With three exceptions, all 11 stories in Serber's debut collection follow single mother Ruby and her daughter, Nora, through the 1960s to the 1980s, from Ruby's unplanned pregnancy as a college student in Florida, to their life together in New York and Los Angeles, to Nora's own college years in California. Ruby's last-minute decision not to give up her baby for adoption causes her glamorous boyfriend to leave her, and Ruby embarks on a somewhat lonely, unstable existence with many lovers but few long-term relationships. Nora adores her mother, though Ruby's attention-seeking behavior leads to societal disapproval in Nora's early years and outright jealousy and competitiveness as Nora comes into her own. The title comes from the unrelated (and unforgettable) opening story, told from the perspective of the mother of an anorexic teen whose disordered thinking and casual cruelty tear her family apart. Though the three unrelated stories are excellent, it would have made more sense to present a coherent collection revolving around Ruby and Nora or to have varied the collection entirely. VERDICT Overall, an impressive debut, with insightful, sometimes painful truths about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
A debut collection of elegant and largely intertwined short stories about mothers and daughters. The collection starts with Serber's most startling piece, which inspired the title of the collection. Written in first-person, the story is a stream-of-consciousness dive into a mother's terrifying worry for her teenage daughter, who is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder. She, who remains unnamed, is at the end of her rope, calling her husband as he prepares for a business trip. "Don't care. Scream into the phone. Imagine your tinny, bitchy voice leaking around his ear while men holding lattes, women with Coach briefcases, students and grandmas try not to look at his worn face," Serber writes. With the next story, the author launches a series of interconnected tales about a single mother and her daughter that very nearly make up a novel of their own. In the first, "Ruby Jewel," we meet a college girl who has returned home to the Gulf Coast to visit her whiskey-soaked father and emotionally distant mother. In the next, "Alone as She Felt All Day," Ruby finds that the delicious liaisons she's been enjoying with a boy named Marco have left her pregnant. Marco leaves. The girl, named Nora, grows up and the conflicts between Nora and her mother ebb and flow like the tides, with Serber zeroing in on painful episodes along the way. There's little sweetness to be had in Serber's stories, laden with the sharpness of realism, but their emotional depths are memorable. A terrific introduction to Serber's gifts, and hopefully a preview of good things to come.
"Call it fiction, but this collection is achingly true to life when it comes to the many ways mothers and daughters grow together and apart, over and over again."
—O, the Oprah Magazine
"The characters are irresistible . . . Serber writes with exquisite patience and sensitivity, and is an expert in the many ways that love throws people together and splits them apart, often at the same time."
—Wall Street Journal
"Mothers and daughters go at it in the way only mothers and daughters can, with full hearts and claws out, in Natalie Serber’s funny, bittersweet collection. . . . It’s the perfect firecracker of a book to 'accidentally' stick in the beach bag of the freewheeling mother who refuses to give up her independence and grow up, or to leave on the chaise lounge of the type-A daughter who’s forced to grow up and never gets to be a girl."
"From its first page, Serber's debut collection plunges us into the humid heat and lightning of a perfect storm: that of American mothers and daughers struggling for power, love, meaning, and identity. . . .Serber's writing sparkles: practical, strong, brazenly modern, marbled with superb descriptions."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Serber is keen on the nuances of maternal bonds, and highlights them with an undeniable accuracy." -- More Magazine, "10 Short Books We Love"
"Mothers and daughters burst from these pages in stories about food, boyfriends, birthdays, husbands and more." --Houston Chronicle
"There is an element of the miraculous in a collection of stories whose characters reveal the fundamental predicament of all parents and children. . . .[Serber is] clearly writing not from some high plane of solitude but from within the mess of life."
"Serber’s stellar first collection packs an emotional wallop right from the start...sharp, somber, and sparkling commentary... As provocative as it is poignant, Serber’s searingly honest depiction of the complex, contentious, and confusing bonds at the heart of all families heralds an exceptional new talent."
"From the very first page, this extraordinary collection of short stories grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. It is filled with poignant, thought-provoking observations on the delicate yet unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Serber has given readers a remarkable, heart-felt book to be savored, shared and passed on from one generation to another."
—Anderson McKean, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
"As its title implies, Natalie Serber’s collection Shout Her Lovely Name is a triumphant battle cry of hard-won victory over the stalemate and injuries between mothers and daughters. She leaves the reader amazed at the tenacity, tenderness, and truth of her characters."
—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men are Gone
"Shout Her Lovely Name joins the ranks of the finest books ever to address relations between daughters and their mothers—equal parts love and sandpaper. I ached for these characters and cried at their hard-earned moments of joy. A book to make you marvel that someone really does understand, to make you grateful that she wrote it all down so fiercely, so tenderly."
—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
" In the complexities of family triumphs and catastrophes, Natalie Serber is always achingly specific. Between mothers and daughters, women and their lovers, she misses nothing, and in all her scenes, the reader feels the true breath of life."
"In the tradition of Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff, Natalie Serber's stories uncover the secret hearts of seemingly ordinary people. Funny, heart-felt, and keenly perceptive, this is a book worth shouting about."
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
"Coming of age is a painful and beautiful experience in Natalie Serber's hands. These are funny and poignant pieces, building a book that feels novelistic in sweep, yet true to the precision and direct aim of the short story. A real pleasure."