Natalie Serber is the kind of author you want to know. You want to read her book, sure, but you also want to be her friend: share a glass of wine with her and talk about your family, your garden, and the excellent risotto you made last night. She’s the real deal.
Well, now’s your chance. Enter to win our first inaugural Book Club in a Box: copies of Natalie’s debut short story collection SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME, discussion questions for your group, recipe card’s for yummy book club snacks, and a Skype or in-person visit from Natalie herself.
We all have exasperating and exceptional family members and sometimes, if we are lucky, it’s one and the same person. My family had big-hearted Uncle B, pink faced and ham-handed, he threw back whiskey shots, taught me to trap fireflies in a jar, and blasted his mini canon from the front porch on major and minor holidays. Uncle B’s advice to me was “Don’t settle.” My husband’s family had shrewd Aunt M who ran a small market and butcher shop, smoked a corn pipe, kept her long red hair tied into a knot on top of her head, and to the chagrin of nearly everyone, she liked to go around topless when she was at home. At family gatherings we get a chance to remember and tell stories, to laugh. The stories we tell bring us closer together.
That’s the way it is for me with reading. I discover a character in a novel or story, someone exasperating and specific, and they come to life. I am thinking here of the heartbreaking, self-effacing other woman in Lorrie Moore’s story, “How to be An Other Woman.” And, Laurie Colwin’s, Olly Bax, the young widow in her novel, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object. Of pinched, and rigid Tifty, from John Cheever’s story, “Goodbye, My Brother.” Having the opportunity to talk about the missteps and beauty of these characters with friends brings us friends closer together. It gives us a shared experience, even as we each bring to the character our own set of expectations.
I’ve heard from readers how characters in my book attract and annoy them. How they can relate to the choices, even the bad ones, the characters make. As you read and talk about the stories, I invite you to think about our own exasperating and marvelous family members. My mother, like the character Ruby Hargrove, in my collection, used to always tell me to “knock with my elbows.” It was her way of saying, be generous. Show up with something to share. I hope that my book ‘knocks with its elbows,’ showing up to your discussion with plenty to share.
Thanks for your time with my book.