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"A caustic, funny and moving fantasia of an Irish mammy going round the bend."
—Emma Donoghue, author of ROOM

Our Woman will not be sunk by what life’s about to serve her. She's caught her son doing unmentionable things out by the barn. She's been accosted by Red the Twit, who claims to have done things with Our Woman’s husband that could frankly have gone without mentioning. And now her son’s gone and joined the army, and Our Woman has found a young fella to do unmentionable things with herself, just so she might understand it all...

Malarky is the story of an Irish mother forced to look grief in the eye, and of a wife come face-to-face with the mad agony of longing. Comic, moving, eccentric, and spare, Anakana Schofield’s debut novel introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary fiction.

Further Praise for Malarky


"Anakana Schofield is part of a new wave of wonderful Irish fiction—international in scope and electrically alive."—Colum McCann

"Malarky is a terrific read, a brilliant collision of heartbreak and hilarity written in a voice that somehow seems both feral and perfectly controlled. Anakana Schofield's Our Woman takes a cool nod at Joyce, then goes her own way in one of the most moving and lyrical debut novels I've read."—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

"We become comfortable saying that there's nothing new, and then something like Malarky comes along, which is new and old and different and familiar, but ultimately itself, comfortable in its own skin, wise and smart and crazy-sexy or maybe sexy-crazy—well, you just have to read it to understand. It's a novel that sets its own course, sure and steady, even when it seems like it might be about to go over the edge of the world."—Laura Lippman

"This is the story of Anakana Schofield's teapot-wielding 'Our Woman': fretful mother, disgruntled farmwife, and—surprisingly late in life—sexual outlaw/anthropologist. Everything about this primly raunchy, uproarious novel is unexpected—each draught poured from the teapot marks another moment of pure literary audacity."
—Lynn Coady, author of The Antagonist

"Anyone bold enough to name her book after a word so loaded deserves our attention. In Malarky Schofield pulls her long line tight—and lets go when we least expect it."—Michael Turner, author of Hard Core Logo

"Malarky spins and glitters like a coin flipped in the air—now searingly tragic, now blackly funny. The language is joyful and exuberant, the characters thoughtful and deeply felt. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant."—Annabel Lyon

"Good writing and dark wit always excite me and they come together thrillingly in this book. It has a quiet grip on the strangeness of the interior and exterior worlds of love and politics. I delighted in the writing and the scope."—Jenny Diski

Anakana Schofield is an Irish Canadian writer of fiction, drama, essays, and criticism. She contributes to the London Review of Books and The Globe and Mail (among others). She has lived in London, Dublin, and Vancouver; Malarky is her first novel.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

With its complicated farmwife narrator/protagonist, this novel has drawn enthusiastic early praise. One early reader writes, "Malarky spins and glitters like a coin flipped in the air—now searingly trgic, now blackly funny. The language is joyful and exuberant, the characters thoughtful and deeply felt. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant."

From the Publisher

"This is a remarkably different novel. It is laugh out loud funny and sadly real. It is perceptive and revealing. It is raunchy. It is literate with no shades of gray. The protagonist, cleverly named "Our Woman," is sui generis; you will not find her ilk anywhere. Hers is a voice we have not heard before and may not hear again."—

""One of the delights of this novel is the language in which it is written. The tender inflections of everyday Irish speech … seem to break into a jig, dancing to and fro … I found in Malarky a refreshing rejection of the escapist fantasy that dominates much of our cultural life: it is boldly not fifty shades of anything. I admire Schofield's ability to pull off something so difficult with charm and brio."—The Guardian

"Schofield’s portrait of a woman whose personality is beginning to fragment after a lifetime in an emotional vacuum is both blackly comic and deeply felt. There is something heroic about the desperate resilience of Our Woman, and the originality of her depiction by Schofield, that leaves an indelible trace on the reader’s mind."—The Telegraph

