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The Woman Upstairs: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Mary W. Walters
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $10.00
Kindle Price: $2.99
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Book Description

Diana Guthrie is a young woman struggling between her sense of what she "ought" to do and her need to believe she is more than a puppet manipulated by other people. When she learns that her powerful and controlling mother-whom she hasn't seen in 15 years-is dying, she hurries back to her childhood home. There she is faced with memories and conflicts that threaten to prevent her from climbing the stairs that will take her to her mother's bedside. Will she find the courage to face her mother before it is too late?

Winner of a Writers Guild of Alberta Award for Excellence in Writing, The Woman Upstairs was published to widespread acclaim in 1989 by NeWest Press but quickly sold out and remained out of print for more than two decades. During that time, Mary W. Walters (who began her writing career as Mary Walters Riskin) published a second novel (Bitters, NeWest Press), a collection of short stories (Cool, River Books), and a book of non-fiction (Write An Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars, The Johns Hopkins University Press), as well as dozens of articles and short stories.  Her newest novel is The Whole Clove Diet.

This new edition of The Woman Upstairs will be welcomed by Walters' long-time readers, as well as by new fans of her work.

Editorial Reviews


"Instead of employing flashy prose, [Walters] relies on craft, intelligence and heartfelt emotion. The Woman Upstairs overflows with humanity, a staple of fiction that never passes out of style." - Winnipeg Free Press

"It is an absorbing and well-crafted book, a broody mystery, a puzzle whose closely interlocking pieces are tossed out, flash-back style, at just about the perfect pace for the reader." -  Alberta Report

"With this novel [Walters] has served notice that she has the fictional techniques to make a significant contribution." - Calgary Herald

About the Author

Mary W. Walters lives in Toronto where she works as a writer and as a freelance editor and writing coach, primarily with academics who are preparing journal articles and grant applications. She also speaks to scholarly groups about writing effective funding applications. Walters has published three books of fiction (The Woman Upstairs, Bitters, and Cool), and one book of non-fiction (Write an effective funding application: a guide for researchers and scholars). Her web address is

Product Details

  • File Size: 609 KB
  • Print Length: 186 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace; II edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004LX0KRU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,794 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a great read! January 17, 2011
By Bev
When I first read The Woman Upstairs, I was a young woman not much older than Diana Guthrie. At that time I think I was a little impatient with Diana and her inability to face people and get on with life. I enjoyed the author's evocative descriptive writing and attention to details (I loved the way I could picture everything - the people, the rooms, the settings), but at times I was annoyed with the constant flashbacks. Now, 24 years later, I am in a much different phase of my life - more memories, more heartaches, more defining life experiences - and I have much more understanding of and empathy for Diana and the rest of the characters. The writing still evokes strong emotions, but I see things differently now. I really appreciate how skillfully the author weaves it all together and I can keep up with the flashbacks, as that's how my life is these days, too.
Once you start to read the book, you'll want to just keep going until you're finished. An excellent novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read May 11, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Another free Kindle edition (I think it is not available for free any longer, but well worth its current price!) I found while, for the first two or three weeks after I received my Kindle, I was almost daily browsing the Kindle store, building up a library of well over 80 books (fiction and non fiction), almost all of them for free.
This novel by Mary W. Walters was first published in 1989, Amazon tells me.

The main character, Diana Guthrie, is seen heading back to her childhood home, where she has not been for 15 years; driven away by not only a strict and seemingly loveless mother, but by the generally restrictive atmosphere in the small town she grew up in as well as by a tragic event that changed her life forever and left her scarred.

She is going there now because she feels it is the right thing to do: she was told her mother is dying.

Already on the way back, her mind goes back and forth between past and present. We learn about the way things were dealt with at the Guthrie household, and begin to understand why Diana wanted to leave, HAD to leave in order for being a person in her own right.

Once arrived, Diana gets mixed reactions from the people there - her brother, an old school friend, the housekeeper, the family doctor and others -, and she herself is thrown into a turmoil of conflicting emotions, too.

It takes a while before she decides to climb the stairs and meet "the woman upstairs" who is, of course, her mother.

The book ends on a note that leaves the reader to imagine what Diana is going to do next; stay or leave again? Has she really begun to come to terms with the past?

