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The Empty Nest: 31 Parents Tell the Truth About Relationships, Love, and Freedom After the Kids Fly the Coop Paperback – May 6, 2008

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The Empty Nest: 31 Parents Tell the Truth About Relationships, Love, and Freedom After the Kids Fly the Coop + Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters: 101 Stories about Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home + Letting Go (Fifth Edition): A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection, edited by Stabiner (My Girl: Adventures with a Teen in Training), includes essays by such well-known authors as Anna Quindlen, Ellen Goodman and Susan Shreve, as well as lesser knowns. Mothers write the bulk of the stories, though a handful of dads, such as Charles McGrath, help to balance the perspective. Quindlen, always a reliable sage, writes that the empty nest is emptier than ever before by virtue of the fact that so many mothers of her generation threw themselves so wholeheartedly into the role. Alongside the recurring motif of parents sighing forlornly at the threshold of their children's empty rooms, there is also a place for humor ("You lose a child, you gain a sex life," writes Letty Cottin Pogrebin in the essay "Epiphanies of the Empty Nest") as well as a sense of optimism and rebirth ("I felt myself standing a little taller, like a plant reaching up toward the sun," observes Marian Sandmaier). While many of these essays address kids leaving for college, one mother laments a son who died of a heart ailment and another a boy who has set off for Iraq. This varied and compassionate collection may not mitigate the empty nesters' pain, but it should make them feel that they're in good company as they navigate this parental rite of passage. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The Empty Nest is a deeply affecting banquet of thoughts on the only love that must grow toward separation." -- Jacquelyn Mitchard, author The Deep End of the Ocean and Still Summer

"Anyone dreading, savoring or recovering from their child's entering [adulthood], will recognize themselves in these bittersweet, boldly personal essays from more than 30 parents. . . . Packed with hard-earned wisdom and snippets of advice, this comforting collection by pining parents softens the blow of the inescapable." -- People Magazine

"Highly readable and engaging." -- Washington Post

"Honest, insightful collection . . ." -- Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters

"Skillfully gathered and edited by L.A. writer Karen Stabiner . . . these writers create a much-needed road map . . . [Many of the] stories are rich with the kind of honesty you won't hear at graduation -- stories of difficulties and rawness that keep the anthology from becoming too predictable." -- Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, this book is a valuable road map through one of life's most daunting transitions." -- Arianna Huffington, author of On Becoming Fearless --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401340776
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401340773
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By viktor_57 on May 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a parent who actually raised kids in a real nest, I can identify better than most with the empty nest syndrome, that feeling of emptiness and loss when the kids finally leave to set up their own nests, or homes.

We all know it's coming. From the day they're hatched, or born, we know that our job is to prepare them to face the world on their own, and our lives end up taking a back seat to theirs. So when that day comes, whether they're going off to school, or war, or prison, or moving out, or becoming transcendental beings of pure energy, we feel a seething mix of conflicted emotions, including joy and sadness; relief and worry; pride and loss; gumption and envy; and indifference and mania, among others.

The 31 essays in "The Empty Nest: 31 Parents Tell the Truth About Relationships, Love, and Freedom After the Kids Fly the Coop" let you relive those feelings and share in the community of parents who have all gone through the separation process, well, except for those parents who still have adult children living with them. Stabiner, the editor of this wonderful collection, provides her own story of letting go of her daughter as she hung precariously over the cliff's edge... of life.

"The Empty Nest" mixes the accounts of accomplished writers with those of unknowns, providing a wide range of experiences with the balance toward the mother's perspective, although fathers also have their say and even one non-parent, Harry Shearer, who I suppose has always had an empty nest but nonetheless manages to bring a perspective on children that both parents and non-parents can appreciate.

Will you find humor in these essays? Plenty. Heartbreak? Check. Moments of simple poignancy? Of course.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Phyllis Goldberg on June 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The strength of family relationships is as American as baseball and apple pie. And Karen Stabiner has assembled an extraordinary collection of essays that would pull at the heartstrings of even the most stoic of us. These stories of transition, told by parents facing the empty nest, resonated at many levels. From the son who pushed his Mom away so he would be free to individuate to the daughter for whom it was too painful to move away from home, this engaging book provides something for just about everyone.

The authors, writing about both their practical and emotional concerns, put the reader directly in the moment and into their process of separation from their children. For me it was a reminder of that chapter of my life - and of how much our relationships have changed, once again, now that our children are married with families of their own. Besides being extremely entertaining, this book normalized my feelings and validated my experience of that time of life.

Storytelling is really the best teacher. Humor and wisdom, pathos and advice were sprinkled throughout the essays. Short stories often leave me flat, ending before they go deep enough. But not these. As a collection, they manage to say it all. If you're a Baby Boomer parent, getting over the sadness of separation and enjoying being truly free for the first time in years, don't get too comfortable. Before too long, your emerging adult children could be boomeranging back home.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Just another reader on April 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
This collection contains many beautifully written essays, but the publisher's claim that it represents a variety of circumstances is borderline ridiculous. Although we do get one parent whose child joined the military and one (the most moving) whose schizophrenic son has died, these are mostly the stores of extremely well-off parents whose bright children are going on to prestigious colleges (or even better - boarding school), then on to brilliant careers. Again and again, we hear the story of the trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and the drive or flight to college with the only mention of money being the writing of tuition checks. I keep imagining this book as Studs Terkel would have done it. Then we would hear from the parents of kids who left to work as waitresses or coal miners, who married too young, who joined the military out of economic necessity, who went to a community college because there was just no other way. We could hear the worries of parents whose offspring had to mortgage their future with student loans. We would hear from parents who can't afford to just hop on a plane to see their far-flung offspring. In these economic times, this choice of essays seems tone deaf. It reminds me of the great Slate take-off on writers who give us articles about life at their summer homes, never realizing how ridiculously privileged they sound to so many people. As a single mom who did have to struggle economically, whose kids lived at home to go to college, not because they couldn't bear to part from me, but because there was no other choice, I was immensely frustrated reading this. I kept reading, hoping for the promised variety of voices, but it's just not there. It's the same voice over and over - rich, privileged, and completely unaware of that privilege.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that on several visits to our public library, I saw this book on display. One time I thumbed through it, and on several occasions I almost checked it out. But I never did; maybe it was fear or denial, but I didn't look forward to "losing" the last of our three kids to college. A few weeks later our youngest of three children graduated from high school, signaling that our own empty nest was imminent. And then at the commencement exercises--voila!--a good friend handed me the book as a graduation present. I was glad that she did, and I was glad that I read about the experiences of other parents.

Standard wisdom suggests that two of the most stressful junctures of any marriage are when the first child arrives and when the last child leaves. But as these parent-authors show, in the best circumstances, the departure of your youngest child to college can be yet another thread in the rich tapestry of life. Bittersweet, yes, but also richly rewarding. It's a tremendous paradox, too. Is there any other job, asks Ellen Goodman, that defines success as making yourself unnecessary? Our goal as parents, after all, is to raise our kids to leave us, and if they don't, then in some measure we have failed. When our first two kids in college came home for holidays, upon their return trip to school I would ask them, "does returning to college feel like you are leaving home or returning home?" At some point they transitioned, and leaving their family meant returning to their new home of college friends. That was hard to hear as a parent, maybe, but just what you wanted to hear, too.

Most of these essays are written by mothers (24 of the 31 chapters).
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