"The best writers ... manage to balance comedy and tragedy, to combine the verbal virtuosity and high jinks of the comic vision with intelligent and sensitive insight into people’s lives and hearts. And Anakana Schofield is in the ranks of the best. She weaves her words well and demonstrates many of the gifts that the novelist has to own. This novel is deeper and more thoughtful than it seems. Clever, witty, imaginative and intriguing, Malarky is a stunning debut from an exceptionally good writer."—The Irish Times

"Brilliant … laced with dark wit and quirky lyricism, this is a striking portrait of a society in flux and a woman on the edge."—The Sunday Mail

"The Irish-Canadian author's episodic, deeply idiosyncratic work is not only eminently readable but also an absolute hoot ... told with such chuckle-inducing black humour and deep-seated intelligence it's akin to being button-holed by a fascinating, blithely imprudent stranger."—Metro Herald

"The novel's poignancy is matched by its regular comic brilliance ... Schofield overturns stereotypes partly by embracing them first, toppling traditional domestic imagery in order to fully capture Philomena's internal and external worlds ... Her writing's distinctiveness and comic energy invokes Patrick McCabe as well as Anne Enright's early work."—Sunday Business Post

"Malarky is a bold first novel from an author whose prose hums with electric wit and linguistic daring. The novel traverses darkly comic territory with intelligence and poise, relating the story of an unnamed narrator whose resilience in the face of life’s disappointments will stay with readers long after the verbal pyrotechnics have dissipated. Anakana Schofield is a true original, and her novel is a delight.”—Stuart Woods, First Novel Award Judge

"One of the season's best reads."—The National Post

"Quirky, raucous and utterly unconventional."—Reader's Digest

"A miracle ... move over, Molly Bloom."—Ann Kjellberg, Little Star

"This book got a lot of attention on my Twitter feed this year from many women I admire greatly. It’s about Our Woman, an Irish housewife surrounded by people she can’t understand, doing unmentionable things to each other. What is a woman to do? Well, just maybe try some unmentionable things herself."—Laurie Grassi, Chatelaine

"Malarky becomes truly compelling when Our Woman embodies an existential strangeness. In certain moments, we are not so far from Beckett's Molloy - Our Woman comes close to enlivening not only the political and the personal but also the human. Schofield has true promise for this kind of writing, and it is there that I hope she next turns her sizable gifts, in the book that will surely follow this resoundingly successful first novel"—San Francisco Chronicle

"Malarky is a book deeply rooted in the consciousness of a middle-aged Irish farmer’s wife and mother, Philomena, or ‘Our Woman’, who is grieving the loss of both her husband and son. Philomena’s story is remarkable for the way in which it immerses a reader in the extreme disorientation and overpowering sorrow of loss. The narrative is fractured and discursive; it loops and soars and doubles back. But if this sounds overly complicated or esoteric, it isn’t, mostly because Philomena is so brave and flawed and strange a character and her means of dealing with her losses so, well, human. This is a funny, raunchy, moving read, written in beautiful, brave prose."—Heather Birrell, The Next Best Book Blog

"A fascinating voyage into the mind of a woman embattled ... absolutely beautiful."—Toronto Star

"The immensely gifted Anakana Schofield’s vivid study of a middle-aged Irish housewife’s nervous breakdown has a huge heart and a fierce brain; Malarky is, by a wide margin, the most memorable fiction I’ve read this year."—Brian Lynch, The Georgia Straight

"A glorious, breathless romp through the mind of an immensely likeable woman"—Slightly Bookist

"One of the most vivid fictional creations to come along in years... Schofield starts at a pitch of inspiration most novels are lucky to reach at any point and remarkably sustains that level all the way through."—The Montreal Gazette

"This is a brilliant book. Finely drawn, deceptively muscular, and pulsing with warm intelligence and wit"—The Rover

"Schofield’s brilliant storytelling in Malarky is among the most engaging I’ve ever encountered."—The Longest Chapter

