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Shout Her Lovely Name Hardcover – June 26, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Natalie Serber on Shout Her Lovely Name

Natalie Serber

I had a dream last night about a geode. I was carrying it in my purse. It was the size of a coconut and I didn’t want to crack it open because I wanted to guard the feeling that I had unlockable wonder with me. I often feel this same tingly potential when I have a new book on my bedside table. All I have to do is crack it open to step into someplace new.

As a child, because my mother and I moved a lot, I sought friendship and solace in books. Reading novels and stories taught me that I was not the only kid who sometimes felt lonely and afraid, who longed for a swan or a babysister or a secret entrance through a wardrobe to a wild and amazing place. One of the beauties of literature is that you come to know your individual longings are universal; you are not isolated or strange...well maybe you are a little strange, but reading books teaches you that so is everyone else. You are not alone.

Writing does this for me as well. The characters in my stories are enmeshed in big precarious moments--breaking up, bringing home a new baby, caring for a sick child, leaving home. Each story offers potential for change and understanding; sometimes the characters take it, sometimes they don’t. Just like life.

I was a stay-at-home mom of two small children when I wrote my first published story, "This Is So Not Me." When I wrote the last story in the collection, "Developmental Blah Blah," my youngest was leaving home for college. That the writing of these stories spans such a swath of time is a gift. They explore lost pets, leaky pools, backseat groping, pregnancy tests, cocktail waitressing, unwelcome confessions, visiting in-laws, and middle-age tattoos. And this crazy-messy mix, big changes wrapped up in the gritty details of everyday family life, is where my stories dwell. It is my hope that when you read my book you’ll feel in good company.

Finally, while I relish the long luxurious soak a novel offers, staying with characters you come to know and care about for a stretch of pages, the great thing about a short story collection is that you’ve got multiple characters to meet and worlds to enter. Shout Her Lovely Name offers the best of both. Many of the stories follow the lives of Ruby and Nora, a mother and daughter growing up together, experiencing pride and disappointment, love and forgiveness. Their stories take you from Key West and New York City in the 1960s to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in present day. Other men and women populate the collection as well, and I hope you come to care about them all as much as I do.

A story collection is a virtual bag of geodes, each ready to crack open and reveal a sparkling new place.



"Call it fiction, but this collection is achingly true to life when it comes to the many ways mothers and daughters grow together and apart, over and over again."
O, the Oprah Magazine

"The characters are irresistible . . . Serber writes with exquisite patience and sensitivity, and is an expert in the many ways that love throws people together and splits them apart, often at the same time."
Wall Street Journal

"Mothers and daughters go at it in the way only mothers and daughters can, with full hearts and claws out, in Natalie Serber’s funny, bittersweet collection. . . . It’s the perfect firecracker of a book to 'accidentally' stick in the beach bag of the freewheeling mother who refuses to give up her independence and grow up, or to leave on the chaise lounge of the type-A daughter who’s forced to grow up and never gets to be a girl."
Vanity Fair

"From its first page, Serber's debut collection plunges us into the humid heat and lightning of a perfect storm: that of American mothers and daughers struggling for power, love, meaning, and identity. . . .Serber's writing sparkles: practical, strong, brazenly modern, marbled with superb descriptions."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Mothers and daughters burst from these pages in stories about food, boyfriends, birthdays, husbands and more." --Houston Chronicle

"There is an element of the miraculous in a collection of stories whose characters reveal the fundamental predicament of all parents and children. . . .[Serber is] clearly writing not from some high plane of solitude but from within the mess of life." 
Huffington Post

"Serber’s stellar first collection packs an emotional wallop right from the start...sharp, somber, and sparkling commentary... As provocative as it is poignant, Serber’s searingly honest depiction of the complex, contentious, and confusing bonds at the heart of all families heralds an exceptional new talent."
Booklist (starred)

"Serber writes with grace, humor and a thoughtful, but realistic, understanding of the emotional toll demanded by families." -- BookPage

"From the very first page, this extraordinary collection of short stories grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. It is filled with poignant, thought-provoking observations on the delicate yet unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Serber has given readers a remarkable, heart-felt book to be savored, shared and passed on from one generation to another."
—Anderson McKean, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL

"As its title implies, Natalie Serber’s collection Shout Her Lovely Name is a triumphant battle cry of hard-won victory over the stalemate and injuries between mothers and daughters. She leaves the reader amazed at the tenacity, tenderness, and truth of her characters."
—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men are Gone

"Shout Her Lovely Name joins the ranks of the finest books ever to address relations between daughters and their mothers—equal parts love and sandpaper. I ached for these characters and cried at their hard-earned moments of joy. A book to make you marvel that someone really does understand, to make you grateful that she wrote it all down so fiercely, so tenderly." 
—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You I Would Tell You This

