Category Archives: Thoughts on Various Stuff

She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb: a review

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Note to FTC: In exchange for reviewing this book I received the pleasure of reading the book, nothing more.

One of the best books I’ve ever read, She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb, published in 1992, lands 5+ stars. It was an Oprah’s Book Club choice. Twice. I don’t know what took me so long to discover the book, and the author, but I’m glad I finally did.

As a writer I tend to study the story I’m reading, sometimes unconsciously, (which can make for an unenjoyable experience if I’m not careful to stop studying long enough to just read). The first thing I usually notice, or look for, is foreshadowing. Often I guess correctly where this foreshadowing is and what’s going to happen next because of that event. This is when I know I have an “okay” book in hand, rather than a “knock-em-dead” book. I want to be surprised, shocked even, by the twists and turns in a story, I don’t want to feel so certain I know what the ending will read like.

But with She’s Come Undone the foreshadowing, was not the first thing I noticed, (though I did find it and guessed correctly in a couple of instances but not most). No, the first thing I noticed, as a writer, is that Wally Lamb offers very little in the way of description, and yet we inherently know not only what the characters look like but who they are – they’re 3-D people, they feel real. “How did he do that?” we writers want to know. The good news is it’s easy to discover that he shows us what’s happening by – guess – telling us exactly that: what’s happening, not what color the kitchen counter Dolores throws a towel on is but what she knocks over with that towel. Voilà: there is the picture in our mind, he need go no further with that description, he can simply go on telling us her next action. And the dialogue? You just can’t get any better than this. So, as a writer, I highly recommend reading and studying She’s Come Undone.

I also highly recommend She’s Come Undone as a reader. The story, about a girl/woman, Dolores Price, dealing with depression and repressed feelings, is so eerily like my own (early) life it scared me. (Dolores’s greatest fear, which I won’t tell you so as not to spoil the story), is my greatest fear, and for the very same reason, though it takes her years to recognize the fear (it did me too). The grip Mr. Lamb has on the human psyche is amazing but what astounded me more was the fact that, despite being a man, he got the feelings of this depressed girl/woman down-pat! And I’ve never before paid attention to whether the main character is a man written by a woman or vice-versa, it’s simply either a good story or it isn’t. But with this one I couldn’t help it because…..well, you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn about “other things” that happened in the 60s and 70s, things aside from the moon landing and Kennedy’s death. So much news is woven into this story that it could easily be a terrific history book for teenagers.

I don’t want to digress – I believe the main point of She’s Come Undone is to show us the damage that judging others can do, how it can hurt people well beyond the day they were assaulted, verbally or otherwise, by their peers, and even by so-called responsible adults – it can take hold, grow and last for years and years, making everything in the victim’s life a nightmare of fear. It’s sad, yes, very sad, but the book isn’t a depressing one, it’s thoughtful and it’s hopeful, it really made me think about all the kids, and adults, in this world who are constantly picked on, bullied, and how they make it through life without a breakdown. Many of them don’t.

She’s Come Undone also has several gut-busting belly laugh moments sprinkled throughout which greatly helped ease the seriousness of the subject enough to help us, the reader, read on, knowing we weren’t being led to a “bucket-full-of-tears” slaughter.

Run out and get She’s Come Undone today. You’re going to love Dolores, I promise. Click here to go to my bookshelf and read short reviews of other books I’ve read this year.

What book stands out as one of your greatest discoveries? What made it so great?

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Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction. I also have just launched The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fainwhere I share my fiction, writing under the pen Roslyn Fain.

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My baby’s feet #babies #memoir

 

image by Deanna Schrayer
image by Deanna Schrayer
When I held my babies, whether to please them or to please me – usually both – I was fascinated with their feet. Not only were they tiny enough to hold in the palm of my hand, they were also tattooed with lines that I read like a fortune teller would read your palm to determine your future.
I could barely see the creases in my youngest son, Noah’s, feet, so faint were they, and I knew they’d never touch the ground.
I couldn’t keep Noah’s feet covered for anything in the world. Shoes? No – no matter how many times I picked them up off the floor and put them tightly back on his feet, off they’d come again in a giggling rage of escape. Covering his feet with a blanket was just as difficult.
My husband and I took turns walking Noah around the block in the middle of the night to get him to go to sleep. I always put socks on him, knowing the blanket we’d swaddled him in would be unwound and flapping in the wind with the first punch of his strong little fists. Still, wide awake and squawking, he knocked the blanket off his feet and for a moment all was quiet. Oh, yes! He’s finally asleep! I thought, careful not to announce it. But no, the moment he realized his feet were not bare his scream grew louder than ever.
Attempting to cover him back up, I rocked and rocked and rocked Noah as I walked like a drunk down the street. His red face hit my shoulder in rhythm to the beat of my heavy footsteps as he bashed his little legs together, rubbing at his ankles in an attempt to free himself of the socks.
For fifteen, twenty minutes the furious fit jarred the entire neighborhood until I’d reached our house for the twelfth time and, seeing our front door wide open at two AM, and plum exhausted, I imagined the ecstasy of the bed I desperately needed to be in. Noah’s temper finally beat out my patience and, back in the house, standing by our bed, I held on to my screaming son as tightly as he’d allow, kicked off my own shoes, laid down with him on my chest, took a deep breath and rolled over to lay him beside me.
But it wasn’t until I reached down and pulled his socks off that Noah stopped crying. Relieved, I pulled the covers up to my chest and, consequently, to Noah’s. The warning sob reached my ears quicker than it could leave his little mouth. Before the sob became a scream I jerked the blanket back off both of us. A heavy contented sigh escaped my son’s mouth.
As I lay my head on the pillow and tucked my baby into the crook of my arm, his free feet kicking at thin air, he laughed, a great baby belly laugh. In the next second he was sound asleep.
*
I came across this snippet, (when gathering stories for memoirs I’m working on), and wanted to share, in the hopes it brings the same smile to you that it brought to me.

