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Iron Shoes: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684859939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684859934
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,608,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Marooned in a loveless marriage and on the cusp of a full-blown midlife crisis, Kay Sorensen hardly needs the additional grief of tending to a dying parent. Tribulations compound however: as she frets over her manipulative and fading mother, Ida, she must also reckon with her father's indifference, her husband's insufficiencies, and--she fears--her own squandered potential. Such is the treacherous and often bitterly comedic territory Molly Giles wanders in her first novel, Iron Shoes, where the Northern California semi-serenity fails to allay one family's apparent disintegration.

As Kay puts in her part-time hours paging at the local library, she ponders her as-yet-undiscovered true calling and indulges fantasies of an affair. It's almost a relief to be distracted from her immobilizing frustrations by her mother's decline. Full of bitter and contentious self-pity, Ida trudges downward gracelessly. Her death provokes ever-worsening pangs of self-doubt in Kay, as she and her condemnatory father fumble to make sense of their relationship. Kay is pushed toward both revelation and decision: "If you can clean up the mess outside then maybe the mess inside will straighten out too," she opines. It's the "maybe" that muddles her tidy formula.

Iron Shoes is alternately sobering and breezy as Giles moves from the more unpleasant inevitabilities of Kay's world to the often absurd stratagems of family reconciliation. An ensemble cast enlivens things as well: Kay's sexy and audacious friend Zabeth counsels her and--just maybe--is coming on to her father, and her husband Neal is obsessed with a healthful diet but forgetful even of how many years he and Kay have been married. If at times the heroine's travails seem something of a caricature of fortysomething despair, Giles picks up the slack with a few well-placed narrative sleights of hand. Throughout, Kay's bafflement at other people's apparently well-manicured lives rings at perfect pitch. --Ben Guterson

