Nelson and Batey curate superior snippets of women’s creative nonfiction.
In this follow-up to Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection (2012), members of the online community A Band of Women share anecdotes of dealing with life’s inevitable transitions. Divided into six overlapping sections, these three- to five-page essays range in topic from the harrowing (divorce and alcoholism) to the uplifting (learning to swim at 40; expecting twins after infertility treatment). In the collection’s opener, “Love You Hard,” one of the strongest and most affecting pieces, Abby Maslin talks about her husband’s traumatic brain injury: “Life Part II is all about relearning the basics,” she writes. Heather Kristin’s tale of finding her father homeless on the streets of New York City recalls Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle (2005), while Kelly Corrigan and Christine Beirne offer accounts of approaching breast cancer with grace and humor. Some authors mistakenly attempt to cover too much ground—fitting a whole life’s misadventures into a few pages—whereas the most successful zoom in on a specific moment but still draw larger lessons. For example, Vanessa Hua reconnects with her Chinese heritage when she cares for her Parkinson’s-afflicted father, and a semester spent in Israel teaches Abby Ellin that “there are no geographical cures.” Likewise, an ordinary shopping trip reminds Leslie Lagerstrom of the complications of raising a transgender child, and 9/11 widow Christie Coombs plunges back into grief when she receives a call identifying her husband’s elbow. More ruthless editing could eliminate redundant or corny material (one too many empty nest meditations, plus some Chicken Soup for the Soul–style sentimentality), but on the whole, this is a wonderful introduction to contemporary autobiographical writing. Minibios reveal that many of these essays are from memoirs in progress or by writers with blogs or magazine columns. Every reader will discover experiences that resonate and new authors to love.
Though repetitive or clichéd in places, this collection’s standouts far outweigh its missteps.