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Ruth Rothwax, the heroine of Lily Brett's Too Many Men, which was hailed as "irresistible" (People) as well as "funny," "powerful," and "chilling" (O magazine), is back. The proprietor of a successful letter-writing business, Ruth has just branched out into a new greeting-card line. But it's not easy. Her father, Edek, is driving her crazy at the office. And the very people she thought would be most supportive ? other women ? are not. Instead of acting in one another's best interests, the women are catty and ...
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Ruth Rothwax, the heroine of Lily Brett's Too Many Men, which was hailed as "irresistible" (People) as well as "funny," "powerful," and "chilling" (O magazine), is back. The proprietor of a successful letter-writing business, Ruth has just branched out into a new greeting-card line. But it's not easy. Her father, Edek, is driving her crazy at the office. And the very people she thought would be most supportive — other women — are not. Instead of acting in one another's best interests, the women are catty and competitive, behaviors Ruth swears that she will never imitate. Until she meets the one woman who turns her aspirations of sisterly solidarity — and her life — upside down.
Fresh off the plane from Poland, Zofia is a buxom, sixty-something femme fatale with a talent for making balls. Meatballs, that is. When Edek asks his savvy daughter to fund his friend Zofia's restaurant, how can Ruth say no? But Ruth knows that gleam in Zofia's eye, and it means trouble is on the way for all of them. An unforgettable, heartwarming story of embracing life, You Gotta Have Balls is a funny, moving triumph from the highly inventive Lily Brett.
"Why are you talking about men and how smart they are?" was one of the first things Sonia Kaufman had said to Ruth Rothwax, when they met, about ten years ago. "Why are you talking about men and how smart they are? You should be talking about menopause. It's looming." It had made Ruth laugh. Ruth and Sonia were the same age. Fifty-four. Both had grown up in Australia, but had met in New York. Sonia was an intellectual property lawyer for a large law firm. Her husband was a senior partner in the same firm.
Ruth ran her own business. A letter-writing business. She had clients in New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. People had said, when she began Rothwax Correspondence, that it would never work. That was fifteen years ago. She now had more corporate clients than she could handle and more private clients than she wanted.
There was something very satisfying for Ruth about putting words together. Part of her satisfaction was the control it was possible to have over words. If you put words in the right order they stayed in the right order. They didn't make moves that took you by surprise. They didn't suddenly turn into strangers or take up tango lessons.
Sonia spent her working days sorting outwho owned what ideas, colors, markings, thoughts, and words. Ruth thought Sonia could pay a little more attention to her own thoughts and words.
"Try some of my lamb and fennel sausage," Sonia said. "It's delicious." Ruth and Sonia were having breakfast at Coco's, on Twelfth Street.
Lamb and fennel sausage? How could Sonia eat lamb and fennel sausages for breakfast? Ruth thought.
"No thanks," she said.
"Why don't you eat properly?" Sonia said. "You've got five grains of cereal and half a dozen cubes of assorted fruit on your plate. Have some ham and eggs, or the steak and potato hash."
"You sound like my father," Ruth replied.
"There's nothing wrong with your father," Sonia said.
"There's nothing ever wrong with anyone else's father," Ruth said. "Anyway, I can't eat red meat. I associate it with burning flesh."
"Grow up," Sonia almost shouted. "So, your mother and father were in Auschwitz. My mother was in Theresienstadt and I can eat fried brains, stewed kidneys, diced liver, and assorted legs, heads, necks, and feet. You can't be fixated about the Holocaust."
"I'm not fixated," Ruth said, quietly.
Ruth thought that Sonia must be one of the few women in New York who didn't have a food disorder of sorts. The degree of the disorder could vary, but hardly any women Ruth knew had a less than complex attitude to food. Unlike men. Men went to a restaurant. Ordered what they wanted. And ate it. So did Sonia. She didn't spend an hour scrutinizing the menu in a state of anxiety and indecision. Or bemoan what she'd eaten as soon as she reached the end of the meal. Sonia just ate.
Ruth tried to defend herself. "I know a lot about food and nutrition," she said to Sonia. "There's research that suggests that eating dark chocolate can reduce your risk of blood clots and give you more relaxed blood vessels."
"You'd have to have intravenous Valium to give you relaxed blood vessels," Sonia replied. "It's not normal to know that about chocolate or to fixate on the Holocaust."
Ruth knew that normal wasn't easy to quantify. Weather charts and forecasts regularly used the word normal. They tracked normality. Weather charts could tell you the average daily departure from normal for the month or the year. Ruth thought she would like to be able to track the average daily departure from normal in herself.
"Lots of things aren't normal," Ruth said. "Lots of things that are normal shouldn't be normal. If you watch the nightly news, you'd think the world was run by men. And you'd be right. That's not normal. In news item after news item, middle-aged white men stride across streets, stand at podiums, or sit behind desks. They make statements and proclamations. They pontificate. They attack. They praise. They explain. Where are the women? Not in evidence. And not in power. When a woman does get into a position of power, it's a big deal. It's a big deal to have Condoleezza Rice. It was a big deal to have Golda Meir. And that was thirty-five years ago. And who is to blame?" Ruth said, a bit breathlessly, looking at Sonia.
"Men," Sonia replied.
"No," Ruth said. "Women. Men are so clearheaded. They know what they want. And they know how to get it. Their brains aren't fogged and clouded and clogged with purposeless pursuits. They're not filled with self-delusions of sweetness or notions of their own niceness, or twelve different diet plans. Women need to talk to each other. Honestly. They need to trust each other. Not shred each other. They need to share information, contacts, experiences, and intimacies."
It seemed to Ruth that intimacy, in general, had been usurped by more pressing needs. Career moves, conference calls, parenting, home decor, or home acquisition seemed to generate more heat than orgasms. And great moves mostly referred to office politics, real estate transactions, divorce negotiations, or exercise routines. Not foreplay. Or libido.
Ruth worried about her libido, herself. She thought libidos were easy to lose. Much easier to lose than gloves or umbrellas. You could keep an eye on your gloves or your umbrella. But you could misplace a libido and not know it was gone. For years. And even if you were worried about your libido, you couldn't talk about it. Libidos were not an easy subject to discuss. You couldn't chat about a missing libido in the same way you could discuss a missing dog or cat. And, on the whole, the loss would go largely unnoticed by others. Unlike weight loss. Or hair loss.
"Women need to share experiences and intimacies," Ruth said again to Sonia.
Excerpted from You Gotta Have Balls by Lily Brett Copyright © 2006 by Lily Brett. Excerpted by permission.
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