Charlene Wexler

Charlene Wexler is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She has worked as a teacher and dental office bookkeeper and as “a wife, mom, and grandmother,” she said. In recent years, Wexler’s lifelong passion for writing has led her to create numerous essays as well as fiction.

She is the author of the books Lori, Elephants In The Room, Milk and Oranges, Murder Across the Ocean, and Murder on Skid Row.

Her work has appeared in several publications, including North Shore Magazine; the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry’s  ...See more >


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"Wexler mixes humor, nostalgia, and reflection in her second collection of essays and short fiction."

Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-5234-7196-6
Page count: 194pp

Wexler (Milk and Oranges, 2015, etc.) mixes humor, nostalgia, and reflection in her second collection of essays and short fiction.

The book opens with a recounting of a day in the life of a Chicago teen in 1959. The author offers a loving but cleareyed reminiscence of working in her father’s drugstore that sets the tone for the first section, which deals with her own coming-of-age in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The following sections take on different topics, including lighthearted memories of pets and general observations of human nature and life. The longest section, about family and friends, also contains the strongest piece in the book, “Loss and Grief,” which recounts the death of Wexler’s 12-year-old son from leukemia. She delves into her raw emotions of grieving, and particularly her anger: “The sun and I were angry all the time, but it was our secret.” A subsequent remembrance of the dog that helped Wexler through her grief suggests that this powerful theme could carry a full-length memoir. The final section, which includes several poems, takes on the weighty topics of growing older and mortality, but in a high-spirited way. In the last essay, “When I’m Gone,” Wexler plans her own funeral. Although many of the longer essays are affecting, some seem superficial, such as a brief perusal of an autograph book she found in a closet. Full-color photographs illustrate several selections, but other than some family photos, they don’t add much. A few short stories are mixed in with the essays and poetry; the title story, in which several cousins gather for a family funeral, reflects on the enduring strength of family bonds. “Band of Girls,” about a maverick running for president of her sorority in 1963, has a strong opening but no real resolution. These tales seem out of place next to the personal remembrances that make up the bulk of the book, and might have been better saved for a fiction collection.

Remembrances of a long life in an uneven but mostly satisfying collection. 

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1500431051
Page count: 342pp

Lori Weinberg contends with her husband’s alcoholism, her daughter’s illness and her aloof mother’s Holocaust past in this piece of women’s fiction.

Lori’s husband, Jerry, falls off the wagon at their son’s wedding and is hauled off to a police station. “Can you believe the hell I’ve gone through with this man for the last thirty years?” she cries to her longtime best friend, Adele. The novel then shifts from 2001 to 1970, when Jerry takes Lori, raised in a posh North Shore suburb, into a lower-class Chicago neighborhood to meet his family. The Brills are more boisterous and strictly observant Jews than Lori’s family, which consists only of a “mom who is always sick, and a dad who is always gone.” Lori soon marries Jerry and becomes mother to Julie and Barry. Jerry works as a salesman for the dental equipment business that is only one source of income for Adele’s more successful husband, Jim. It then becomes increasingly apparent that Jerry is an alcoholic; plus, one of his brothers is always hatching financial schemes. When 14-year-old Julie is diagnosed with leukemia, Lori puts all other concerns on hold to deal with the brave girl’s journey, which includes a desire to visit Israel. As several deaths unfold, Lori forces Jerry to go into rehab in Arizona, where she meets Rain, a free-spirited woman with surprising connections to Chicago. The novel concludes in 2003, with Lori now able to stand on her own, empowered by a trip to Germany that unlocked the secrets of her now-dead mother’s sorrow. Author Wexler wrote several murder mysteries prior to penning this tale of a sheltered yet relatable woman facing a significant array of life challenges. Wexler’s scenes featuring Julie’s illness are particularly strong, being both heartfelt and heartbreaking. Lori’s attitude toward her husband is more puzzling; she often seems unsympathetic, even when his own childhood issues are exposed. Lori’s dynamics with female friends, her mother and her Jewish heritage are all intriguing but feel a bit rushed and underdeveloped within this expansive novel.

Engaging, sweeping saga of a contemporary wife and mother.

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE:

LORI
Family saga, fiction

A clash of cultures. A domineering mother-in-law. An alcoholic husband. A fatally ill child. The possibility of economic ruin. The sheltered, comfortable, liberal upbringing undergone by Lori in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago in the United States did not prepare her for marriage into the difficult and quirky working-class family of her husband, Jerry—or for the sweeping societal and social changes of the last quarter of the 20th century. Lori deals with relationships between family and friends, divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, homosexuality, the judicial system, the Holocaust, and financial booms and busts. Most importantly, it deals with cancer from the points of view of both the victim and the survivors. Lori’s seemingly perfect suburban world is in constant peril. Fortunately, her lifelong best friend, Adele, is there every step of the way to provide support and advice—until Adele faces her own tragedy. When separated from Adele by thousands of miles, Lori also finds she can count on her new friend, Rain—an ex-flower-child with a surprising connection to Lori’s past that holds the key to Lori’s future. Lori is the story of a woman gaining strength she never knew she could achieve, and of victory over adversity—a story with tragedies and triumphs to which every reader will be able to relate.