Click here to follow me on Facebook, and here to follow me on Twitter.

Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction. I also have just launched The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fainwhere I share my fiction, writing under the pen Roslyn Fain.

To subscribe to This Side….Over Yonder look to the top left corner of this page; there are different methods of following, choose the one that’s right for you. 

The Other Side of Deanna is back! And she even has a name….. #fridayflash group

Hi everyone. Some of you may recall that I had two separate blogs, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy for my nonfiction, and The Other Side of Deanna for my fiction. A little more than a year ago I combined those blogs into This Side Over Yonder because I was posting mostly fiction and felt it was cumbersome to maintain two sites. I also wanted the URL to reflect my name, which This Side Over Yonder does.

Now, since I am fortunate enough to have more time to write, and because I will be posting more nonfiction articles, I have built a new site for my fiction, The Tale Well: Stories by Roslyn Fain.

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Years ago I wondered why anyone would want to use a pen name; now that I’m building my freelance career. yet still want to write fiction, I understand. Although Deanna and Roslyn are one-in-the-same, there is a vast difference in their personalities…..did I just say I have a split personality? Well, I am a writer!…..there is the business side of me (Deanna) and there is the playful side (Roslyn) and I feel they both deserve their own place.

Why the name Roslyn Fain? Fain is my mother’s maiden name and Roslyn was the first thing that popped into my head (which I always go with). It is apparently an old-fashioned name, had its peak in the 1940s, and fell off the “popular names” list in 1978. My family tells me I do look like a Roslyn, so there you go. I hope you’ll stop by The Tale Well and enjoy Roslyn’s first story, Those First Nights.

What about you? Do you use a pen name? What is it, and how did you hit upon that particular name? (If you’re using your pen name be brave and tell us your real name). 🙂

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Click here to follow me on Facebook,and here to follow me on Twitter.

Click here for fiction, and here for nonfiction.

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That Dog Won’t Hunt! for Uncle Bill #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

That Dog Won’t Hunt is rated PG by my standards. Please note: there is no specific reason the dog’s name is the same as my dad’s, it’s just what came to me.  🙂

For Uncle Bill, who loved his dogs, and a good joke

Annie, Uncle Bill's dog
Annie, Uncle Bill’s dog

That Dog Won’t Hunt, by Deanna Schrayer

“I told you Mabel, that dog won’t hunt! It ain’t gonna do you a bit of good to ask him to go get your newspaper. The darn thing is lazy!”

Ralph growled.

“Now James, he’s a good dog and you know it. Why, he always does what I ask him, watch this.” Mabel rattled the treats in her pocket and looked down at the old basset hound, “Ralph? Ralphie? You’re a good boy ain’t ya? I know you are.” She bent down and ruffled the fur around his neck, glanced at James to make sure he wasn’t watching before she took a piece of bacon out of her pocket and waved it under Ralph’s nose. She stood back up, “Okay Ralph, go get Mama the paper.”

Ralph took off down the walk, his floppy ears slapping the concrete and his tail wagging with pride.

“Humph” James said.

Ralph returned to Mabel, holding the paper perfectly in his mouth, just sideways enough to keep his slobber off of it. She stooped down and patted his head, took the paper and gave him the treat, “That’s my baby,” she crooned, “You’re mama’s boy, ain’t ya? Yes, you’re such a good boy, yes you are.” She went further and further into the baby talk until James couldn’t stand it any longer. He stood and stared at his wife, incredulous.

“How in the world do you do that?” he asked her, “He won’t do a darn thing for me, but he’d kiss your butt in a coon’s eye.”

