Shout Her Lovely Name

Natalie Serber, Author
Natalie Serber. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-547-63452-4
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 06/26/2012
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Ebook - 40 pages - 978-0-544-04052-6
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-0-544-00221-0
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-547-63457-9
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Serber’s intense debut collection would have been better had every story, rather than most of them, traced Ruby Hargrove’s evolution from daughter to mother, and her own daughter Nora’s reactions to her questionable parenting. After an uneven opening story about a mother and her teenager daughter’s eating disorder, we come to “Ruby Jewel,” about a college girl reluctantly having drinks with her philandering, alcoholic father. As the plot progresses, Ruby gets pregnant, tries to make it work with the baby’s father, and is finally abandoned when she changes her mind about adoption. So begins Ruby and Nora’s life together, a blur of constant moving and a revolving door of men. Serber deftly puts the spotlight on key moments of Nora’s upbringing: an adopted stray cat is thrown out for ruining Ruby’s things; Nora’s tough schoolgirl friends turn to Ruby for help ; Ruby flirts with Nora’s older boyfriend. Serber’s adroit turns of phrase and the short story format enhance the emotional intensity of familiar scenarios while keeping them from seeming rote, but the form has its pitfalls. An engaging story about a mother comforting an orphaned baby on a plane splits the book down the middle, and another stand-alone story ends it. Despite those stories’ clear thematic ties to the collection as a whole, readers will miss Ruby and Nora. (June 26)
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