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Shout Her Lovely Name Hardcover – June 26, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Natalie Serber on Shout Her Lovely Name

Natalie Serber

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."
Vanity Fair

"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." 
Huffington Post

"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."
Booklist (starred)

"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

"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."
—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."
—Antonya Nelson


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547634528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547634524
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in California, six blocks from the ocean. I spent my youth riding my bike, reading incessantly, and sun tanning at the beach, always with friends, and never with the benefit of sunscreen. My undergrad days were spent at University of California at Irvine where I studied English with a writing emphasis and then I studied at UC Santa Cruz taking a degree in education. I imagined I would be a teacher like my mother, or maybe I would write for magazines, but, as an only child of a single, hard working mom, what I really wanted to do was to stay at home with my children, and that worked out for our family. I gardened, cooked, volunteered at their school. When my youngest entered preschool, I took a writing class and then I took another. Soon I gave up gardening and took up early rising until my morning shufflings--making coffee, letting the dog out, writing at my desk--woke the household at five. With my kids in elementary school I wrote in coffeehouses and at the library, in the parking lot where I waited for them after school. I published in small journals, The Bellingham Review, Inkwell Magazine, Third Coast, Fourth Genre, Hunger Mountain, to name a few, and the publications sustained me. They allowed me to continue believing in my work and led me to pursue an MFA in fiction at Warren Wilson College. I was lucky enough to win some prizes, John Steinbeck Award, Tobias Wolff Award, H.E. Francis Award, I was short listed in Best American Short Stories. Through the raising of my family I continued writing. Now as my youngest enters college and I teeter on the cusp of an empty nest and a new decade of my life, my collection, SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME is forthcoming with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There's a lovely symmetry to my timeline and if I wrote it in a story, no one would believe it.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Shout Her Lovely Name is a good read that is hard to classify. This is a collection of stories with a common theme: the relationships between mothers and daughters. In several of the stories, the mother is not actually present but still casts a shadow over her daughter. It seems like most, if not all, of the stories are connected to the same family. So while each of the stories can be enjoyed on its own, this is probably closer to a novel than a random collection of stories.

I started intending to just read one or two stories a day. Once I started reading, I found myself unable to put the book down till I had finished one story, then another and another in each sitting.

The themes run the gamut from eating disorders to sex and drugs. Some of the stories were difficult to read, but it's their understated elegance that was most surprising.

The title story kicks it off. The author tackles the uncomfortable subject of a mother struggling to deal with her teenage daughter's eating disorder and rebelliousness. You, the reader, are cast as the mother. The author showcases her ability to play with language, writing it in a strange tense that can only be described by me as "second person imperative." If I am wrong on the technical term, I apologize. In any case, the author pulls it off. The story ends in a somewhat anti-climactic way, yet I found myself reflecting on what the author was trying to say with that ending.

There are a few weak moments. When we get to the section after Ruby's delivery, we are treated to some very quaint and backwards characters in the form of "Puerto Rican" women who have also delivered and are in the same hospital.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved "Shout Her Lovely Name," a superb short story collection by Natalie Serber. Each of the eleven stories in this collection explores some aspect of the mother/daughter bond. While other emotional entanglements occur, this bond predominates.

The first story was my favorite. Told in second person, it captures well the utter frustration of a mother whose daughter is struggling with an eating disorder. Neither mother nor daughter is named, and this adds to the universality of the story. The emotions depicted run the gamut from exaltation to utter despair and everything in between. While I am not a parent myself, it was easy for me to believe and relate to each and every line.

The next nine stories are loosely linked. They center around the relationship between Ruby Goddard and her mother, Sally, and eventually to Ruby's daughter, Nora. We first meet Ruby as she is coming home from college for a visit with her dysfunctional parents. From there, the stories explore Ruby as she tries to find herself in several ways: through travel, through study, in various relationships with men, and finally through motherhood. I found each story compelling and interesting, psychologically true and extremely well written.

The final story was, in my opinion, the least successful of the eleven, and I am eager to know what other readers thought of it as well. Longest of all the stories, it introduced new characters and simply did not work well for me, which was surprising as I loved the other stories. Despite this, however, I gladly give this collection five stars, and I eagerly await more writing by Natalie Serber.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Shout Her Lovely Name is a collection of short stories, many of them inter-connected and all of them dealing thematically with issues between mothers and daughters. Many of the stories are about Ruby and her daughter Nora. The stories about Ruby begin when she is in college and comes home to visit her parents in Florida. Shortly afterwards, she becomes pregnant and the plan is to give the baby up for adoption. At the last minute, Ruby changes her mind and keeps her little girl who she names Nora. She raises Nora by herself as the father, Marco, is out of the picture. Many of the stories continue with the lives of Ruby and Nora as time progresses.

The title story of the book is about a mother who grapples with her daughter's anorexia, trying to tell herself that it's not about her and attempting to remain calm and supportive towards her daughter who is horrific with her.

In the stories about Ruby, we learn that her father and she both have drinking problems. When Ruby first comes home from college, Ruby's father shares a secret with her that is burdensome. The next story is about Ruby finding out that she is pregnant which she is not aware of until the second trimester. The father is a boyfriend who rejected her some months ago. In the third story featuring Ruby, she has her baby and would very much like to invest in a relationship with the father, Marco. Marco, however, is not at all interested in this and Ruby decides to raise her child on her own. As the year's pass, Ruby becomes a high school teacher and one day she brings Nora to school with her. She has a home room of all girls and the time is the 1970's, right at the start of the feminist movement. Ruby encourages her students to journal and to reflect on all the possibilities open to them.
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