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Starting Over

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  181 ratings  ·  41 reviews
On the release of her first novel in 1948, Elizabeth Spencer was immediately championed by Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty, setting off a remarkable career as one of the great literary voices of the American South. Her career, now spanning seven decades, continues here with nine new stories. In Starting Over, Spencer returns to the deep emotional fault lines and unseen ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 13th 2014 by Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Rebecca Foster
I’ll sheepishly admit that I’d never heard of Elizabeth Spencer until I came across these stories. And yet she has been writing since 1948, in which time she has published nine novels, eight story collections and a memoir. She seems to be part of a Southern cadre including Allan Gurganus (to whom she dedicates the book) and Eudora Welty, who gives a puff in the prefatory material.

Most of these stories are set in North Carolina or Mississippi; there is usually a central couple, either divorced an
...more
Lydia Presley
It says something when an author can boast that they have been writing for seven decades. Seven, folks. Elizabeth Spencer creates a nearly perfect set of short stories with Starting Over: Stories. Some of these stories broke my heart, moved me to tears, and made me put the book down out of sheer self-preservation. I'm a fairly recent convert to the power of the short story (by recent, I mean within the last few years) so for a collection to move me as deeply as some of these stories moved me...w ...more
Adam
With the exception of "Christmas Longings," the shortest story featured in Mary Spencer's newest collection--her first in over a decade--all of Spencer's fiction features a visit of some sort. Most of these are unplanned, though this is not where the tension is derived. Instead, the conflicts--quiet, subtle, like disturbances beneath the calm surface of a lake--arrive after the fact, as those on the outskirts of the events must come to terms with the aftermath. There is the mother whose son from ...more
Andy Miller
One story in this collection, "Blackie" disturbed me so much it caused me to not only questions the author's values in that story, it caused me to re-examine all her stories and question the values in those I had already read and liked

"Blackie" features a woman who has remarried after divorcing her first husband with whom she had a child. The story gives reason as to her leaving her husband though not necessarily her son. Her new family brought her three stepsons and an ailing father in law alon
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Patrick Faller
A friend of mine continually mentions the maxim handed down to him from one of his writing instructors: let life in. This means, essentially, that stories can, and should, be invested with the kinds of experience that clutters a workaday life: grocery lists, laundry, the sense of elsewhereness that comes over those of us tasked with mundane chores (cleaning out the garage; running into town to pick up more beer). These details seem to charge the characters in Spencer's collection with occasions ...more
Sylvie
I'm an Elizabeth Spencer fan.

I can't believe that I'd never heard of this wonderful writer until a few years ago, when my wonderful friend loaned me "Downhome: An Anthology of Southern Women Writers" and there she was: Elizabeth Spencer.

After reading many of Spencer's short stories, I couldn't imagine how I had missed this wonderful writer! Since then, I've been reading whatever Spencer stores/novels I can find. And it's not easy. Most of the books I read come from my local library, and they ha
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Denis Vukosav
“Starting Over: Stories” written by Elizabeth Spencer is well-made collection of stories that manages to show how with a skilled author much can be said in this short literary form.

Elizabeth Spencer is present on the literary scene for almost seventy years, though already her first work attracted the attention - since then, all of her fifteen published works during her fruitful career managed to equally attract the attention of critics and readers.