"Malarky is an exemplary read ... I look forward to the next of Anakana Schofield’s novels."—Scott Esposito, Conversational Reading

"Irish-Canadian literary critic Anakana Schofield's first novel is a tumultuous ride. Malarky asks questions without providing answers, chronicling the emotional, mental, and occasionally menial anxieties of Our Woman as she struggles with her own agency and desire. Set in contemporary Ireland, the book overflows with subtle and sometimes subversive allusions to James Joyce's Ulysses, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, site-specific contemporary Irish art, and Catholic history. Yet Schofield's strong prose style and inventive approach to structure will likely reward readers unfamiliar with these cultural references."—Quill & Quire

"Delightfully offbeat ... Schofield shows a deft - and altogether welcome - comic touch."—The National Post

"The love of a mother for her son is the central theme of this novel. But the book has much to ask and much to say about many other topics as well, among them empowerment through sex, loneliness in marriage, the futility of war, the strains of immigration and the margins of mental health. Schofield's ability to tie all these together in such an original, quirky, tender and eloquent way is to be commended ... Malarky is an alternately beautiful, brilliant, profound, poignant and comedic work of literary fiction." —The Winnipeg Free Press

"I loved this book Malarky ... I was gobsmacked."—Sheryl MacKay, CBC Radio, North by Northwest

""Malarky is like nothing else, and what everything should be … This is a book that will leave you demanding more of everything else you read."—Pickle Me This

"Malarky is a wacky, dead serious book, and what stands out more than anything is its freshness in a sea of same-old, same-old novels.“—The Telegraph Journal

"A challenging but rewarding look at what happens to a mother when the bottom drops out."—The Vancouver Sun

"Head and shoulders above many of its peers."—The Georgia Straight

"I loved this book from its opening lines ... Schofield's strong beautiful prose is compelling."—Freefall Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781926845388
  • Publisher: Biblioasis
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 225
  • Sales rank: 776,016
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Anakana Schofield: Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian writer of fiction, essays, and literary criticism. She contributes to the London Review of Books, The Recorder: The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, the Globe & Mail, and the Vancouver Sun. She has lived in London and Dublin, and now resides in Vancouver. Malarky is her first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Episode 1.

—There’s no way round it, I’m finding it very hard to be a widow, I told Grief, the counsellor woman, that Tuesday morning.

—Are you missing your husband a great deal?

—Not especially. I miss the routine of his demands it’s true, but am plagued day and night with thoughts I’d rather be without.

—Are you afraid to be in the house alone?

—Indeed I am.

—Are you afraid someone’s going to come in and attack you?

—Indeed I am not.

—And these thoughts, do they come when you are having problems falling asleep?

—No, I said, they are with me from the first sup of tea I take to this very minute, since three days after my husband was taken.

—Tell me about these thoughts?

—You’re sure you want to know?

—I’ve heard it all, she insisted, there is nothing you can say that will surprise me.
I disbelieving, asked again. You’re sure now?


—Men, I said. Naked men. At each other all the time, all day long. I can’t get it out of my head.

—Well now, she said and fell silent.

She had to have been asking the Almighty for help, until finally she admitted she could think of no explanation and her recommendation was to scrub the kitchen floor very vigorously and see would a bit of distraction help.

—Pay attention to the floor and mebbe they’ll stop.

I recognized the potential a widow has to frighten people. I had frightened the poor woman something rotten.

The next week I returned.

—I have scrubbed the floor every day and I am still plagued by them.

Grief was silent another good while.

She had to be honest, she’d never come across a woman who’d experienced this. Usually a woman simply missed her husband without this interference.

—Are you turning to your faith?

—Oh God I am.

The two of us would now pray for some guidance because she was at a loss.

—Were they still the same images?

—Worse, I said. Even more of them and at filthy stuff together and now they all seem to be bald regardless of their ages. Did she think the devil might target widows?

—He might, Grief said. He very well might.

