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A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That: A Novel Hardcover – June 1, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At the center of A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That, Lisa Glatt's heroic, hauntingly honest debut, is Rachel Sparks, a thirtysomething college professor who moves back home to sit with her mother while the older woman succumbs to terminal cancer. Glatt frames Rachel's story against a backdrop of women who range in age from 16 to 60, all of whom struggle with the conflicting sense of power versus the chilling vulnerability that seems so essential to their roles as women.

Although Rachel's mother's fate is apparent from the first chapter, Glatt does a commendable job of keeping the reader interested in her characters throughout the entire novel. We follow Rachel as she jumps from man to man, focusing on minute details while ignoring the basic flaws that make these men so fundamentally wrong for her. Along the way we get to know Rachel's student Ella Bloom, who must confront her cheating husband after less than a year of marriage. Ella's days are spent at a women's health clinic treating patients like 16-year-old Georgia Carter, who repeatedly exposes herself to sexually transmitted diseases in the hopes that one of these boys will show her the real affection that she can't get at home. ("Other men and boys noticed Georgia. It was as if they saw straight up inside her, all that she had done ... She understood that her body belonged to the whole damn street.")

While Glatt does an admirable job of showing women's weaknesses--and strengths--when dealing with men, it is her remarkable understanding of the tumultuous relationship that women have with their own bodies that makes this novel unique. From mastectomies to reconstructive surgeries to abortions to virtually anonymous sex, Glatt skillfully demonstrates how complex a woman's relationship with both her body and mind can be, and the tremendous power one often has over another. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

"A girl becomes a comma like that, with wrong boy after wrong boy," muses the narrator of Glatt's keenly observed debut. "She becomes a pause, something quick before the real thing." Rachel Spark, a 30-ish university poetry teacher, is looking for the real thing-but she's also living in L.A with her mother, "because she was sick and because I was poor.... It was love, yes, but need was part of it too." As her mother slowly succumbs to breast cancer, Rachel seeks solace-and escape-in the arms of various unsuitable men. Glatt's tone shifts through comic, pensive and mournful as she also explores the lives of Rachel's newlywed student, Ella Bloom; her lovelorn, allergy-challenged best friend, Angela Burrows; and Georgia Carter, a promiscuous 16-year-old patient at the health clinic where Ella works and where Rachel later seeks an abortion. Repeated references to breasts, limbs and organs in discomfort and disease foreground these women's uneasy relationships with their bodies and their lives; drunken and sorrowful sex abounds; connections with men are made and then broken. Rachel loves her mother, but disapproves of her shedding her wig, ordering a vibrator and falling in love in the face of death. As the dying woman-Glatt's liveliest character-evicts Rachel from her hospital room, readers may sympathize: much earlier, mother has diagnosed daughter, "You're thirty. Of course you need connection." Glatt's clear-eyed rendering of the complexities of relationships between friends and family enriches a story in which the steps toward healing are small and tentative, but moving nevertheless.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743257758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743257756
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,586,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JK on October 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lisa Glatt's book is not chick lit or anything close to it. If you want to read about shopping and fashion and silly girl crushes, go elsewhere. This is serious literature, about cancer and looming death and unavoidable loneliness, and the dark, sad, sometimes sleezy, places depressed women go to hide as a result. Glatt is an honest writer. Beautifully honest. In fact, she makes tragedy almost appealing.
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Format: Hardcover
The following is an excerpt from my column, a monthly review of first novels published in the New York Journal News. I'm posting it here because Glatt's novel is among the best debuts I've ever read - it deserves all the accolades and praise it has received, and then some - and I think everyone should know about it.

Lisa Glatt's first novel (she previously published two collections of poetry), entitled A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That, is an accomplished, elegant, inky-black tragicomedy that raises gallows humor to a heartrending art form. Its heroine, Rachel Spark, moves home to care for her terminally ill mother, a dynamic, ruthlessly optimistic woman who seems to be coping with the situation far better than her daughter; Rachel, a thirtyish creative writing teacher adrift professionally and personally, is absolutely devastated at the prospect of her mother's death, and attempts to circumnavigate her grief by sleeping with one inappropriate man after another.

Into this central narrative, by turns poignant and uproarious, Glatt intersperses the stories of three other young women: Rachel's friend Angela, a hapless, socially inept young woman, simultaneously tough and clinging, whose allergies occasionally cause her lips to swell to epic proportions, making it difficult for her to breathe or speak; Ella, a sensitive college undergrad and student of Rachel's, who discovers her new husband is having an affair; and Georgia, a sexually and intellectually precocious teenage girl-and an inauspiciously regular client of the Planned Parenthood clinic where Ella works, and which Rachel visits to have an abortion.

All of the characters, whether treated briefly or at greater length, are distinct, dimensional, and eminently believable.
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Format: Hardcover
We all want our lives to work out a certain way. To be a certain way. But life is messy. And how we handle things often shows we have no idea what we're doing or how to make things better. The women in "A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That" are no exception. And that's what makes them so incredibly relateable. So incredibly real. They make mistakes. They reach out looking for answers in places they may never get them. They act inappropriately like we all do at times. Because insecurity plagues us all in times of crisis--- If only we had someone like Glatt writing our lines for us in such an evocative way, we may get through those times a little better. And feel alot better about ourselves. What Glatt understands and shows us so compellingly is that even smart women do things that don't seem to make sense. And end up in places that don't seem to make sense. These women-- Rachel, Ella, Elizabeth and Georgia don't have the luxury to define themselves with designer outfits and how rich of a husband they can land. They're too real and like most of us, too complex. The journey we go on with them is to places most writers shy away from. But Glatt takes us there in such a full, rich and powerful way that by the time we're done we see just how substantial that can be.
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Format: Hardcover
The smart person's book of the summer. I thank Amazon's editor's for picking A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That as one of the Best Books of the Year. I couldn't agree more.

Rachel Spark and the other women depicted here will break your heart and make you laugh and the same time. The subject matter of the way we relate to our bodies and to each other and the men in our lives has never been explored by any other writer I've encountered in quite this illuminating a way.

Glatt is bold and original in the way she tackles tough issues and flawed characters. I'll be looking out for this writers work in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is absolutely phenomenal. The characters are complex and real and love the world and the people in it to a terrifying fault. We are happy with them, hurt with them, love with them, and fear with them.

I read the one unfavorable comment below and was appalled. The only conclusion I can draw about it is that some self-rightous women just don't want to admit that yes, people in their teens and in their thirties, make mistakes, trip and fall, and then pick themselves back up and wipe off their scraped knees. I think there are some who are loathe to admit that this behavior can in fact lead one to lives that are all the more full and rewarding. Only the most uncompassionate of human beings could not be moved by this book.

So I encourage anyone out there not to miss this one. It's a true gem. Let's face it, the meaning of life is love. No one wants to be alone. The remarkable thing is how each of us goes about finding that road towards love of others and of oneself, and true redemption. That is precisely what Glatt explores.

This is a story about the simultaneous fragility and strength in all kinds of relationships, and the beauty that can often be found in the ugliest places.
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