Expanded from her cover article in the New York Times Magazine, Shreve's book resounds with the conviction that benefits accrue to children of ``working mothers.'' (The author regrets the semantic necessity of the phrase that is ``grossly unjust'' to housewives who work hard at home.) Wife, mother, editor and freelance writer, Shreve is among the majority of women whose occupations separate them from their children daily. Supporting her theory that her small daughter is growing up strong and independent, she here interviews other mothers in like situations, as well as specialists in child development, etc. Their observations will prove reassuring to parents who devote a goodly portion of their time to their careers. Some of Shreve's claims, however, may incite argument. Not all will agree that little boys and girls profit from androgynous fathers and mothers. 20,000 first printing; first serial to Working Mother, Parenting and New York Daily News; author tour. (May)
Although these titles reaffirm women's need and right to work as well as to nurture, their different focuses minimize overlap. Shreve, a journalist and mother herself, evaluates the risks and rewards of being a working mother. At least one chapter (``Stresses and Strains'') counterbalances Shreve's obvious, albeit intelligent, bias, but the book generally lacks objectivity. Yet Shreve offers good documentation and thoughtful insights based on many interviews with researchers, mothers, and child specialists; wonderful glimpses of private moments with her daughter; and compressed accounts of other mothers' lives. If there is any resemblance to Sanger's REAP program, it's in the prescriptive chapter, ``How To Be a Positive Role Model.'' Sanger and Kelly provide specific strategies for Reality Attuned Parenting (REAP), a program begun in 1982 for working mothers by Sanger, founder of the Early Care Center in New York City. Chapters deal with techniques like ``reading your child,'' ``active guidance,'' encouraging the ``evoked companion,'' ``limiting,'' and ``pacing''; there are helpful anecdotes relating to the three maternal styles (the optimist, the worrier, the achiever), the support network (father and caregivers), the single working mother, and 13 reasons for not feeling guilt. Both titles are readable and suited to general audiences. Much more limited in appeal is Spouse, Parent, Worker , a compilation of 12 1984 conference papers that center on the relation between women's multiple roles and their self-esteem and sense of well being. As expected, the papers vary stylistically (some dense in jargon, others more straightforward), but they are essentially research reports by academics, for academics. Even editor Crosby's ``Note for the General Reader,'' which explains the logic behind multiple regression analyses, won't convince the average layperson to wade through 50 charts and dull exposition to arrive at conclusions destined for coverage in more popular sources. This title is appropriate only for academic and research libraries. Janice Arenofsky, formerly with Arizona State Lib., Phoenix
A novelist who combines sweepingly romantic plots with a keen understanding of the emotional complexities inherent in any relationship, Anita Shreve is a writer who understands the subtleties of the human mind, and heart.
For many readers, the appeal of Anita Shreve’s novels is their ability to combine all of the escapist elements of a good beach read with the kind of thoughtful complexity not generally associated with romantic fiction. Shreve’s books are loaded with enough adultery, eroticism, and passion to make anyone keep flipping the pages, but the writer whom People magazine once dubbed a “master storyteller” is also concerned with the complexities of her characters’ motivations, relationships, and lives.
Shreve’s novels draw on her diverse experiences as a teacher and journalist: she began writing fiction while teaching high school, and was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her story, “Past the Island, Drifting.” She then spent several years working as a journalist in Africa, and later returned to the States to raise her children. In the 1980s, she wrote about women’s issues, which resulted in two nonfiction books -- Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone -- before breaking into mainstream fiction with Eden Close in 1989.
This interest in women’s lives -- their struggles and success, families and friendships -- informs all of Shreve’s fiction. The combination of her journalist’s eye for detail and her literary ear for the telling turn of phrase mean that Shreve can spin a story that is dense, atmospheric, and believable. Shreve incorporates the pull of the sea -- the inexorable tides, the unpredictable surf -- into her characters’ lives the way Willa Cather worked the beauty and wildness of the Midwestern plains into her fiction. In Fortune’s Rocks and The Weight of Water, the sea becomes a character itself, evocative and ultimately consuming. In Sea Glass, Shreve takes the metaphor as far as she can, where characters are tested again and again, only to emerge stronger by surviving the ravages of life.
A domestic sensualist, Shreve makes use of the emblems of household life to a high degree, letting a home tell its stories just as much as its inhabitants do, and even recycling the same house through different books and periods of time, giving it a sort of palimpsest effect, in which old stories burn through the newer ones, creating a historical montage. "A house with any kind of age will have dozens of stories to tell," she says. "I suppose if a novelist could live long enough, one could base an entire oeuvre on the lives that weave in and out of an antique house."
Shreve’s work is sometimes categorized as “women’s fiction,” because of her focus on women’s sensibilties and plights. But her evocative and precise language and imagery take her beyond category fiction, and moderate the vein of sentimentality which threads through her books. Moreover, her kaleidoscopic view of history, her iron grip on the details and detritus of 19th-century life (which she sometimes intersperses with a 20th-century story), and her uncanny ability to replicate 19th-century dialogue without sounding fusty or fussy, make for novels that that are always absorbing and often riveting. If she has a flaw, it is that her imagery is sometimes too cinematic, but one can hardly fault her for that: after all, the call of Hollywood is surely as strong as the call of the sea for a writer as talented as Shreve.