Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The women in Shomer's ten stories inhabit different realms of time and place, and range in age from late girlhood to late in life. However, they share a determination to face squarely their life changes and challenges. Far from succumbing to powerlessness, they take chances, remove themselves from their comfort zones, and become tourists, looking from the outside in -- at themselves.
In "The Other Mother," Sheila, a middle-aged southerner from a proper background, enamored of "the exquisite moments of pleasure that money bought," is forced to abandon her privileged life for one of lonely poverty when her faithless husband reveals a terrible family secret. In the title story, Frieda faces her husband's retirement: "After four months of solid togetherness…Frieda daydreamed that Milt had dropped dead" -- only to find a renewed hunger for life after an unpromising bus trip. In "Rapture," Janet believes she is dying, but the doctors say no; she proves them wrong in a euphoric dive. And in "Sweethearts," Garland, one week shy of her high school graduation, enthralled by the feelings of power bestowed by her first, tragically misguided affair, learns a painful lesson on the flip side of love.
Shomer's stories are insightful and empathetic, holding a mirror up to the forces that shape women's lives at all stages, and the innate strength that they possess to tackle them.
(Summer 2007 Selection)
Being away from home is a transformative experience for the women in this second collection by Iowa Short Fiction Award-winner Shomer (for Imaginary Men); 10 stories travel from Sweetheart, Fla., to Dharamsala, India, and range from the fantastical to the mundane. In the strongest story, "Fill in the Blank," 20-year-old Florida transplant Garland McKenney and her roommate, Linda, rob a Manhattan physical therapy office. The guilt weighs heavier on Linda, but it is Garland's confused moral compass that resonates. "Sweethearts," about Garland's high school affair with the local sheriff, explores the roots of Garland's criminal tendencies. Shomer has a knack for ferreting out the disappointment of aging, as in the title story, in which Frieda realizes she resents the company of her recently retired husband. Less accomplished are Shomer's stabs at out-there material. In the awkward and opening story, "Chosen," Iris, a speech therapist, discovers she is a Buddhist saint, while "Laws of Nature" features a woman who ages in reverse, a la Max Tivoli. The collection will appeal to Shomer's readership, but will do little to attract new eyes. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Women in extremis are featured in this second gathering of ten stories from the Florida poet and author of the prize-winning 1993 collection Imaginary Men. The volume gets off to a dynamic start with a mordantly funny account ("Chosen") of Jewish suburbanite and speech therapist Iris Hornstein's spiritual adventure, when she timidly follows the path described by two Asian strangers who assure her she's the reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist saint. This story is nicely echoed by the concluding "Laws of Nature," in which a woman contentedly ensconced in "early old age" feels and looks as if she's growing younger, but is in fact undergoing an even more remarkable "transformation." The other stories are a decidedly mixed lot. In "The Other Mother," a woman who dumps her longtime lover and moves to Florida frets over the loss of their adopted daughter, her emotions sharpened by a climactic surprise that fails to disguise the fact that the story lacks a point. Much the same can be said for the story of a Radcliffe student's romantic disillusionment during "The Summer of Questions," and an utterly unbelievable anecdote in which a middle-aged woman finds meaning in a fender-bender and subsequent confrontation with a low-level Puerto Rican drug dealer. "Fill in the Blank" and "Sweethearts" trace the misadventures of a girl from a broken home who "had started breaking rules" in childhood, and cannot stop. Shomer's edgy imagination functions best in a bizarre dark comedy in which a trio of women pornographers accidentally hook up with anti-nuclear protestors in "The Hottest Spot on Earth" (the Nevada desert), and in the wonderful title story, about a retired couple both united and divided by theprotagonist Frieda's memories of her active youth and enduring, inquisitive energies. A hit-and-miss collection, but its better stories are well worth attention.