Ursula Maria Mandel is the author of three much loved novels, The Good American, Diary of a Naïve, and The Tenant: A Love Story. A collection of short stories, Twelve Quiet Tales, and a children's book, Bo on the Fence Post, were published in 2013. Memories of VMI, a two-volume edition of humorous cadet stories of the Virginia Military Institute, were published in 2003. Her short story, Deader than a Doornail, won first prize at a National Public Radio contest and was broadcast in February 2003.
Diary of a Naiveby Ursula Maria Mandel
Diary of a Naïve, first published in 2010, takes a superbly intimate look at the subtle but destructive dynamics of a marriage and its escape there from, which is told humorously, self-deprecatingly, and at times heartrendingly by Kate Hamilton, a neglected wife and exasperated mom, in a secret journal. Here is a sample: . . . "As I looked out over the river, I realized that my heading into it wouldn't be the thoughtful strolling of a Joan Crawford. I'd have to climb down that embankment, which was covered with sharp rocks, and it would be my luck, once I had negotiated those rocks and their dirty pools of water and dead fish and dead bugs and paper cups and empty beer cans that I would unceremoniously lose my footing and plunge right into the icy river, scaring myself to death rather than making a dramatic statement.
For an instant, I lost myself in the image of the cold, murky water pouring into my mouth and nose as I felt myself going under. I sat up with a start and shook myself like a drunk who's been jolted out of his stupor by a bucket of ice water over the head. Did I really just now consider killing myself over this jerk?
I did, and I must be nuts!" . . . .
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Ursula Maria Mandel¿s new novel, ¿Diary of a Naïve,¿ is another page turner, given her extraordinary skill to narrate visually. I had the distinct feeling that the author spied not only on my life before she wrote this book, but on the lives of all the women I have ever known, who feel guilty and selfish for pursuing their own goals and for doing what makes them happy. Putting everyone else and everything else first are rotten goals. After years of wifehood and motherhood, Kate Hamilton feels lost. Her marriage to a successful businessman is a sham. He constantly deflates her moments of enthusiasm and happiness, hardly giving her the time of day. Her children, spoiled from the start, have grown up to be selfish and disrespectful. After years of being dedicated to her family, Kate finds herself thoroughly depressed. She has no idea who she is anymore or what she wants. Her part-time job, where she earns a pittance, certainly does not fulfill her. When she picks up a pen to figure out just how she got to this point in her life and just what she needs to do to dig herself out, she finds every reason for why she is the woman she is now. As Oprah recently said in one of her life classes about living your best life, ¿You have to start digging with both hands.¿ That is what Kate does. She digs with both hands, until she has her answers. I know that this book will touch thousands of women, who have searched for something that makes them happy. There are women all over the world who mirror Kate¿s life. A woman gets married, has children, neglects her career and her professional dreams, or feels guilty when she does pursue them, and ends up becoming financially dependent on her husband. After a certain age, she becomes afraid to strike out on her own, because she no longer has any self-esteem. I found this novel to be so realistic and universal, I could not put it down. It¿s a fantastic read, and, I know, a great discussion book for a book club. I highly recommend it, especially to women who feel frustrated and unfulfilled in their lives. After reading ¿Diary of a Naïve,¿ you won¿t be ¿naïve¿ any longer. You will have something to guide you and to help you to turn your life around.