The Last of the Good Girls by Mary Ann Woodruff

The Last of the Good Girls

Shedding Convention, Coming Out Whole
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman in her 70s looks back in this coming-out memoir.

Woodruff sees the Good & Plenty candy she loved as a child as “a perfect metaphor for the rules that governed my growing up, indeed framed nearly the first fifty years of my life”: “If you were Good, there would be Plenty. It was as simple and as complicated as that.” Born in 1938, she grew up fearing her mother’s anger, which trained her to become “so attuned to my mother’s feelings that I wasn’t aware I had any.” Woodruff was mindful of other people’s feelings, too: She refused to run for president of her high school when nominated, since no girl had ever been elected and she didn’t want to outshine her boyfriend. Thinking for herself, she writes, began first with Mount Holyoke and then the Presbyterian Church, where she became involved in programs, retreats, committees and study groups, getting married to a man and raising a family. Eventually, she developed her own consulting practice in organizational development. Through therapy, poetry and workshops, feminism helped push her to discover her own homosexuality, and today, she’s married to Mary, her partner of 15 years. Woodruff writes well and thoughtfully, although her introspection can seem a bit self-centered: “my being married was a complication that needed to be honored” as she fell in love with Mary, she writes, but calling marriage a “complication” might sound dismissive to some readers. Her justifications for leaving her husband for a woman sound somewhat similar to an adulterer’s: “the attraction was stronger than common sense, and I couldn’t deny it.” Fortunately, her ex-husband seems to have bounced back well, asking only for her to “play me or trade me.” Woodruff’s 15 poems included here sometimes have impressive imagery, but they’re often too literal and obvious: “No longer a child, / having found my woman voice I will speak out.” But Woodruff’s honesty, particularly about giving up what some might call a conventional life, is admirable.

A sensitive account, though it doesn’t offer much remarkably new insight.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1490552965
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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