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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
Other Women
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$15.95+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on March 25, 2017
I have been helped by several therapists over the years and I have always had trouble explaining what happens. Now I have an excellent explanation. In fact I am going to insist that my therapist friend read it.
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on August 16, 2010
When people ask me for books to read in order to learn how to be a therapist or a coach I recommend this amazing book that allows you to enter the minds of two women, one a therapist and the other a client. Their thoughts about each other and the process they are going through is beautifully described and woven artistically into the seasons of a year.
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on December 12, 2008
I love this book. I've read it numerous times over the years, yet the message is still relevant. The characters are so real, they feel like old friends. The humor is still fresh, and it never fails to have a "theraputic" effect on me. I highly recommend this book for any woman, but especially for any woman over the age of 21.
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on August 6, 2012
The book "Other Women" was probably much more interesting if read in the early 80s when it was written. I found it rather dull - all character development and no story.
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After reading Original Sin by Lisa Alther and having a hard time liking it in any way, I had a decision to make. You see I got both of these books through Kindle Unlimited which means they were free to borrow. I thought about returning this one, Other Women, and not reading it at all. Thank goodness I didn't. I loved this book!

If you have had a good experience with a counselor, dealing with problems of the past or current ones, this will feel familiar. I think everyone should have a good counselor once in a while to air the mental stuff that you might not want to weigh down your friends and family with. And here in Other Women there were plots and characters that felt so real that I was sorry the book ended. I think I might read it again, sometime.

Though this book ended quite well, all threads neatly sewn up, I still wish there was more. I want to see what happens next. We are left with ideas as to how life might continue, but I knew I would miss all these people as much as the real people in my life. I like when an author can do that. She created a reality that felt real.

Just saying that made me smile. Wasn't it because Original Sins felt so real that I hated it? I think I could relate more with the characters in Other Women much more deeply than I could with the characters in Original Sins. So maybe that is why the reviews on both books had such a variety of ranks. I guess it has to do with your own viewpoint of the world.

This is one book I will have to buy someday. I think many will love it as much as I did.
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on November 23, 2013
One of my favorite fiction reads to date. I normally do not read fiction and especially not impressed with this genre of fiction; but this story helped me make sense of a year-long therapy session that seemed to go nowhere. I have had the book a long time - when I bought it I was Caroline's age and had her issues; and now I relate more to the therapist's middle-age issues. I have re-read this book a few times in as many decades, when I needed to be reminded that since I admire the characters in this book despite their flaws I have permission to forgive my own flaws.

It is interesting that some of the commenters liked Alther's other books but not this one; I bought the other ones after reading this one thinking they would be as good and they left me wanting. I also lent Other Women out to family and friends and had mixed reviews. I disagree with anyone who claims that it lacks depth and has no story or character development. It does date itself in places.

It certainly is not for everyone but I think it is a must-read for anyone in the therapy profession, period. The therapy sessions focus almost exclusively on nurture (vs nature) which I think over simplifies matters; but a few scenes outside of the therapy sessions do recognize the power of temperament. We are definitely more than just a product of our environment.
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on October 30, 1998
One of the best books I have read in a while. I just couldn't put it down until I had finished it, and then I was sad that it was over. This book has everything: Humor, compassion, wisdom, insight, and great characters. It makes you think deeply about your own life and your relationships. The slow transformation of the main character Caroline is fascinating as she goes through therapy and takes a critical look at herself and her past. I have bought copies for all my friends to read and they all liked it just as much. If you tend to get depressed during the winter months, read this book as it may not only cheer you up but may also give you a fresh new perspective on your life.
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on February 28, 2012
I wanted to like this book. I bought the book because it was cheap via Amazon's Daily Deal for Kindle. But despite my best efforts, this book was a fail.

I generally like books that tell stories from multiple perspectives, but the author of this book was unable to clearly switch between characters so that the shifting perspectives became confusing. Furthermore, it just dragged on and on with middle class white female angst. Yes, the character's were traumatized at some point in their lives. It just took forever for them to deal with it. I never finished the book because I got to a point where I felt "enough already!"
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on September 3, 2008
After reading her first two brilliant novels, "Kinflicks" and "Original Sins", I found myself wondering why Lisa Alther is not more highly regarded by the American literary establishment; several of her books are currently out of print. Perhaps the fact that she is a woman may have something to do with it; most of America's current literary lions (Updike, Irving, Roth, etc.) are male, whereas other talented female writers (Alison Lurie being a good example) are also neglected.

