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The Age of Grief Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721875
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With authenticity, insight, sensitivity and an unobstrusive yet absorbing prose style, Smiley (Duplicate Keys portrays pained individuals who yearn for idyllic companionship, plus the contentment and security that they imagine it entails. In "The Pleasure of Her Company," one of five short stories, a lonely pediatric nurse establishes a rapport with her new neighbors. Convinced that married couples share an inviolable, almost mystical bond that outsiders cannot fathom, she makes the unwelcome discovery that their apparent harmony is a facade. "Lily" is the tale of a love-hungry young poet whose bickering married friends arrive for a visit; Lily boldly hastens their break-up. In "Dynamite," a former Barnard College radical still wanted by the FBI impulsively heads back to New York for the reassuring presence of her family. The novella from which this slim volume takes its title brilliantly shows a husband's agony when his wife's affection turns elsewhere. During a crisis over her infidelity, he emerges as an unforgettably valiant character: vulnerable, hurt, bewildered, though never without patience. This novella's quietly dramatic resolution is both appropriate and rewarding.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

These five stories and one novella catch the Sixties generation in middle age, at moments of reconsideration and regret. "I am thirty-five years old and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief," says the title tale's protagonist, stricken by the loss of his wife's love. In "Long Distance" an emotional drifter faces the consequences of self-absorption at a family Christmas gathering. The other selections depict sensitive women shattered as marriages and friendships end, a calculating personality who tricks an acquaintance into fatherhood, and a former violent radical longing for her abandoned home. Disturbing yet recognizable characters and Smiley's knack for dialogue and the telling detail make these narratives memorable. Recommended for most fiction collections. Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Miriam on May 23, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I think Jane Smiley is similar to Anne Tyler in her ability to understand ordinary people and the significance of home and family. Her characters have exceptional (sometime unbelievable) abilities of introspection and self-examination. They also seem to live somewhat muffled lives. Emotion is there, but it is observed rather than felt.
These stories move slowly, building up layers of character and atmosphere through observations and spare dialogue. The last story, "The Age of Grief", made me think of Henry James novels like "Portrait of a Lady." Here we are looking very closely at daily behavior, signals and symbols that pass between people, the subdued drama of everyday life.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book ten years ago and loved it. Rereading it was just as rewarding. Now I am married and a mother and I find the story "The Age of Grief" captures aspects of marriage not usually described. What is it like to be knocked down by illness as a family, parents needing to muster up energy to care for sick children when they are wracked with aches and exhaustion themselves? Jane Smiley delineates such moments and portrays marriage with great insight.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gwen A Orel on June 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
I picked this up after the end of a relationship in the same spirit that I listen to sad songs-- to amplify my own emotions, remember that others have been there too, and gain some release. "The Age of Grief" was good therapy!
The most wonderful story, in my opinion, was a heartbreaker called "Long Distance," in which a man released from a visit from a girl he no longer loves by circumstances realizes how her grief will be something he never gets over. This story is short and clean and unforgettable.
The title novella is powerful on so many levels-- told from the pov of a man who realizes his wife has fallen for someone else and is desperate not to let her tell him about it, it is such a convincing portrait of a marriage, of family, of the layers of fear and forgiveness that intimacy brings. One of the children gets a dangerously high fever and the terror and the bonds of love remind us that infidelity is sometimes part of a relationship, not its definition.
The only reason I didn't give this five stars is because while all of the stories are quick reads, well-written-- as is all of Smiley's work-- and occasionally even very funny, not all of them seem as grounded in the poignancy of emotional turning points. I was rather bored with "Dynamite," in which an aging underground movement protester from the sixties decides to reconnect with her family. That is to say, I didn't really think we needed that bit of plot-- I was far more interested in the family dynamics than the dynamite.
"Jeffrey, Believe Me" is a bit lightweight, doesn't seem to be a part of this volume really, though perhaps it provides some comic relief.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on June 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
With all that has come after, I hope no one forgets the quality of Smiley's early work. If you start out with her later books, returning to this one will have its rewards.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1997
Format: Paperback
The Age of Grief is the novella that concludes this collection of six works. It takes the reader into a marriage and shows the somewhat shaky structure that sometimes holds people's lives together. Perl and Dana were students in dental school; now they are practicing dentists with daughters who demand regular attention. When Perl notes signs that Dana is having a relationship, he tries to ignore them, but the children can't. This is a fine analysis of a marriage at work. Although he knows Dana is seeing someone else, Perl is convinced that if he ignores it--that if the marriage and family continue on--Dana will have to give it up. A bout of flu saves them all. The five short stories vary, but The Age of Grief is prime.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
The title story of this book is the last story, and the most charming. The first paragraph alone is a complete and wonderful tale, with irony and full charecters. The male and female characters are both written with a delicate understanding and sensitivity to what the diferences between them are. Reading this book created a feeling of comfort within the world and modern experience, and took away from any sence of lonlyness.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SHR on February 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of 5 short stories and a novella.
I found the first 3 stories so stilted and mind-numbingly boring, that I nearly put the book down. The fourth story (Long Distance - my favourite) was interesting enough to keep me reading; the emotion in it was not as restrained, but interestingly the real emotion came from a foreigner (rather than an American) and was shocking to the person who has caused it.
The final short story was on the verge of being interesting but didn't quite go there for me. I found most of the characters to be unaware of their motives, even though they all examined what was happening in their emotional worlds and they often came to fairly large conclusions.
I was not far into the novella when I realized it had been made into a movie, "The Secret Lives of Dentists"; which I found to be one of the most painfully tedious movies I've ever sat through; I remember watching and just hoping, believing it had to get better - it had to go somewhere, it didn't. I'm not sure why I kept reading the novella when I realised it's relation to the movie but I am sort of glad I did. The novella is much better than the movie, which was not translated to the screen well and the inevitable changes lost the good qualities from the story.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
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