" In the complexities of family triumphs and catastrophes, Natalie Serber is always achingly specific. Between mothers and daughters, women and their lovers, she misses nothing, and in all her scenes, the reader feels the true breath of life."
—Charles Baxter

"In the tradition of Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff, Natalie Serber's stories uncover the secret hearts of seemingly ordinary people. Funny, heart-felt, and keenly perceptive, this is a book worth shouting about."
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake

"Coming of age is a painful and beautiful experience in Natalie Serber's hands. These are funny and poignant pieces, building a book that feels novelistic in sweep, yet true to the precision and direct aim of the short story. A real pleasure."
—Antonya Nelson


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547634528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547634524
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,475,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark #1 HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Shout Her Lovely Name is a good read that is hard to classify. This is a collection of stories with a common theme: the relationships between mothers and daughters. In several of the stories, the mother is not actually present but still casts a shadow over her daughter. It seems like most, if not all, of the stories are connected to the same family. So while each of the stories can be enjoyed on its own, this is probably closer to a novel than a random collection of stories.

I started intending to just read one or two stories a day. Once I started reading, I found myself unable to put the book down till I had finished one story, then another and another in each sitting.

The themes run the gamut from eating disorders to sex and drugs. Some of the stories were difficult to read, but it's their understated elegance that was most surprising.

The title story kicks it off. The author tackles the uncomfortable subject of a mother struggling to deal with her teenage daughter's eating disorder and rebelliousness. You, the reader, are cast as the mother. The author showcases her ability to play with language, writing it in a strange tense that can only be described by me as "second person imperative." If I am wrong on the technical term, I apologize. In any case, the author pulls it off. The story ends in a somewhat anti-climactic way, yet I found myself reflecting on what the author was trying to say with that ending.

There are a few weak moments. When we get to the section after Ruby's delivery, we are treated to some very quaint and backwards characters in the form of "Puerto Rican" women who have also delivered and are in the same hospital.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved "Shout Her Lovely Name," a superb short story collection by Natalie Serber. Each of the eleven stories in this collection explores some aspect of the mother/daughter bond. While other emotional entanglements occur, this bond predominates.

The first story was my favorite. Told in second person, it captures well the utter frustration of a mother whose daughter is struggling with an eating disorder. Neither mother nor daughter is named, and this adds to the universality of the story. The emotions depicted run the gamut from exaltation to utter despair and everything in between. While I am not a parent myself, it was easy for me to believe and relate to each and every line.

The next nine stories are loosely linked. They center around the relationship between Ruby Goddard and her mother, Sally, and eventually to Ruby's daughter, Nora. We first meet Ruby as she is coming home from college for a visit with her dysfunctional parents. From there, the stories explore Ruby as she tries to find herself in several ways: through travel, through study, in various relationships with men, and finally through motherhood. I found each story compelling and interesting, psychologically true and extremely well written.

The final story was, in my opinion, the least successful of the eleven, and I am eager to know what other readers thought of it as well. Longest of all the stories, it introduced new characters and simply did not work well for me, which was surprising as I loved the other stories. Despite this, however, I gladly give this collection five stars, and I eagerly await more writing by Natalie Serber.
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I know not how authors/editors determine the arrangement of stories in a collection, but I would not have begun this book with "Shout Her Lovely Name" even though it is a brilliant story written in a very unique format. I like second person narrative. Instead I would have opened with "Ruby Jewel," the second story because it is so absolutely perfect. I was led to believe that the stories revolve around mother-daughter relationships--and this one does as do all the others--except mostly that relationship is defined by the father-daughter one. Ruby is a freshman at the University of Florida and has just come home to Tampa for the first time. Her father meets her at the train--this is probably set in the early 60s since Steve Allen is a popular TV personality--and most of the story takes place in the bar Ruby's father frequents after his work day. And this is also the era of Green Stamps!

The third story is an extension of the second, another chapter in Ruby's life as will almost all the rest of them be. I am reminded of that wonderful reading experience I had with Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer-Prize-winning "Olive Kitteridge," a collection of short stories that actually is also a novel of sorts. In the third story Ruby is working in the Keys as a bar server, renting a motel room at $45 a month! I wonder about the veracity of that, even back when. And this is when the plot of the collection begins. Something happens, and gay Ira, the bar tender, is there for her. Marco emerges as a character next when he and Ruby rescue--with unfortunate consequences--a tossed out sofa from near their tiny apartment in New York City. And in this story we learn more about Ruby's pathetic mother, Sally.
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