Emma Dries's Reviews > Shout Her Lovely Name

Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber
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's review
Jun 21, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites

This is a beautiful collection of short stories. Not only is it a love letter to mother/daughter relationships, but also a love letter to mothers and daughters individually and their intersecting paths in life.

While I normally shy away from books geared so specifically toward an audience, Natalie Serber truly surprised me and rose above the crowd that attempts to write eloquently about the complexities of families. As readers we are used to stories that trace the tumultuous path of familial relationships, and because of that, I think such narratives tend to follow familiar and obvious tropes.

Though the stand alone narratives in this book absolutely have merit, the suite of stories following the lives of Ruby and her daughter Nora is easily the most compelling. The suite begins with a story of Ruby returning from her first semester at a Florida college to her small southern hometown and getting drunk with her father at the local bar. While the majority of the time and space in that first narrative is spent on interaction between Ruby and her father, the quiet moment at the close with Ruby and her mother once the former returns home is easily the most heartbreaking and brilliant moment in the story. In fact, Serber's talent shines through most in those sad or tragic moments, writing beautifully through the kind of sadness in which most writers would slip into melodrama.

The stories in the suite do not read like chapters of a novel, but rather as short snapshots into a mother and daughter's relationship at various moments in their lives, often years apart. We see Ruby waitressing in Gainesville for a summer between years at college, Ruby attempting to collect furniture off the street for her New York apartment while seven months pregnant, Ruby and Nora living in the toxic smog of 1970s LA, and finally Nora working at a bakery in Santa Barbara as she works her way through school at UCSB. As a reader, you come to understand and accept the unpredictability of Ruby that eventually fades into wisdom as she urges her daughter to not make the same mistakes she did. And we leave Ruby and Nora with a certain uneasiness - two women who seem somewhat unaware of the profound influence they have had on one another's lives. We wish we could point out to them the beauty in their similarities, in their differences. We wish we could show them just how profound nurture and the ties that bind mother and daughter truly are.

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