From the award-winning author of The Gardens of Kyoto comes this witty and incisive novel about the lives and attitudes of a group of women—once country-club housewives; today divorced, independent, and breaking the rules.
In Our Kind, Kate Walbert masterfully conveys the dreams and reality of a group of women who came into the quick rush of adulthood, marriage, and child-bearing during the 1950s. Narrating from the heart of ten companions, Walbert subtly depicts all the anger, disappointment, vulnerability, and pride of her characters: "Years ago we were led down the primrose lane, then abandoned somewhere near the carp pond."
Now alone, with their own daughters grown, they are finally free—and ready to take charge: from staging an intervention for the town deity to protesting the slaughter of the country club's fairway geese, to dialing former lovers in the dead of night.
Walbert's writing is quick-witted and wry, just like her characters, but also, in its cumulative effect, moving and sad. Our Kind is a brilliant, thought-provoking novel that opens a window into the world of a generation and class of women caught in a cultural limbo.
A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.OUR KIND: A Novel in StoriesKate Walbert. Scribner, $23 (208p) Mannered yet curiously moving, this novel in stories by Walbert (The Gardens of Kyoto) tells the collective tale of a group of wealthy suburban women who came of age in the 1950s and are now facing life long after husbands and children have flown the coop ("We were married in 1953. Divorced in 1976. Our grown daughters pity us; our grown sons forget us"). Free of old inhibitions and with nothing left to lose ("they think us heartless and we are, somewhat"), they embark on odd crusades and projects when they aren't shopping or gossiping around the pool. In the brilliant "Intervention," they decide to save their favorite realtor, Him, who represents "our faithless husband, our poor father. He is our bad son, our schemer, our rogue.... Still, we love Him," then realize they need help themselves. Love recalled (and often ridiculed) is a recurring subject. In "Esther's Walter," Esther, the group's "artistic one," invites the group to a sinister party on the anniversary of her husband's death; in "Bambi Breaks for Freedom," the wheelchair-bound Bambi seeks her friends' support as she sets herself free from an old heartbreak. Walbert offers other sharp snapshots of the remaining members of the group, among them earnest, forgetful Judy; Canoe, the bouncy, ever-recovering alcoholic; Barbara, whose depressed daughter kills herself; "frigid" Gay who married a gay man; Suzie, the country club matron who fails to get her female lover admitted to the club; and lonely Louise. In an era when women went to college to study "the three Gs: Grooming, Grammar, and Grace," Walbert's characters are caught like insects in amber as they make late-in-life discoveries no school could ever teach. Brittle, funny and poignant, this is a prickly treat.