Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber

A bit about the book: Anorexia. Drug use. Mother-daughter relationships. Coming-of-age issues. All of these are themes from Natalie Serber's debut collection of short stories. While Shout Her Lovely Name is a women-centered collection of stories, it is far from typical "chick lit." There are no shopping trips, nary a designer handbag in sight. Although the women in these stories have romantic relationships, neither are they the focus. Intead, Serber has written a smart series of stories focused on women's inner workings -- the meat of what makes a woman a woman. 

In the opening story, from which the fabulous title borrows its name, a mother struggles with her daughter's battle to be thin. Told in daring second-person point-of-view (which I usually tell my students almost no one does, or if they do, it's seldom successful), the reader is pulled into the story. Serber does an excellent job of delving into the feelings that wash over the mother as she helplessly watches her daughter become virtually transparent. 

The book is broken into three parts; a single story at the beginning, a series of middle stories which star the same two main characters throughout, and a final standalone story. The stories in the middle, and the mother-daughter duo who are featured in them, were favorites of mine. From her birth through daughter Nora's young adult years, Serber describes daily life for the pair. Serber doesn't shy away from getting down and dirty, chronicling both the parting of Nora's parents before her birth and Nora's recreational drug use in her teens.

Why you want to read it: Shout Her Lovely Name is a brave, vivid illustration of all it means to be a woman. Serber's use of the short story genre, rather than her having written a novel, allows her to tackle a wide array of topics. The collection also highlights her immense writing ability, proving that she is someone to watch for in the future. The stories are well-written and full of flawed, engaging characters. 

The bottom line: Even if you aren't normally a short story reader, Serber's Shout Her Lovely Name will speak to you. Females especially, even those who aren't mothers, will appreciate her candid descriptions and the truth she brings to the table. Even those without children were daughters of mothers themselves. Serber offers a little something for everyone in this collection.

About the author: Natalie Serber has contributed to two previous collections of writing, Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex, and Work in Our 40s and Air Fare: Stories, Poems, and Essays on Flight. Shout Her Lovely Name is her first singly-published work. She has degrees in English and Education, but stayed at home with her children and wrote while they were in school.

On her website she writes: "Now as my youngest enters college and I teeter on the cusp of an empty nest and a new decade of my life, my collection, SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME is forthcoming with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  There’s a lovely symmetry to my timeline and if I wrote it in a story, no one would believe it."

You can find out more about Serber and the new novel she is in the process of writing by connecting with her on her website, on Facebook, on Pinterest, or on Goodreads.

TLC Book Tour Info: This post is part of the TLC Book Tour for Shout Her Lovely Name. To read more reviews of Natalie Serber's short story collection, click over to TLC's Shout Her Lovely Name page for a full listing of tour stops.


  1. I don't read a lot of short story collections, but some do sound good. This is one such case. Great review!

    1. I don't read many, either, Kailana. This one was good. It reminded me of Ellen Gilchrist's work. If you haven't read her, you should.

  2. Woah, what a powerful statement: "a brave, vivid illustration of all it means to be a woman." Definitely a must read!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

    1. Thanks, Heather! I will check out the FB page & link to it on my own FB.

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