Natalie Serber on Shout Her Lovely Name
I had a dream last night about a geode. I was carrying it in my purse. It was the size of a coconut and I didn’t want to crack it open because I wanted to guard the feeling that I had unlockable wonder with me. I often feel this same tingly potential when I have a new book on my bedside table. All I have to do is crack it open to step into someplace new.
As a child, because my mother and I moved a lot, I sought friendship and solace in books. Reading novels and stories taught me that I was not the only kid who sometimes felt lonely and afraid, who longed for a swan or a babysister or a secret entrance through a wardrobe to a wild and amazing place. One of the beauties of literature is that you come to know your individual longings are universal; you are not isolated or strange...well maybe you are a little strange, but reading books teaches you that so is everyone else. You are not alone.
Writing does this for me as well. The characters in my stories are enmeshed in big precarious moments--breaking up, bringing home a new baby, caring for a sick child, leaving home. Each story offers potential for change and understanding; sometimes the characters take it, sometimes they don’t. Just like life.
I was a stay-at-home mom of two small children when I wrote my first published story, "This Is So Not Me." When I wrote the last story in the collection, "Developmental Blah Blah," my youngest was leaving home for college. That the writing of these stories spans such a swath of time is a gift. They explore lost pets, leaky pools, backseat groping, pregnancy tests, cocktail waitressing, unwelcome confessions, visiting in-laws, and middle-age tattoos. And this crazy-messy mix, big changes wrapped up in the gritty details of everyday family life, is where my stories dwell. It is my hope that when you read my book you’ll feel in good company.
Finally, while I relish the long luxurious soak a novel offers, staying with characters you come to know and care about for a stretch of pages, the great thing about a short story collection is that you’ve got multiple characters to meet and worlds to enter. Shout Her Lovely Name offers the best of both. Many of the stories follow the lives of Ruby and Nora, a mother and daughter growing up together, experiencing pride and disappointment, love and forgiveness. Their stories take you from Key West and New York City in the 1960s to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in present day. Other men and women populate the collection as well, and I hope you come to care about them all as much as I do.
A story collection is a virtual bag of geodes, each ready to crack open and reveal a sparkling new place.
"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
"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."
"Serber writes with grace, humor and a thoughtful, but realistic, understanding of the emotional toll demanded by families." -- BookPage
"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
—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
—Charles Baxter "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."