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The Meaning of Children

by Beverly Akerman

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1711,070,282 (3.83)5
Organized into three sections—appropriately titled “Beginning,” “Middle,” and “End”—the 14 stories in this collection approach the complexities of being human during those three distinct but interdependent stages of life. The author combines emotional depth and literary appeal to view the world through the eyes of children, the sorrow and ecstasies of child-bearing years, and the culmination of life in old age. Skillfully woven together, the narratives give an array of views through a medley of fascinating characters that include a girl who discovers a fear of heights as her parents’ marriage unravels, a 30-something venture fund manager at odds with his daughter’s paternity, an orphan accused of homophobia whose hands kill whatever they touch, and a mother of two who can only bear to consider abortion in the second person. Through an eclectic array of tales, this provocative anthology acknowledges that the world can be a very dark place while simultaneously longing for redemption through children.… (more)
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This short story collection explores, as the title says, the meaning of children: both the meanings children ascribe to things, and they ways adults ascribe meaningfullness to children. In several of the stories, people are destoyed or redeemed through their relationships with children, or through the beliefs they developed in childhood.

The stories are well written -- sparse in style but deep in characterizations and in describing events that are, or with hindsight, become profound.

Well done! ( )
1 vote LynnB | Oct 27, 2011 |
“Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children…If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us. Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning of Children reminds us of that.”
 
"Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories, in the characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life."
 
“This isn't the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment...[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.”
 
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Organized into three sections—appropriately titled “Beginning,” “Middle,” and “End”—the 14 stories in this collection approach the complexities of being human during those three distinct but interdependent stages of life. The author combines emotional depth and literary appeal to view the world through the eyes of children, the sorrow and ecstasies of child-bearing years, and the culmination of life in old age. Skillfully woven together, the narratives give an array of views through a medley of fascinating characters that include a girl who discovers a fear of heights as her parents’ marriage unravels, a 30-something venture fund manager at odds with his daughter’s paternity, an orphan accused of homophobia whose hands kill whatever they touch, and a mother of two who can only bear to consider abortion in the second person. Through an eclectic array of tales, this provocative anthology acknowledges that the world can be a very dark place while simultaneously longing for redemption through children.

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Award winning short story collection that captures pivotal moments—of childhood, adolescence, parenthood, and beyond--in the under-appreciated world of women. Disparate decades, genders, and narrative voices woven together by themes of sex, death, guilt, social prejudice.

And love, always love.

A girl discovers a fear of heights as her parents’ marriage unravels; a thirty-something venture fund manager frets over his daughter’s paternity; an orphan whose hands kill whatever they touch is accused of homophobia; a suicidal daycare worker has a very bad day; a mother of two can only bear to consider abortion in the second person; the wife of a retirement-aged professor finds him unconscious near his computer. The 14 stories of The Meaning Of Children speak to all who—though aware the world can be a very dark place—can’t help but long for redemption.

Winner of the David Adams Richards Prize; Top 10 List of the CBC – Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Contest, and many others.
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