A collective of women writers lets its figurative hair down in these recollections, assertions of independence and examinations of family dynamics.
Members of the Philadelphia-based Women’s Writing Circle compile their stories, memories and poems in this tenderhearted, nostalgic anthology. Most of the pieces touch on the trials and joys of friendship, marriage and careers, and whether memoir or fiction, the stories all share an investment in exploring the authors’ most meaningful, significant relationships and articulating experiences they never before dared. Much of the book is racked with sentimentalities and manifest observations. One story, which begins with a mother’s words of warning to her 8-year-old daughter—“A woman needs to pay attention to a man’s words, but even closer to his tone”—goes on to state the obvious: “Something tells me there was a lesson in those words.” Even though the writing tends to be baggy and imprecise, its passion and commitment are undeniable. While many stories have overlapping themes and stock characters, such as the inattentive husband and the loyal best friend, some develop into moving tales by capturing the uniqueness of the author’s perspective. For instance, Flo Shore’s meditative, fanciful “Blessed by a Butterfly” introspects on the shimmering line between coincidence and magic. Susan G. Weidener, in her poignant fiction about a woman’s relationship to her family home, memorably writes, “She heard the pop of a champagne cork and her mother’s laugh like a soprano trilling an aria.” Contributor Jodi Monster pens one of the most evocative and affecting stories, about a domestic worker, Josie, who cares for an elderly woman, Betty, and the smart, elegant way Josie is able to reach her even in her most delusional, vulnerable moments. Monster gives delicate and complete descriptions of landscape, context and character in gently musical sentences. One such moment arrives in a description of the small coastal town on the morning Josie comes to work for Betty: “Closer to shore, fat gulls roosted on the boat poles and dinghies bobbed on sure lines.” The book will speak to female readers of a certain age looking to connect with like-minded women, and haunting sentences—“She had been raised to fear snakes and spiders and most especially a draft, but no one, it seemed, had thought to warn her about the spirits that rose on the endless plainsong of the tide”—linger well after the collection’s end. Even though the authors sometimes treat their content too preciously, overall these stories work splendidly as unpretentious, triumphant reflections of times past.
Cloying and wistful but ultimately an enjoyable read.