From Publishers Weekly
Mannered yet curiously moving, this novel in stories by Walbert (The Gardens of Kyoto) tells the collective tale of a group of wealthy suburban women who came of age in the 1950s and are now facing life long after husbands and children have flown the coop ("We were married in 1953. Divorced in 1976. Our grown daughters pity us; our grown sons forget us"). Free of old inhibitions and with nothing left to lose ("they think us heartless and we are, somewhat"), they embark on odd crusades and projects when they aren't shopping or gossiping around the pool. In the brilliant "Intervention," they decide to save their favorite realtor, Him, who represents "our faithless husband, our poor father. He is our bad son, our schemer, our rogue.... Still, we love Him," then realize they need help themselves. Love recalled (and often ridiculed) is a recurring subject. In "Esther's Walter," Esther, the group's "artistic one," invites the group to a sinister party on the anniversary of her husband's death; in "Bambi Breaks for Freedom," the wheelchair-bound Bambi seeks her friends' support as she sets herself free from an old heartbreak. Walbert offers other sharp snapshots of the remaining members of the group, among them earnest, forgetful Judy; Canoe, the bouncy, ever-recovering alcoholic; Barbara, whose depressed daughter kills herself; "frigid" Gay who married a gay man; Suzie, the country club matron who fails to get her female lover admitted to the club; and lonely Louise. In an era when women went to college to study "the three Gs: Grooming, Grammar, and Grace," Walbert's characters are caught like insects in amber as they make late-in-life discoveries no school could ever teach. Brittle, funny and poignant, this is a prickly treat.
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Walbert daringly depicts the golden years of a generation of women, better described as the 1950s country-club set, now that they're either divorced or widowed and their homes are devoid of children. Their men, who have left them for younger women, are ailing executives in need of a boost to their sorry egos from someone naive enough to be of service. For the most part, though, these ladies are not sitting around crying. They're taking action: calling up old boyfriends in the middle of the night, organizing to save the geese at the country club--they've learned plenty about intervention. This is a unique novel about eight companions finally taking the path of their choice without the socially imposed restrictions of yesteryear. Walbert incorporates bittersweet humor as her characters sort through the rubble of their lives while sitting alongside the pool watching the tan pool boy do his work. An eye-opening experience for anyone who thinks that the 1950s woman is still in the kitchen wearing a housecoat. Elsa Gaztambide
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