—Would it be worth looking into them Nigerian preachers, the black fellas I seen on the telly who can exorcise them from the place?

—It might, she said, it very well might.

The girls in my gang asked why wasn’t I going to the grief counselling anymore.

—There’s something awful morbid about her. She’s the sort who’d nearly put you off being alive.

And we all laughed about it, until Joanie said be careful now I think that’s so and so, whose married to so and so’s husband, who’s Patsy’s cousin and we’d never hear the end of it if it was to get back to her.

—It’s awful complicated being a widow, you’ve to be careful what you say, I told them, as I’ll tell you all now. If you are a widow, be careful what you say. I think it’s why they started talking about Jimmy in the bank.

Mebbe I said too much.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Anakana Schofield, Author of Malarky

You have written a book about one Irish woman. What was it that drew you to her world?
I wanted to create a woman who refused to be sunk by what life served her and would choose to interrogate it instead. I also hoped to capture some of the warm humour of the women from rural Ireland who raised me. For one part of the narrative, though, I tried to think of the most disparate things I could — I came up with Syria and rural Ireland — and to unite them on the page. It was a nod to D.H. Lawrence, who could bring coal miners and Japanese wrestling together.

Grief is an immediate theme in the book — is grief a theme in your life?
I am very engaged by writings about mortality and grief has been a defining factor in my life since my father died when I was six. I also admire and find a degree of comfort in the Catholic rituals around death in rural Ireland. There are death announcements three times a day on the radio, people will flock to local funerals, there's a tradition of pausing outside the person's house or people blessing themselves passing the church (or graveyard). The culture is attuned to deal with death and a process kicks in over the days that follow. In someways I find things are more isolated in North America, but within diasporas I am sure there are many variables. I just sometimes sense an awful isolation and loneliness for people here when someone dies.

Grief is a different and much more extended matter. I am not sure you ever recover from the death of a loved one. It is perhaps the ultimate sadness a human being can know. I believe one's entire life may become an undertaking on how to face it. The finality of it then gives way to trying to carry on, with that finality at the forefront of your mind. We understand very little about grief and are busy trying to medicalize it. It needs to take its place within a culture, within a community and within an individual. We need to make space for it, not confine it to disappear with a daily pill. Perhaps if we were more aware of our mortality and it was part of a healthy daily discussion the grief-stricken would feel less alone. Fiction is a place where there's lots of space to explore these things.

Can you talk about the role of motherhood in Malarky?
I wanted to explore the darker or more turbulent side of motherhood. Malarky began as a parallel narrative. I asked the question: is it possible to love your child so much that you destroy them? and I invented two mothers in different situations and told their stories with the view that eventually their paths might cross. One mother however took over and I switched my attention to a close-up on the life of "Our Woman" Philomena, but this earlier idea lingered. That a mother might wish her adult child to be gone but certainly not to discover that the very thing that dispatched him would in turn ensure he never came back.

I was particularly struck by the pain of mothers during the invasion of Iraq, the mothers whose houses were terrifyingly invaded in the night by the military or bombs dropping all around them, the mothers who lost limbs and children and concurrently the mothers in small town America whose sons and daughters went off to Iraq. I felt for them all. I wanted to say something about the universality that co-exists in this horror. I had a relative who worked in Iraq as an anthropologist; I marched against that war with my very young child in a stroller.

Was it challenging for you to write the sexual content in your novel?
Immensely! I grew up with repressive Catholicism! I certainly never imagined I might write a novel such as this. I heard Anne Enright say in an interview with CBC's Writers and Company in 2008 she thought "Irish women are too nice and that it's difficult for an Irish woman to do something for which she would not be liked." It resonated with me and I decided to do the dirty work that this particular novel demanded rather than turn away from it. So I depicted an older woman with a healthy attitude, who actively enjoys sex. There aren't so many Irish women in literary fiction who are sexually assertive and not wincing in pain under the quilt cover. I also thought it was important to explore the notion of where people file the things they see. That we sometimes see things and have no place to put them and then witness how they return to haunt us. In this case the mother sees her son engaged in sexual acts with other men and it awakens an eroticism within her, which she is compelled to act (or re-enact) on.

