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Willing Spirits Hardcover – November, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company; 1st edition (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688155359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688155353
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,354,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Women are still from Venus and men from Mars in Schieber's strong debut, a paean to the healing power and enduring strength of female friendship. Teachers Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker have been friends for 19 years, during which time they've helped each other come to terms with their respective childhoods, jointly raised their children and eased the pains inflicted by lovers and husbands. Now Jane finds her husband in bed with a younger woman, her unmarried daughter shows up pregnant and she herself takes up with a younger man. In turn, single mother Gwen contends with her own relationship with a married older man, the loss of her domineering mother and the impending manhood of her teenage boys. The author interweaves scenes from the pastAGwen's youthful marriage to her professor and the traumatic death of her brotherAwith the present, plotting a course for the reader to see how these two women came to be who they are today. Schieber writes with workmanlike directness. One glaring flaw is that none of the men ever seem to have a clue ("He would never understand... what made women love men in spite of the persistent disappointment"), leaving the reader to pity them as they stumble around in a testosterone cloud. Readers looking to parse the mystique of female friendships, however, and why they are sometimes the most satisfying in a woman's life, will find much to reflect on here. Agent, Harvey Klinger.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A debut novel about two women whose friendship carries them over and through the many crises in their lives. Gwen Baker and Jane Hoffman become best friends. Both schoolteachers in New York City, meet at a Board of Education committee and gradually realize how much they have in common. Gwen's husband Theodore left her some years before, and she now lives with her lover Daniel. Jane discovers her husband Arnold in bed with one of his students and throws him out of the house. Jane's mother Dorothy is dying of cancer, while Gwen's mother Amanda still lives in the South and is cynical about Gwen and her affair with Daniel. Daniel may still be married to Sandy, who still looks after their children. It's not long before Jane begins having an affair with Caleb who's much younger than she is. Her children resent this, especially her daughter Caroline, who has just found out that shes pregnant. Caroline tells Arnold about Jane. Jane and Arnold have to figure out what to do about Caroline. And Gwen has unpleasant memories of something bad that happened to her friend Rowena many years ago when they were both growing up in North Carolina. A soap opera, plain and simple: Schieber seems to think that her characters develop personality by going through one trauma after another. Instead, they become figures on the page with very little life of their own. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. My mother was apparently so nervous she barely slept the entire time she was in the hospital, fearing her fair-skinned, blue-eyed newborn would be switched with another baby. When my paternal grandfather, an observant Jew, came to see his newest granddaughter in the hospital, he was so uncertain of how to behave around the kindly nuns that he tipped his yarmulke to them each time one passed. It was in this haze of paranoia and neuroses, as well as black humor, that the makings of a writer were initiated.

In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights, an enclave for German Jews, known as 'Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson.' The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. Among its famous graduates was Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State (my grandmother played cards with his mother at the YMWHA on Nagle Avenue).

I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher, a special education teacher, and as a learning disabilties specialist in several college programs.

Reading was the first line of defense against anything I did not want to do. 'I'm reading,' was an excuse my parents never challenged. Education was paramount in our home. There were weekly trips to the library, and the greatly anticipated Friday afternoon story hour. Everything about words seemed interesting and important.. I could make sense of the world if I put it on paper. I could even make the world better; people could become smarter and more attractive, and I could make people laugh and cry at will. Writng was powerful. I thought in stories, answered questions in my head and added, 'she said' at the end of a sentence. I still do.
My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner's Guide to Confession, will be published by Berkley Putnam on July 1, 2008. In March 2008, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.


Phyllis Schieber lives in Westchester County, New York She works privately with students, teaching writing, and is currently working on a new novel.










Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Lawrence on April 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker have been friends for decades. Jane was there for Gwen when her husband, Theodore, left her to raise two young children alone. They're raised their children together and through the years their friendship has endured as well. Now, they are in their 40s and are facing larger, more painful crisis. Jane comes home early to find her husband, Arnold, in bed with another woman. Their marriage has never been a strong one. Arnold's always been an empty shell of a man, more concerned about his needs than hers. And when Arnold attempts to walk right back into her life, rather than conceding to him like she's done for their entire marriage, Jane begins to think first about what she wants. And when their daughter, Caroline, comes to her with news that will change their lives, Jane must be there to support her in a way her own mother was never able to do.

Gwen has been in a relationship with Daniel, a married man, for several years. When he tells her that he's going to leave his wife, she begins to wonder if this is what she really wants. She'd become used to having her own space, but now Daniel wants to move in with her. She can't help but flash back to her marriage to Theodore and all she was forced to give up for that relationship. Is she ready to give up her independence again?

Schieber tells an endearing tale about the friendship of two women. Despite the many challenges they each suffered in life, they never take for granted their friendship. Through the years as their friendship grows, they both discover a bit about themselves as well. Shieber's lesson is an important one: value the needs of others but never forget the value of one's self.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story about women and the gifts they share with one another. You can't read this book without learning, loving, and gaining two friends as well as new insights into the befriending of self.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meladjustd@aol.com or M. Ross on October 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I just couldn't put it down! I loved it, the whole thing, each and every word. This is a book I will read and reread many times over and will treasure for years and years to come. What an incredible job Phyllis Schieber did. I can't imagine any woman reading this and not seeing something of herself in it. I can't imagine any woman reading this and not commiserating with the pain inflicted by Gwen and Jane's partners, the years of unfulfilling and empty sex as they grasped for some form of love, the joy and pain inflicted by their children, the closeness of the WILLING SPIRITS of women that men will never understand. Phyllis Schieber truly defines how special a woman's best friends is and what WILLING SPIRITS we become. This book is good for the heart, mind and souls of all women who read it. Each and every woman will see something of themselves and will take something positive away after reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book made me ache for my women friends who are gone or far away. Willing Spirits joyously and humorously reaffirmed what I already knew about the wonder of friendship with women. Ms. Schieber's women, who are busy with children, with work, and with the nourishment of the men in their lives, NEVER lose sight of the people whose love gives their own lives center -- their women friends. Loved it. Will give it to many friends for Christmas this year as a token of my friendship.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
These women are real. I know them. Their friendship through the years grows and is nurtured by their innate understanding of each other. Heartbreak, fears and disappointments are made bearable by their friendship. Women will be able to relate with this natural bond. Ms. Schieber writes with elegance and great wit. Don't miss this one!!
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