Having now read Alther's third novel "Other Women" I can now understand something of the reason for the decline in her reputation, because it does not come close to living up to the promise of her first two books. The book is set in New England; unlike its two predecessors it makes no reference to Alther's own Southern heritage. References to events such as the Jonestown massacre and the Sino-Vietnamese border war date the action to the winter and spring of 1978-79, although there are occasional slips. Caroline's children, for example, would not at that date have been able to inform her about the plot of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", as that movie was not released until 1981. (The book was written in 1984, some years after the events it describes).

The main character is Caroline Kelly, a 35 year old nurse. Caroline is an extreme pessimist, caught in an ideological misery trap. She believes that life- her own life and human life in general- is pointless and miserable and that she, and everyone else, is doomed to an existence of unhappiness and suffering. She has tried what Alther calls "all the standard bromides", including marriage, true love, communism, feminism, God, sex, work, alcohol and drugs, but each "enchanted for a while, but ultimately failed to stave off the despair".

At the beginning of the novel Caroline sees herself as being left with only two options- psychotherapy or suicide. The book tells the story of Caroline's course of treatment with her therapist, Hannah Burke, and as this progresses we learn something of her past. She is a divorcee, having left her doctor husband Jackson for a left-wing radical named David Michael, but this affair proved to be short-lived. She is currently in a lesbian relationship with a colleague, Diana, but this is also proving unsatisfactory; although the two women still live under the same roof, the sexual side of the relationship has all but come to an end and Diana is pursuing another, younger, girl. Like Ginny and some of Alther's other female characters, Caroline is bisexual; indeed, Alther seems to take the line that all people, or at least all women, are essentially bisexual, effectively leaving them free to choose their own sexuality. (A line that will not endear her to many in the gay community).

The aim of Hannah's therapy is to enable Caroline to take control of her life by coming to terms with her past. Caroline was the child of well-to-do, middle-class parents, politically and socially liberal but remote authority-figures, unable to cater for their children's emotional needs. The main result of their liberalism has been to inculcate their daughter with ineradicable guilt feelings about her privileged upbringing. Hannah sees Caroline's subsequent life of falling into a predictable pattern (by the end of the novel this has become capitalised as The Pattern) of clinging to substitute mother or father-figures and then being rejected by them, although it seemed to me that Hannah's psycho-analytic theories were not always borne out by the facts of Caroline's life. (For example, it was Caroline who left Jackson, not vice versa, largely because she could not accept that the needs of his patients might sometimes have to come before her own. She also walked out on David Michael, although with greater justification given that he was a serial womaniser). The book ends, according to the blurb on the back of my edition, with Caroline "gradually realising that she is being healed", although as she was still actively contemplating suicide in the penultimate chapter this healing is obviously a slow process.

Alther's first two novels have serious themes, but they are often very funny, and she is capable of writing with a brilliant, satirical wit. In "Other Women", however, there is very little wit or humour; the tone is deeply serious throughout, although some of the characters cry out to be satirised. The Lisa Alther of "Kinflicks" would have had great fun at the expense of David Michael, the sort of bourgeois fun-revolutionary who has taken up left-wing politics in order to increase his chances of scoring with women, or of Caroline's earnest, do-gooding parents. The main problem with the book is that Caroline is so difficult to like. In "Kinflicks" Alther had created, in Ginny Babcock, one of the most likeable heroines in modern literature- often infuriating, often wrongheaded, always fascinating. It is difficult to believe that the depressing figure of Caroline could have had the same creator. Reading the book was like spending several hours in the company of an acquaintance one would much rather avoid, not because they are wicked or malicious but because they positively radiate gloom and despondency.

Alther made something of a return to form with her fourth novel, "Bedrock", an amusing satirical look at New England small town life. The main character in that book, Clea Shawn, is an older (but not necessarily wiser) version of Ginny Babcock, although her best friend Elke is clearly an older version of Caroline. I have not read Alther's most recent novel, "Five Minutes in Heaven", but of her first four "Other Women" is by far the weakest.
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