Who have you discovered lately?
I recently discovered Helen Potrebenko's 1975 novel Taxi! (Lazara Press, Vancouver). This book has been profoundly important to me and changed my relationship to the city I now live in.

Lately I have enjoyed immensely Iain Sinclair's psycho-geographic/deep topography books and frankly could I could crawl into a mole hole for six months with his body of work and a good lamp. Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project is within arm's reach here and chronically delights me. Along with Beckett's letters, Andre Breton's Nadja, Michelle Bernstein's All the King's Horses, Mackenzie Walk's The Beach Beneath the Street and Marina Roy's Sign of the X.

Recently to prepare for a jury and a festival panel I participated in, I read plenty forgotten Vancouver literature. Some of the writers who have stayed with me are Betty Lambert, Irene Baird, and D.M. Fraser. I just read George Stanley's long poem Vancouver twice. There are so many Canadian women writers who I'd heartily recommend any reader discover, for starters: Annabel Lyon, Lynn Coady, Caroline Adderson, Jocelyn Brown, Gail Scott, Anne Fleming, Marina Endicott and Lisa Robertson.

An under-discovered Irish writer is Keith Ridgway. His works are bold, deeply invested, ambitious literary departures.

I also enjoy discovering writers who write criticism along with their fiction or non-fiction. Jenny Diski's work has been very important to me in this regard and I have great admiration for Claire Tomalin's work.

Here is an inventory of the current stack of books sat tall beside my couch: 4 of Iain Sinclair books, Kafka's The Blue Octavia Notebooks, What I Don't Know About Animals (Jenny Diski), The End of the Story (Liliana Heker), The Brave Never Write Poetry (Daniel Jones), a book about Shaker furniture, The Antagonist (Lynn Coady), The Little Shadows (Marina Endicott), and Nuri Does Not Exist (Sadru Jetha)

(So in summary you have titles that take on animals, hoarding, furniture-making, disaffected angry males, poetry, Canadian vaudeville and finally cranky grannies in East Africa.)

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Customer Reviews

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( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2012

    The central character of Malarky is Phil, Philomena, Mam, our wo

    The central character of Malarky is Phil, Philomena, Mam, our woman
    and, of course, the first person narrator the elusive I ...all are indeed one
    woman. I would say even every-woman, but given that this romp of a novel is set in
    Ireland, I am going to venture out on a limb, and say our woman despite her empty chatter is more than even the sum of all her roles.
    She seems omnipresent in every scene as she guides us through her landscape.
    Could 'our woman' be a latter day version of the one the Irish revere 'our lady.'

    For sure, she.explores virgin territory - goes were no
    woman has gone before and not only lives to tell the tale but loves to
    tell the tale What a malarky... as our heroine leads us
    through folk, farming and fornicating tales with compassion, caring
    and a cup of tea.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    Tour De Force

    Anakana Schofield's Malarky is a moving, funny story about an ordinary woman determined to overcome challenges and make the most out of life. Written from a lower working class perspective Schofield's protagonist explores the cards she is dealt, mainly grieving, to understand her lot, grow and accept. Particularly moving, and in some ways universally applicable, are the way this working class wife deals with her husband's affair, this working class mother deals with her son's sexuality, and the compelling exploration of how this working class every woman lives with grief.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2012

    Like nothing else I've read

    The voice of Our Woman, the main character, is the best part about this novel for me. She's tender, funny, compassionate. The way she talks about birth and about her husband's table manners is hysterical and spot-on all at once. I also think that the way she handles her son's homosexuality is very moving, I'd recommend it to any mother who has a gay son--for that matter to any wife with a philandering husband too. Five stars all the way!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2012

    Crazy Normal People! Some books can't be easily pigeonholed, de

    Crazy Normal People!
    Some books can't be easily pigeonholed, defy neat descriptions - that's Malarky. I could tell you what it's about, but that's not the point of it really. The point is just to get to know the people, the characters and perhaps recognise them, or even just notice them, and their experiences.
    If you know Ireland, you'll know Malarky. But equally, if you know aging, pain, loss, unattractiveness, friendship, motherhood, madness and general hilarity, then fear not - it's for you too!! And as a bonus, it will transform your view of the Emerald Isle!

