Review by Booklist Review
Walbert daringly depicts the golden years of a generation of women, better described as the 1950s country-club set, now that they're either divorced or widowed and their homes are devoid of children. Their men, who have left them for younger women, are ailing executives in need of a boost to their sorry egos from someone naive enough to be of service. For the most part, though, these ladies are not sitting around crying. They're taking action: calling up old boyfriends in the middle of the night, organizing to save the geese at the country club--they've learned plenty about intervention. This is a unique novel about eight companions finally taking the path of their choice without the socially imposed restrictions of yesteryear. Walbert incorporates bittersweet humor as her characters sort through the rubble of their lives while sitting alongside the pool watching the tan pool boy do his work. An eye-opening experience for anyone who thinks that the 1950s woman is still in the kitchen wearing a housecoat. --Elsa Gaztambide Copyright 2004 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Mannered yet curiously moving, this novel in stories by Walbert (The Gardens of Kyoto) tells the collective tale of a group of wealthy suburban women who came of age in the 1950s and are now facing life long after husbands and children have flown the coop ("We were married in 1953. Divorced in 1976. Our grown daughters pity us; our grown sons forget us"). Free of old inhibitions and with nothing left to lose ("they think us heartless and we are, somewhat"), they embark on odd crusades and projects when they aren't shopping or gossiping around the pool. In the brilliant "Intervention," they decide to save their favorite realtor, Him, who represents "our faithless husband, our poor father. He is our bad son, our schemer, our rogue.... Still, we love Him," then realize they need help themselves. Love recalled (and often ridiculed) is a recurring subject. In "Esther's Walter," Esther, the group's "artistic one," invites the group to a sinister party on the anniversary of her husband's death; in "Bambi Breaks for Freedom," the wheelchair-bound Bambi seeks her friends' support as she sets herself free from an old heartbreak. Walbert offers other sharp snapshots of the remaining members of the group, among them earnest, forgetful Judy; Canoe, the bouncy, ever-recovering alcoholic; Barbara, whose depressed daughter kills herself; "frigid" Gay who married a gay man; Suzie, the country club matron who fails to get her female lover admitted to the club; and lonely Louise. In an era when women went to college to study "the three Gs: Grooming, Grammar, and Grace," Walbert's characters are caught like insects in amber as they make late-in-life discoveries no school could ever teach. Brittle, funny and poignant, this is a prickly treat. (Apr.) Forecast: Ladies who lunch (and who don't mind self-scrutiny) will enjoy this novel; so (perhaps less obviously) will fans of Jeffrey Eugenides's Virgin Suicides, which is also narrated in a first-person plural voice and paints a kindred picture of suburbia. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
After The Gardens of Kyoto: women who came of age in the Fifties face up to life's disappointments. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Called "a novel in stories," Walbert's new entry (after The Gardens of Kyoto, 2001, etc.) starts slowly, then reaches high indeed. Walbert's first-person plural ("we") draws attention to itself in a tic-like way and automatically narrows and miniaturizes tone and theme, even character, since no chorus can have the idiosyncratic power of an individual. This "we" is a group of women who married and had babies back in the 1950s; now, they're divorced or widowed, their daughters grown and gone--or dead. "The Intervention" opens with the group attempting to expose an unscrupulous realtor: the "we" is in full swing, the story at once conventional and affected. "Esther's Walter" fares little better: a widow gives a party, then ceremoniously drinks poison in front of all her friends. "Bambi Breaks for Freedom"--an ex-pianist, in a wheelchair, telephones the man who once dumped her long ago--suffers from the same improbability and coy tone. But then things really start happening: The "we" falls aside as members of the group "tell" their stories in what are suddenly natural voices, with resulting believability and expressiveness. It's revealed, in "Screw Martha," that one daughter, Megan, actually killed herself, and from then on every scrap the reader can gather about her or her mother is riveting. In "Sick Chicks," a nursing home death (the patients discuss Mrs. Dalloway) is perfect, deft, and unobtrusively poignant, as is "Warriors" (a young pregnant woman's hidden tale is drawn out by a portrait photographer). Whole lives--a generation, an era--are handled with grace, deftness, and skill in these pieces, including the wondrous "Come As You Were," where the women wear their old wedding dresses to a party, a sadly hilarious conceit that provides a veritable feast (as does "The Beginning of the End") of tales that unflinchingly look half a century into the past and tell us exactly what was back there, and what is--or isn't--still here, today. Then-and-now prose pieces that, at their best, are among the finest there can be. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.