Your Daughter to Work," "A Whole Weekend of My Life," "Plum Tree," "Rate My Life," and "Developmental Blah Blah."

The first short story, Shout Her Lovely Name (see the link to it below), was so powerful and eloquent it literally took my breath away at times. A mother recounts in a second person narrative the struggles and frustration she experiences trying to get her daughter help in overcoming an eating disorder. I think this story can be appreciated by anyone, but for those mothers who have had a similar struggle with a daughter's mental health, it will be more heart-wrenching because you will understand what this mother is thinking.

Most of the following stories in the collection feature Ruby and, later, her daughter, Nora. The transition from the first story, "Shout Her Lovely Name," to the second, "Ruby Jewel," may feel abrupt at first, if reading the short stories back to back, but give Ruby some time. While the first story wrung my heart dry, I was captivated by and engaged in all of the Ruby stories. The connection between Ruby and Nora is fluid and complicated, as all mother-daughter relationships can be, but following it is worth the effort. Ruby and Nora are not as privileged as the mothers and daughters in the first and last story. Their complicated relationship is punctuated by a greater struggle in their day to day life. Serber deftly exposes their sacrifices as well as their faults as they grow up together. When they were done, I was left wanting more of the story of Ruby and Nora.

"This Is So Not Me" and "Developmental Blah-Blah," were the least successful stories for me, but Serber is a skillful, ingenious writer so even though they were less successful for me, they were still both excellent short stories. (I should also mention that I love the cover of her collection and found it very visually appealing.)

In Shout Her Lovely Name Natalie Serber has presented readers with an excellent, eloquent, perspicacious collection of short stories that left me longing for more. 
Bravo Ms. Serber! I will be anxiously awaiting another collection of your short stories!
Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: For the TLC Book Tour and review purposes I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher.  

In the beginning, don’t talk to your daughter, because anything you say she will refute. Notice that she no longer eats cheese. Yes, cheese: an entire food category goes missing from her diet. She claims cheese is disgusting and that, hello? she has always hated it. Think to yourself . . . Okay, no feta, no Gouda — that’s a unique and painless path to individuation; she’s not piercing, tattooing, or huffing. Cheese isn’t crucial. The less said about cheese the better, though honestly you do remember watching her enjoy Brie on a baguette Friday evenings when the neighbors came over and there was laughter in the house.
Then baguettes go too.
“White flour isn’t healthy,” she says.
She claims to be so much happier now that she’s healthier, now that she doesn’t eat cheese, pasta, cookies, meat, peanut butter, avocados, and milk. She tells you all this without smiling. Standing before the open refrigerator like an anthropologist studying the customs of a quaint and backward civilization, she doesn’t appear happier.
When she steps away with only a wedge of yellow bell pepper, say, “Are you sure that’s all you want? What about your bones?  opening

After the doctor’s appointment, drive to your daughter’s favorite Thai restaurant while she weeps beside you and tells you she never imagined she’d be a person with an eating disorder. “If this could happen to me, anything can happen to anyone.”
Tell her, “Your light will shine. Live strong. We will come through this.” Vague affirmations are suddenly your specialty.
“I’m scared,” she tells you.
For the first time in months, you are not scared. You are calm. Your daughter seems pliable, reachable. pg. 8

Your starving daughter pushes away her plate, her face pinched, disappointed, angry. You can see her mantra scroll across her eyes like the CNN news crawl: loser... failure... pathetic... chubby...  pg. 16

Excerpt from book, "Shout Her Lovely Name" at Hunger Mountain
Excerpt from book, "Plum Tree," found at Gulf Coast

Natalie Serber received an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in The Bellingham Review and Gulf Coast , among others, and her awards include the Tobias Wolff Award. She teaches writing at various universities and lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. Natalie Serber

I'm offering one of my lucky readers a chance to win a copy of Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber from the publisher.  Additionally you can also enter to win a Shout Her Lovely Name  tote bag. This giveaway ends at noon on July 21st and a winner will be announced that evening. (US/Canada only, no PO Boxes)

(giveaway is closed and winners have been notified) 

Natalie’s TLC Tour Stops
Tuesday, June 26th: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, June 27th: she treads softly
Thursday, June 28th: Book Him Danno!
Monday, July 2nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, July 3rd: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Thursday, July 5th: lit*chick
Friday, July 6th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Monday, July 9th: Book Reviews, Fiction Reflections, ‘n More!
Tuesday, July 10th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, July 11th: a novel toybox
Thursday, July 12th: Bookstack
Friday, July 13th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, July 16th: A Worn Path


Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I don't often read short stories but this collection appeals to me. Thanks for being a part of the tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Lori L said...

With the interconnected Ruby and Nora stories the collection had the feeling of a novella that just happened to include 3 short stories. I appreciate short stories more and more when I read collections like this that are so well written. Shout Her Lovely Name is going to stick with me for a long time.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) said...

I occasionally like to read short stories and essays for a change of pace. I enjoy them more when they are interconnected. This sounds good.

avisannschild said...

I'm generally not a huge fan of short stories but occasionally really enjoy them. These sound fabulous! (I am a big fan of mother-daughter plotlines...)

Jeanne said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I'm excited to read these stories, especially as my first summer with a college-student daughter is drawing to a close.