From Publishers Weekly

Though they are monstrously selfish, Ida and Francis McLeod, the aging parents of the middle-aged protagonist of Giles's haunting first novel (after her short story collection, Rough Translations), are drawn with such nuanced understanding that one ends up as sorry for their shallow lives as for their daughter's crushed and battered psyche. The glamorous, alcoholic, self-indulgent Sorensens are too immature to be parents. They have cowed their daughter, Kay, once a promising pianist, into a frantically abject servant to their many whims and demands, to the detriment of both her own marriage and her abilities to nurture her young son. Over the years, Ida has suffered many "accidents" that have resulted in injuries and crisis surgery (her second leg has just been amputated), a perverse form of punishment of irresponsible Francis and of servitude for Kay. An assistant at a small local library in Northern California, Kay endures her mother's vicious asides and blatant manipulation, as well as her father's sarcastic wit. Unwittingly, Kay has married another cool, distant man; Victor, her husband, stays away from her in bed and refuses to engage in conversation. It's no wonder that she conceives a crush on a hunk, a painter whom she meets at the library. After her mother's medical condition goes downhill and her husband becomes even more remote, Kay smothers her feelings in alcohol, sweet foods and cigarettes, only dimly aware that she has willingly assumed the "iron shoes" she describes in a fairy tale she tells her son. Giles's psychological portrait of Kay is completely credible; it's easy to see Kay's lack of self-esteem as a reflexive response from her to chronic emotional abuse. None of this is as lugubrious as it sounds, because Giles's narrative is animated with zesty prose, whip-smart observations and a refreshing roster of minor characters. In spite of the dark terrain this novel navigates, it is a sparkling and witty account of one woman's belated coming-of-age. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nancy at Foxworthy Books on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Molly Giles is an excellent SHORT story writer , and after reading her previous story collections ( Rough Translations and Creek Walk), I really looked forward to this first novel. WRONG. Iron Shoes is a s-t-r-e-c-h-e-d out short story and should be, at most,a short novel within a short story collection. The pace is slow, like a snails ,or even slower at times. I question the need for the inclusion of some characters ,who just take up space on the page , and are not needed for the thin storyline.
Kay Sorenson,age 40,has problems...most that have been around for a long long time such as her prissy second husband,not interested father,and lack of self-worth ( OH MY ,we could see this coming)as manifested in a tiny job,tiny house, and tiny life driven by unresolved guilt, unwarrented fear and the need for,in my opinion , a kick-start to the rear. Ida, her Drama Queen mother, is the reason I kept reading this book. I wanted to know about what outrageous , self-centered (but with true DQ style ) thing she would say or do next.Ida was the only character with ( some irony here)some LIFE in her! Kay needs to GROW UP, and I felt cheated that it took 239 pages for her to take a few toddler's steps toward this goal.
Get Molly Giles short story collections--- even in hardback , but I would advise waiting for the paperback of Iron Shoes, if you are still determined to read it!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By sally barry on September 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Here we have a 40-ish female whose life seems perfectly nice. Married, nice part-time job, friends and family, lives in a beautiful part of the country, cute little boy, saucy empowering best friend. Look closer: marriage going downhill fast, job about to be eliminated, and her parents!!! Hag-ridden by a truly monstrous, alcoholic, sharp-as-a-razor mother - but the mother is dying, and the mother is deeply loved. She has her faults, but she is your mother. Remote, sarcastic, alcoholic father - but the father is also deeply loved. Who doesn't want the love and approval of Daddy? Born-again, weak, bible thumping brother - but you can't hate him, he came from the same place you did! Uncommunicative, secretive husband, downing health potions, distancing himself more every day - well, some things you may be unable to fix. Sounds awful, but Ms. Giles makes all of this both hilarious and tragic. You will laugh and you will cry. There are tons of stories about women and their midlife crises out there (including the paragon, "Diary of a Mad Housewife"), and as the midlife crisis is a perennial subject, many of the stories have a sameness to them. Worries about growing older, about a failing marriage, thoughts of having an affair to affirm that you are still attractive and desirable, and the looming realization that parents are not going to be here all that much longer. The looming realization that you can, yes, you can grow stronger and take charge of your own life and for once make yourself happy. Facing the death and decline of your parents, no matter how lousy they were - they are dear to you and no matter how old you are, you want their love and approval as much as when you were six years old. Ms.Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Middleaged Kay has spent her entire life trying to please parents who are incapable of caring about anybody but themselves. Ida and Francis are so completely selfabsorbed and destructive that they have no business being parents. Ida has competed with her daughter for every scrap of positive attention and she has managed to controll everything in Kay's life. However, although this is hinted at by Kay's female friend, it is never conceptionalized. Very little changes after Ida's death and I had to wonder what the point was. The writing is pretty good and I found it fairly humorous but was so frustrated by the sense that Kay is NEVER going to get it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lori A. Oliveira on February 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I started this book a couple of evenings ago and was so excited, talking about it in work the next day, how wonderful it was! Somehow over the next couple of reading sessions I started losing my enthusiasm for the story. Ida was a pip indeed! Kay was a bit pathetic but I still had hope for her. Her father, Francis, was despicable, her husband Neal was an irritating, uninteresting whimp. Thankfully, she had her friend Zabeth, who was an absolute hoot! These characters were all so enjoyable at first, but as the story progressed it seemed to drag and become bland, I can't quite put my finger on it. I do see great talent here and would like to read some of Ms. Giles' short stories. Perhaps this book would've been better as a short story and there just wasn't enough material here to keep my interest peaked?! In any case, not a bad read at all, it "grabbed" me initially, but let go somewhere in the middle.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kelly on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Finally I book that I finished in less than 2 days! What made me tear through this book was the wide array of characters. They were so different, yet pulled together by the author like pieces of a puzzle (with Kay as the border holding them all together somehow). You love something about each - and that can be hard to say with a dragonlady like Ida at the wheel! For a relatively short book, many things happened within its pages, with an ending that was all tied up - but let's say not in a "neat little bow"...awesome read!
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