    You'd need a hard heart not to feel Malarky and if it doesn't make you laugh I'm afraid you're a lost soul. Malarky is for that bit of crazy in all of us and it's for the secret stories and rich lives of the people you pass by every day in the store, on the bus and never give a second glance or thought to. Aren't those the best books?

    It's for all of us who hold intense conversations in our heads, with ourselves, about next to nothing half the time! A friend bought it for me, perhaps she knows!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2012

    This is an extraordinary book. Very unusual which is why I loved

    This is an extraordinary book. Very unusual which is why I loved it. Some of the reviewers who have written on here presumbably like straightforward novels that do not challenge or offer anything new. Seriously like, it's not popular fiction and it's a challenging book. We read it in our book club and we loved it because it was such a great engagement and we had a really good discussion and agreed/disagreed. If you like serious, thoughtful, ambitious literature you will love this book. I don't understand the naysayers below. All I can imagine is they are not ambitious and need to be more open minded. Are they prejudice maybe because of the gay character in the book? Don't listen to them. Our bookclub read this book, we have been meeting for years and honestly this is one of BEST books we have ever read. This writer is like a female James Joyce but funnier. This book is totally original. I have never read anything like it!!! Loved it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    Malarky is an amazing book. Schofield manages to create colorful

    Malarky is an amazing book. Schofield manages to create colorful characters full of compassion, curiosity, repression, anger and joy. This novel demonstrates the psychological, emotional and sexual complexity of human beings and how certain people manage to live through tragedy, pain and suffering with dignity. I highly recommend it for its quirky sense of humor, interesting narration and poignant story line.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2012

    Worth the read.

    A beautifully written, almost bitter-sweet story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2012

    As one of the reviewers below says, "what is funny about an

    As one of the reviewers below says, "what is funny about an aging woman going mad", I can only say, having spent the last five years in very close contact with my father, who had dementia, there were many funny moments. And, I don't mean that he was doing something foolish. My dad had a dry wit and a way with words when he was younger and his sense of humour was exactly the same until not long before he died. This author has managed to capture Our woman's sense of humour, which quite honestly is the only thing that helps us through the heartbreaking moments we all face. Schofield's journey through the life and mind of someone as humble and self-effacing as Our woman shows us what goes on under the grey hair of the old country girl is not always what we might think. An amazing first book of what we can only hope will be many

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2012

    I found myself confused with this book. From other reviews I wa

    I found myself confused with this book. From other reviews I was expecting some resemblance to 'Housekeeping' by Marilynne Robinson. An account of life through a normal womans eyes. A life that ventured into hidden desires and accounts of the hidden knowledge mothers are keen to. Instead it was a book about a very confused woman going mad as she aged, with babbling narratives that left you feeling more or less helpless to the car crash you are about to witness. It was written without a sense of purpose leaving me with the opinion that there was no purpose in reading this book. It was a waste of my time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    haven't read

    haven't read yet I am still waiting on my pre-orders for nook

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    I'm very confused by the other reviews on this book. We all hav

    I'm very confused by the other reviews on this book. We all have our opinions but how is a woman who is slowly losing her mind funny? What is funny about seeing your son perform sexual acts on another boy? How is losing both your son and husband humurous? This book was dark, depressing and confusing. I would not finish it if I had not been the one who selected it for our first book club book. I'm afraid the club may disband after this horrible first book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted August 2, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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