Published:
ISBN: 978-1500431051
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MILK AND ORANGES (Unpublished)
Short stories, essay

Milk and Oranges, a collection of short fiction and essays examining life, love, and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition, has been published as an e-book and as a paperback by award-winning writer Charlene Wexler. Whether she is tackling fiction or essays, Charlene Wexler writes from the heart. With a keen eye for detail and a way of looking at the world a bit sideways, Wexler’s writings in Milk and Oranges will entertain while they make you think. In Milk and Oranges, Wexler’s fiction and essays are grouped in five categories. How’s Your Love Life? features two fiction pieces that will cause female readers to nod their heads in agreement, and a warm essay on Wexler’s feelings for her husband, Sam. The Cruel Club features both essays and fiction on the tragedy of the death of a child. Wexler has been a member of the Cruel Club since 1981. In Family and Friends, you’ll meet some of the fun characters in Wexler’s life and in her fiction, and inevitably you’ll think about similar loved ones in your own world. The story “Milk and Oranges,”from which the title of this book is derived, appears in this section. What would life be without our animal pals? Wexler shares some stories about four-footed friends and loved ones in Animal Magnetism. The Passing Parade features Wexler’s fiction and prose observations on the changes in our fast-paced world. After reading Milk and Oranges, you’ll see why Wexler’s first novel, Murder on Skid Row, was honored with an Apex Award for excellence. Her style makes you feel as if you are reading about or talking to dear friends. Milk and Oranges is a collection of stories that will pluck at your heartstrings and tickle your funnybone.
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MURDER ACROSS THE OCEAN (Unpublished)
Murder mystery, mystery, international, international intrigue

Seventy-something American Lori Brill thought she’d have a pleasant, uneventful vacation in London visiting her granddaughter, Cate. Lori’s trip started out even better than she could have imagined when she ran into Josh, her old high-school boyfriend, in line for the same flight at the airport—resulting in an unexpected night of passion in a London hotel room. Lori was all smiles as she stepped out of the shower the next morning, ready to slip back into Josh’s arms—until she saw his bloody corpse lying in the bed where they had made love only a few short hours before. The London police naturally suspect Lori of murdering her lover, but the case becomes more complicated when it is discovered that international ladies’ man and real estate mogul Josh has swindled millions of dollars from hundreds of people—a fact that broadens the case beyond the Scotland Yard team led by Inspector Geoffrey Holmes and brings in American FBI agent Jordan Gould. Also on the case are Lori’s granddaughter Cate and Cate’s fiancé Joseph, two London solicitors. Complicating matters are Cate’s and Jordan Gould’s growing mutual attraction as the investigation progresses; another growing mutual attraction between Lori and Inspector Holmes; and Lori’s family’s unexpected connection to Joseph’s father, Lord Roger Lunt, and to the wealthy German nobleman Baron Joseph Braun and the horror of the Holocaust. So who killed Josh? Was it Josh’s beautiful girlfriend Suzi, who unexpectedly appears in London? Was it Josh’s Chinese financial backers? Was it British mobsters, led by the evil Roland McKeifer, who kidnap Lori in an attempt to find Josh’s hidden millions? Was it Baron Braun, who summons Lori to Germany to tell her a 70-year-old secret? Was it someone whose money had been stolen or heart had been broken by Josh? Or was it someone else? Find out in Murder Across the Ocean.
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MURDER ON SKID ROW (Unpublished)
Mystery, murder mystery, historical fiction

“Spare any change?” and “I don’t know nothing” were the watchwords on Chicago’s Skid Row in the 1960s. Located on Madison Street, a little west of the city’s bustling and prosperous downtown, Skid Row was home to hustlers, winos, addicts, bums, lost souls, ripoffs, and kickbacks. Everyone, it seemed, had a secret. Into this shady society steps Dr. Mel Greenberg, who describes himself as “fresh out of dental school, very idealistic, and very poor.” He opens his new dental office “to help the downtrodden,” he says. Instead, he finds himself in a world for which his working-class upbringing never prepared him, where a day might bring anything from a philosophy-quoting patient to a knife held at his neck. Eventually, he finds himself a suspect in murder. Based on a true story, Murder on Skid Row is the first novel by Chicagoan Charlene Wexler. Told from Dr. Greenberg’s point of view, Murder on Skid Row takes the reader back to a place that was an integral part of Chicago for decades—but one today’s public officials and city-beautiful boosters would rather have us believe never existed. In the pages of Murder on Skid Row, you’ll meet: – Ace, who “could flick a billfold from a pocket faster than a squirrel could pluck a nut from a tree.” – Darlene, a ghetto girl torn between the better life working in Mel’s office can provide and her boyfriend’s world of gangs and drugs. – Tyrone, Mel’s “bodyguard” and more dangerous than Skid Row itself. – Jim Bones, a Vietnam vet forever scarred by the horrors of war. – Abe, whose pharmacy was one of the last thriving businesses left on Skid Row—but whose secrets held fatal consequences. – Plus a host of other characters who made up the tattered tapestry of Skid Row life. Toss in humor, pathos, and a murder mystery, and you have a gripping historical thriller. Chicago’s Skid Row is long gone, but Wexler brings it back in Murder on Skid Row.
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Murder on Skid Row
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK4pmby4bO0