THE CARVING by Judith K. White


Celebrating Womanhood Through Stories and Skits
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An author, entrepreneur, and linguist offers a collection of 13 female-narrated stories and skits featuring women of various ages, situations, and lifestyles.

The book leads off with one of the most impressive entries, “Brings on the Anxiety,” an actual quote from the aging lips of Rosella, a feisty, “illiterate southern lady” and former maid to a family that has dwindled in size over the years. It’s her birthday, and the grown children she previously cared for have arrived to help her celebrate. The tale is just a few pages in length but manages to convey characterization, mood, history, generational affection, and loss in an economy of swift, emotive prose. The placement of this story is key and becomes emblematic for the remainder of the enticing, well-rounded collection by White (The Rise of Dirck Becker, 2016, etc.). Female solidarity and friendship are a common theme coursing through the volume. Often, early childhood memories and bonds formed between kids become prognosticators for the adulthood years, as with the girl who meets and connects with a boy in a fifth grade drama class in “Licorice.” Though their link is fleeting, it marks a lifelong reminder for the narrator about the power of nondenominational, unconditional love. Still, not all interactions in these pages are friendly ones; some start off beautifully but sour or fester. Associations with the opposite sex are represented through cautionary tales like “Chopin’s Handkerchief,” in which a woman becomes infatuated with a former Italian language lab assistant from her college days in the 1980s only to discover his mental instability igniting a deep-seated fear she never realized she’d harbored. While this story generates a modest amount of suspense, it resists taking the audience to the darkest edges of obsession and perilous pursuit, as readers will expect, and, instead, concludes with notes of mystery and personal contentment.

The collection’s emotional range is wide reaching, from the sadness of illness buffered by faith in “Send Us Help...Please” to the spicy hilarity of “Bon Appétit,” which finds a restless wife home alone during her husband’s lengthy business trip. The spirited narrative chronicles each day as it passes while the woman, a book designer, becomes more and more desperate and thirsty for human interaction, particularly from men. Her interior monologue peppered with sexual fantasies becomes laugh-out-loud funny by Day 5, when the randy wife is more than “ready to jump into the arms of any one of the guys I pass on the sidewalk.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, the title story, a melancholy affair, effectively explores themes of loss and disillusionment, as does the volume’s longest tale, “Don’t Push My Buttons.” Though they add variety, the two theatrical skits included lack the vitality and descriptive fullness of the stories surrounding them. Ultimately, this assemblage succeeds as a cohesive work of literary art, resulting in an addictive reading experience ideal for women eager for a book representative of the female experience as well as anyone who prefers the condensed, brisk rise and fall of short stories.

A vigorous, vibrant cluster of female-centered tales both captivating and immensely gratifying.

Pub Date: May 26th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5320-4893-7
Page count: 174pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2019


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