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Our Short History: A Novel by Lauren…
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Our Short History: A Novel

by Lauren Grodstein

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8338145,226 (3.88)5

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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was lovely. Although Karen is dying of ovarian cancer, she continues to be a mother, sister, daughter, a savvy political consultant- and most of all she carries on living in the world even though she knows she is not long for it. The "advice" book she is writing for her son Jacob felt like she was hiding nothing from him- not her pain (both physical and emotional) and her hopes and dreams for him. When he requests to meet his never involved father, Karen is incredibly resistant. I think it is her first glimpse into future where there will be huge parts of Jacob's life in which she will have no involvement.

As someone who's father died when I was 5, books like this and Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air give me a window into what it may have been like when my own father was confronting terminal cancer. What I wouldn't give to have an idea of what my father was going through as he faced his own death and the fact that he was leaving his young family behind.

I recommend this book highly. ( )
  W.MdO | Jun 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The sad reality of this novel is that Karen, the narrator, is going to die of cervical cancer. She has a son, Jacob, who wants to meet his father, Dave. Dave and Karen never married and he did not want children. When Karen discovered she was pregnant, the relationship ended. Jacob (Jake) is six when he finally meets his father and it is pretty much love at first sight. Lauren Grodstein writes beautifully about Karen's fears for Jacob's future and her pain at having to leave him. My only criticism of this book is the framework of the book. It is written as a letter to Jake. I didn't care for that device to get at the story. But that aside, this was an excellent book. ( )
  dablackwood | Jun 15, 2017 |
Title: Our Short History
Author: Lauren Grodstein
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Our Short History" by Lauren Grodstein

My Thoughts....

"Our Short History" really deals with a subject that is somewhat hard to talk about...dying. This author does a very good job in presenting this mesmerizing, hear wrenching told story. What will a mother do when she finds out that she doesn't have long to live [fighting stage IV ovarian cancer] and she has a son who was just six year old. Karen writes a book for her son who was just six year old to be read by his older self. This was definitely one of those 'tearjerker' reads.

What will happen when Jake ask hims mother to find his dad? Now Jake wants to meet his father which presents problems for the mother, Karen. What will she do because there is a history that did not turn out well between Karen and Jake's father? Will her sister still be able to take care of Jake as it had been planned now that the father has come into the picture. This is a very emotional read that will give the reader quite one complicated relationships with all of these characters: from Karen, Jake, Jake's father [Dave] and Karen's sister. Now, I did say that this is sad story however, do be ready for a little humor at times, very absorbing and so memorable and even thought provoking in this mother-son relationship.

This author really gives the reader one beautifully well written story that is so very raw as her son 'resonates and Karen's bravery in facing her illness is so very admirable. With that all I can say is that this story "Our Short History" was one story that I will not forget anytime soon. I will say after all that had gone with between Karen and her ex boyfriend [Dave], her illness and her life she had not chosen for herself I could definitely understand why she felt the way she did about this whole situation. In the end we see that this wasn't about the 'life Karen had given her son but the live he had given her.' ( )
  arlenadean | Jun 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. When Karen Neulander's son Jake asks to meet his dad, Karen is da Ed with mixed emotions. She has raised her son on her own for the whole six years of his life and Jake's dad Dave doesn't know anything about Jake or even that he exists. However Karen is dying. And with one phone call to Dave she sets into motion events that she cannot change or stop.

This is the story of a mother's love for her son and her wish to do what is best for him all the while dealing with her emotions as she faces her own upcoming death. I absolutely loved this story. Grodstein writes with such emotion about Karen's personal journey and takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions. This was probably one of my favorite reads ever and one that will stay with the reader long after that last page is turned. ( )
  debristow | May 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
According to her website, Lauren Grodstein is the author of four novels, the last of which is Our Short History. She teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers-Camden. She lives in South Jersey with her husband and a dog. After first looking at the dust jacket, I was afraid it would be depressing, or worse, boring. But something pulled me in. I think it was the book jacket which featured a silhouette of a woman holding the hand of a child. After about 20 pages, I knew I had to finish it.

Karen Neulander is an experienced manager, who is running a local campaign. She is also a single mother of a precocious six-year-old. When she revealed she was pregnant, Dave, the father of the child, abandoned her. He had said, in no uncertain terms, he did not want to have any children. Fast forward 6 years. Karen has been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. The doctors have given her, perhaps, two years. She decides to write a memoir for her son. She is smart and feisty. Karen knows what she wants and how to achieve it.

Her abandonment, by a man she loved, and whom she thought loved her, all boil into resentment against Dave, and a desire to protect her son. Grodstein writes, “Allison and I frequently discuss issues of privilege and economy. She says it doesn’t mean we have to raise our kids broke just because that’s how we grew up. She thinks that insecurity about money doesn’t necessarily make a person more empathetic or kind: Sometimes it just makes a person nervous her whole life. And she’s right, I know she’s right, but still it irks me to think you’ll never understand that you are, in so many ways, so very lucky. Allison says, ‘But in at least one way you aren’t lucky at all. None of us are. And money is no compensation.’ // There is no compensation. I am your only parent; I am forty-three years old; I have stage IV ovarian cancer. I have perhaps two or three years left in my life, and once I am gone you will move here, to Mercer Island, to live with my sister, Allison, and her family. You can bring your hamster and all your toys. You can bring anything you want. You know this, Jake. You know that if it were up to me, I would live forever with you in my arms” (5).

Jake begins asking questions about his father, and Karen begins preparing him for her death. Grodstein writes, “It seems to me, Jacob, that when the time comes for you to pick a life partner, you should pick someone who behaves well in a crises. It’s very easy to think you know someone – it’s very easy to think you know yourself – when life is calm and orderly, movie dates on Saturdays, chicken dinner at seven. But people become their truest selves in emergencies. Selfish people jump into the life raft first. Cowards sneak out the back door. Liars say whatever it takes to get out of trouble. Craven people walk away from what they have wrought. But good, morally sound people take responsibility for their actions and stand up for the people they care about, even if they put themselves at risk. Even if they put their own desires second. I want you to choose someone who is good and morally sound” (77-78). This sums up her relationship with Dave, while preparing Jacob for his future.

Lauren Grodstein’s novel, Our Short History is a story filled with wisdom and cautions for Jacob. Despite the looming tragedy, there is humor, anger, and fears Karen wants Jacob to understand. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 5/14/17 ( )
  rmckeown | May 27, 2017 |
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