“I’m just good to him, that’s all,” she replied, “You gotta show him you appreciate him James, just give him a little love.”

 “Come on boy,” Mabel told Ralph, “Let’s go upstairs and leave ole’ grouchy Daddy alone.

“Humph,” James grunted as he walked out of the basement.

Ralph followed his real master upstairs to the kitchen, growling his frustration along the way. He imagined himself standing on his hind legs and wagging his paw in James’s face, “Well of course I won’t hunt for you, you grouchy old man. Why don’t you try treating me like a human being now and then, huh? Would it kill you just to give your faithful dog a treat every once in a while? Darn right I won’t hunt, not for you, no how, no way!”

“Here you go sweetheart,” Mabel sat a plate of biscuits and gravy down at the table and Ralph jumped up in his chair and put his bib on.

“How long we gonna keep this charade up anyway Mabel?” he asked her, “Don’t you think we need to tell your old man I’m not a dog, that I’m really your cousin that didn’t truly get lost in the woods that day? Quite frankly I’m getting tired of fake bacon.”

“Now Ralph, you know his ole’ heart couldn’t take that kind of a shock. We can’t tell him and you know it.”

“Well I’ll tell you one thing right now,” Ralph replied, “I don’t care if he ever did start treating me better. As long as he goes on telling everybody and their brother I won’t hunt, then I won’t, ya hear? I won’t!”

Ralph and Mabel both jumped when they heard a boisterous thump! They turned to the kitchen door to see James sprawled across the threshold, his normally beady eyes bulging from his sallow face; he was panting and pointing a long bony finger at Ralph. 

“Ahahahaha,” Ralph hooted, “Guess I won’t have to worry about hunting for that ole’ grouch no more now will I? Ahahahahaha!”

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A poem a day keeps the wrinkles away #poetry #worldpoetryday #nationalpoetrymonth

Wolrd poetry day

If you’re an avid (or is that obsessive?) reader as I am, you’ve surely encountered those articles that proclaim reading is not only a pleasurable experience, it also helps to preserve many aspects of our minds, even assisting in slowing the aging process. This Friday, the 21st, being World Poetry Day, and with National Poetry Month in April fast approaching, I felt it the perfect time to celebrate the many advantages of reading.

If you aren’t a regular reader, but would like to be, I suggest subscribing to The American Academy of Poets’ Poem-a-Day. It’s a fantastic way to initiate reading something each day as most of the time the poems are short and, (for those of you who claim “allergy” to poetry), the older, and usually long, poems are few and far-between. Often they are profound, sometimes silly, even outright hilarious. Plus, you may discover that you absolutely adore poetry, or you may decide one poem each day is not enough and start reading more and more and voila, you’re a reader! You might even be inspired to write your own poetry, something I encourage, even if you don’t know the difference between a sestina and a stanza. No one has to see it if you don’t want them to.

I could go on and on about the many reasons reading, and writing, poetry is so good for our souls, but I believe it’s better to give you a couple of my favorites. These particular two may make it seem I’m morbid but no, I just like the profoundness of both, and I believe, upon reading them, you’ll understand why I love poetry so much.

The Bolt, by Mary Kinzie

That girl so long ago walked, as they all did, shop girls,

Little cousins, and church friends, to the unflattering

Hack of the hem just where the calf begins to swell,

Felt ruchings of the bodice’s stiff panels

Gal the flesh beside the flattening ornate

Armature of underwear (like pads and straps

For livestock, fretted by tooling and bright studs),

So she must yank her knees against

Pounds of rigid drapery in the storm of heat,

 

Trailing through the pestering, gray heads

Of Queen Anne’s lace, wind raveling

Her hair and sweeping through prolific

Jagged-bladed grass – a wind that pressed down

There like God with both His hands, mashing the air,

Darkening the hole where the dry mouth of the wood

Yawned to drink the stumbling travelers already touched

By the heavy sacs of rain that broke and ran

In gouts down saturated pleats of surge…

Here that girl ran last, so long ago, to be run through

By one long lightning thread that entered, through

A slender purple bruise, the creamy skin of her temple,

 

The instant that it happened, nobody remembered

How she looked or spoke, so quickly had she blended

With this evocation of her having been.

 

This was the past: a stroke of imagery stare-

Frozen, finished in suspension.

*

I love how the poem uses two definitions of bolt – a bolt of fabric and a bolt of lightning.

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I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, (280) Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s poems were not titled, only given a number).

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

 

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

 

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

 

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

 

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

*I love how the ending here is truly as abrupt as “the end” always is.

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And here is [the link to] a poem I wrote, She Saw It Comingwhich was originally a flash piece but readers’ comments led me to realize it should’ve been a poem all along.

Who are your favorite poets? What are your favorite poems? Why do you believe you’re attracted to these particular poems and/or poets?

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