I liked this novel. It was well written, atmospheric, and I could picture the places and characters in my mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nuanced and highly readable July 9, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved the style of this book, which contains just the right mix of introspection, description and interplay of characters for my tastes. Diana has been estranged from her mother her entire adult life. Now thirty-three, she learns her mother is dying, so with great misgivings, she journeys from her home in Edmonton back to Ontario where she grew up. The story takes place over the course of only two or three days, but through flashbacks we're taken through years of Diana's life, and we learn the causes of her anger at her mother. The author portrays the difficult relationship between the mothers and daughters in this novel well. I really like how the reader gradually comes to see that despite Diana's quest to escape her mother and grandmother, to live a different life and make different choices they they did, she has not succeeded as fully as she thinks she has. She's more like both women than she knows. Although I'm disposed to take Diana's side and believe that her mother was colder and less loving than she could or should have been, the author still manages to create a sense of sympathy for her mother. She did the best she could.

The only reason this book gets four rather than five stars is the ending. The whole novel is building up to the moment when Diana finally develops the courage to face her dying mother, and I would have liked to see a more clear resolution between them. The lack of this feels very true to life, but it leaves my readerly wishes for a happier ending unsatisfied.

This was a beautiful and highly readable novel. I loved the descriptions of Edmonton and Ontario. I grew up in a prairie city and later moved to Ontario, and I found the descriptions were dead on. The nuanced look at families and generations of women put me in mind of one of my favourite writers, Margaret Laurence. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel February 1, 2011
By Ruth
I found this book a fascinating read. I read it when it was first published many years ago and loved it then. I recently re-read it and loved it just as much the second time around. I found the writing exquisite - I love the author's great ability to use language so beautifully, to describe settings and feelings so accurately that I felt I could reach out and touch them. This story tells of a young woman coming to grips with her past and herself, which is to me at the heart of what it means to become a grown-up; never an easy task but one that can lead one to unimagined places. A great novel!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it.
This was different from the book I thought I was ordering, however, I loved it.
Published 1 month ago by Nancy O. Straus
3.0 out of 5 stars This was an interesting book until the author carries on ...
This was an interesting book until the author carries on about the young woman and her relationship with her mother and grandmother. Read more
Published 6 months ago by sharon green
4.0 out of 5 stars That's Family.
A Mother lies dying. Her children, caught in the roles created in their childhoods. Only the girl thinks about how they came to this place. I didn't notice any answers. Read more
Published 8 months ago by K. Agle
5.0 out of 5 stars Grief unresolved
interesting character study of a woman effected by the suicide of her childhood love and the wall that her unacknowledged anger creates. Read more
Published 9 months ago by antbethf
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting thoughts
Yeah, I liked it. Left me hanging a little. Definitely lots of deep thinking - not much action if that's what you're looking for.
Published 11 months ago by Elaine Hackney
3.0 out of 5 stars It was average
This story could've been better. I liked the fact that it was set in Canada and that a daughter had issues with her family, especially her mother, but the way this book ended was... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Richard Poirier
5.0 out of 5 stars emotion captured
This book captured the raw emotional pain of people who don't understand each other and are not emotionally mature enough to see the other's perspective. Very we'll written.
Published 18 months ago by Larrie M. Thorne
5.0 out of 5 stars Today's young woman coming to terms with 'normal' dysfunctional family
I could not put this book down. I found the technique of Diana's journeys into the past as present day incidences triggered memory intriguing, and I continued reading so as to... Read more
Published 20 months ago by pat dalphy
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short read
This is the perfect book for a plane. Very engaging; great character development with a story line to which is easy to relate
Published 20 months ago by jeannie butler
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
It had moments of greatness but then some rough patches where the dialogue was trite and the characters t weren't believable. Hated the ending.
Published 21 months ago by Lisa
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More About the Author

Mary W. Walters has published four novels and a collection of short stories. Her first novel, The Woman Upstairs (NeWest Press, 1987), which won The Writers Guild of Alberta Award for Excellence in Writing, is now available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook. Her second novel, Bitters (NeWest, 1999), as well as a collection of short stories (Cool, River Books, 2000), will also soon be re-released.

Her latest novels are: a western based on Don Quixote, described as a "bold and sexy chase" and entitled The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid (co-authored with John A. Aragon of Santa Fe, NM), and a novel that explores food addiction -- Rita Just Wants to Be Thin (2014).

In addition to writing fiction, Mary works with academics and other researchers as an editor and consultant on grant applications, articles, monographs and books. Her first non-fiction book, Write an Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Mary has won a Writers Guild of Alberta Award for Excellence in Writing and an Alberta Achievement Award, and she is listed in Who's Who in Canada. Her short fiction has been short-listed for such prizes as the CBC/Saturday Night Fiction Competition and the Journey Prize, and has been published in more than a dozen literary journals and magazines.

Mary is a former editor in chief at Lone Pine Publishing, and has worked as awards facilitator at the University of Saskatchewan.

Visit her website at

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