In “Starting Over” anthology she brought nine ne
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Katherine
*3.5 stars.
"…had looked forlorn in the shelter when Mason chose him out of others. But choosing didn't change him; he still looked forlorn" (60).
"…and saw the whole flawed fabric of human relations form, the present now becoming like the past, the future scrolling out ahead looking just as always torn, stained, blemished" (68).
"Marsha was a good-natured woman, tolerant of human mistakes" (71).
"There was a thin line of small quarrels between them, something apt to go o indefinitely; it often vani
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J. Keck
Some of her short stories made more impact on me than others. I'm glad I read the entire book. I must confess that the first two stories did not impress me the way the others did. I was troubled by the dialogue of multiple speakers in one paragraph; it was a bit confusing. However, the stories that followed were jewels. They were not only beautifully and a deftly crafted, but sensitive and poignant. I felt the pangs of tenderness, regret, and empathy for the characters. Heartfelt is the word tha ...more
Sheri
It is always a surprise to me, who reads day and night to find a new author that has been around this long, written this many wonderful books and I have never read her. Until now.
The stories are sweet, sad, ordinary, gripping and told well in their simplicity and brevity. I read the book in a few sittings, although I could have finished it in one... I wanted to savor some of the beauty and emotion evoked in the story before moving on to the next one.
Paul Secor
Very good stories about families and all of the memories, secrets, caring, and feuds that come with families.
Elizabeth Spencer has her own voice (or voices), as befits someone who has been published for over sixty five years. At times, I felt that I was hearing the voice of an old friend telling me a story I'd never heard before.
I'd never read any of Ms. Spencer's books before I read Starting Over, but I'm sure I'll be reading more of her works in the future.
Peg
Elizabeth Spencer is one of my favorite authors. Her books and stories are primarily set in the south. Her national recognition is based on her "Light in the Piazza." Have had the pleasure of enjoying her company when she was a guest at a book group. This collection of short stories depicts family life including the cracks and imperfections underneath.
Mildred Merz
Each story involves family life. It is not always perfect, but it is still an important factor in a person's life--a safe harbor. In the final story, "The Wedding Visitor," I loved where Rob is remembering his aunt's frequently "blessing his heart." He then reflects that he likes to have his heart blessed!
Keith Madsen
Elizabeth Spencer is one of the top short story writers of our time, and it shows in her eloquent use of language and in her careful depiction of characters. However, I will have to admit that I had a hard time getting into some of these stories. Perhaps it is a male-female thing. Her stories are heavily about relationships, but in some of them I had a longing for some kind of dramatic tension to be pictured and then (at least partially) resolved.
Jamie
Holy cow. I don't think I can give this collection of stories, and this remarkable author, enough praise. Elizabeth Spencer is a true master. The stories are pristine and surprising. Amazing that a woman who is 92 is still crafting brilliant work. Simply stunning.
Maudy Benz
Incisive stories of families with wounds whose members attempt to resolve them. The prose is crystalline. No story is tied up neatly as life is never tidy.
Ms. Spencer's economy of language is balanced by her generosity of heart
Cathy
A wonderful collection of short stories. Such a different experience from reading a full length novel. You have to tease out the characters and use your imagination to fill in the blanks.
Each story a small gem:)
Shirley
I am not a short story fan. Somehow all of this collection actually could have been a single story about a small town in the deep south. Anyone who has been writing for seventy years is to be admired.
Corinne
I've long been a admirer of Elizabeth Spencer's short stories. This new collection confrims my view that she is one of the finest short story writers today. The only puzzle is why isn't she better known?
Eleanor
Spencer writes about families and the spiraling nature of relationships in a convincing way that immediately pulled me into the world that she creates. I liked this book very much.
Bill Fletcher
Great to have a new collection from Elizabeth Spencer. I'm not sure I found it as wonderful as the reviews did, but the stories are good (a few, 'Blackie' and 'The Wedding Visitor', in particular, I thought were very, very good) and her writing is as gorgeous as ever.
Meg
Captivating characters and the writing was very good. Surprised I haven't read her before! I'll look for more of her collections and will definitely try a novel.
Patricia Geller
If you like lovely writing, read Elizabeth Spencer. In short fiction, she tells a long narrative in spare prose about life in the rural South.
Susan
Although she is a well respected writer, and the book of stories was recommended by other writers I respect, I just couldn't relate to the stories in this book. They all seemed to be happening on the surface.
Betty
I recommend reading one story a day, just to savor them. Each story has a narrative arc that ends with a new beginning -- the Starting Over of the title. I admired the way that Spencer achieved this in a short story format. Each story gave me the sense of completion that I get from a fine novel, so I got that satisfaction times nine. Not that I ignored the deep sadness that runs beneath and through each story. A collection to be admired. Though the author is a woman in her nineties, none of thes ...more
Corinne
If you are from the South, you'll recognize some of these people. You may be kin to them.
Carrie Rzeppa
Bland. Could not get invested in any of the characters. Stories seemed unfinished.
Lauren
I wish I could give this an extra half-star because the stories that were good were SO good. That said, it was only after I put the book down once and picked it up again that it really began to work it's quiet magic.
Jim Manis
I especially enjoyed the final story int the collection, "The Wedding Visitor." In fixing others, we fix ourselves, or at least bandage ourselves, perhaps.
Charlie
Interesting; Southern vantage point; a little repetitive.
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Born in Carrollton, Mississippi, Spencer was valedictorian of her graduating class at local J.Z. George High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi and her Master's Degree in Literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1943.

Spencer taught at the junior-college level for two years before accepting a job with the Nashville Tennessean,
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More about Elizabeth Spencer...
The Light in the Piazza The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales The Voice at the Back Door The Southern Woman: New and Selected Fiction (Modern Library) Landscapes of the Heart

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