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Edgewise Paperback – September 24, 2008
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About the Author
Jan Stites has been a screenwriter, a screenwriting instructor, a waitress, a secretary, a middle school teacher in both inner-city and affluent schools, a scuba dive travel writer, a journalist, a transcriptionist for doctors and for documentary filmmakers, and a volunteer teacher in Kenya and the Yucatan. She considers the affirmative action plan she wrote for a maritime company to be perhaps her greatest work of fiction. Edgewise, set in a gritty Oakland setting, is Jan's autobiographical debut novel. She's almost finished her next, very different book--a romantic comedy set in the Ozarks. Look for it soon: Reading the Sweet Oak
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I could identify with several of the damaged characters in this story, and became especially interested in the lead character, Simone, as she overcame her initial resistance to treatment in a mixed group (diverse reasons for seeking therapy as well as racially mixed). It was lovely to share in the genuine friendship that arises between Simone and Satch despite their different origins and backgrounds. As the book progressed the character of Jun, an inexperienced therapist, also pulled me in.
Even though I liked the brave exploration of female sexuality in the story, the reasons for Simone's denial and self-delusion sometimes felt less organic for me than those of the lesser characters. That might be less a flaw in the writing than a result of my own lack of familiarity with motives behind certain human behaviors. Four stars would have been closer to five but for that speed bump.
Ultimately this is a well written, refreshingly modern story about characters who learn, gradually and with help, how to encourage themselves and each other.
While there, Simone encounters a group of fellow patients whose stories are so real, so authentic, they will break your heart and leave you smiling through your tears. These are the people, along with a stellar professional staff, who reach out to Simone and help her on her journey.
It's a journey worth taking. Not only could I not put the book down, but I came away with heightened understanding and greater compassion for those whose lives have been overwhelmed by personal tragedy. I like these characters, a lot. And I like the novel. It's definitely worth the read.
She meets a bunch of new people in her program, most of the black, and from what she perceives as being a completely foreign world. It is through her friendship with one of these women, a big black lady who becomes her best friend, that she finds some measure of an ability to get back on her feet again. The book is bittersweet. It does not have a happy ending; instead, it has a more realistic one. I can only highly recommend this book from this new author. If you liked "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb, you will like this book. Just be aware that it is explicit and can be upsetting.
In other words, not a great book for passing the time on an airplane. It would be perfect for a book club or high school classroom.
It illustrates the impact each and every person has on the people we come in contact with and that everyone is special in how they touch others lives and everybody has varying degrees of capacity to love, empathize and show compassion and those capacities expand and contract and vary with each and every relationship we have.