Lisa Alther Other Women

ISBN 13: 9780452276789

Other Women

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9780452276789: Other Women

With two young sons, a failed marriage, a job as an emergency room nurse that leaves her feeling paralyzed and hopeless, and a relationship with a woman that has entered its bitter final stages, thirty-five-year-old Caroline Kelley is more than ready to change her life. Motherhood, marriage, monogamy, bigamy, polygamy, consumerism, communism, feminism, sex, work, alcohol, drugs, and true love: Caroline has done it all, and now she's at the end of her rope. She's reached the conclusion that only two choices remain: suicide or psychotherapy. Being a realist and, despite it all, a devoted mother, she chooses the latter. At the center of Alther's third novel is Caroline Kelley's wrenching, painfully funny attempt to get her life back on track in her therapy sessions with Dr. Hannah Burke -- a brilliant woman who is forced to reexamine her own demons in order to help Caroline. "Other Women" is Alther's quietest novel, but also her most psychologically acute. The San Francisco Chronicle called the book "powerful, tender and wry...Alther's genius as a novelist is her ability to capture and juxtapose the odd combinations of personality, gender, class, culture, family life and chance that shape human destinies."

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From the Inside Flap:

In her first novel, KINFLICKS, published in 1976, Lisa Alther gave us an icon for the sixties and seventies -- a young woman furiously and hilariously carving out her life amid the tumult of the times.  Her second novel, ORIGINAL SINS, charted the complex passage from childhood to adulthood by exploring the volatile dynamics in a group of friends.  Now, in OTHER WOMEN, the main characters have grown up -- but they've survived childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood only to find that maturity presents the biggest problems yet.  And in their story, Lisa Alther hits her stride, giving us an exuberant, warm, funny, moving, altogether captivating novel as she takes us into the lives and hearts and minds of two wonderfully compelling and appealing women.     All her life, Caroline Kelly has been a member of the helping professions -- she learned the "trade" and its code of sacrifice from her social-working parents at an early age.  But suddenly, at thirty-five, she is finding herself in need of help  In the past, she's used every bromide she could find or invent:  marriage and motherhood; monogamy, bigamy, and polygamy; consumerism, feminism, and God; sex, work alcohol, drugs, and true love.  Each enchanted for a time, but none seemed to do the job permanently -- the darkness always came creeping back.  Now it seems to be back with a vengeance (even nature has begun to seem oddly malevolent; the sick puppy she found and took to the vet turned out to be a rabid fox), and the only thing left?  Psychotherapy.     Not that she takes to the idea easily!  Caroline, who has dedicated her life to the welfare of others;  Caroline, the strong, the self-reliant, the all-for-the-common-good daughter of all-for-the-common-good parents;  Caroline giving in, giving up, giving herself over to the ministrations of another?  Unthinkable.  Until now.  Now, when her (female) lover with whom she shares a home wants to end their relationship (but not their cohabitation); now, when the sights in the emergency room, where she's a nurse, move her not to action but to paralyzing horror; now, when even the fact of her two virtually fatherless children (whom she adores) doesn't prevent her from thinking longingly of the emergency suicide pills she keeps at the back of her closet.  And so, with angry resistance in her eyes (she doesn't want the therapist to think she actually needs help), she thrusts herself into the office of a woman who, Caroline will quickly discover, is as strong, as stubborn, as determined -- and as giving -- as she herself.     Hannah Burke, confident and successful in her productive middle years, chose her profession partly to assure herself a situation in which she could be in control, in which she could maintain the illusion that nothing would take her by surprise again, at least not in the ways she'd been taken by surprise in the past: by her parents' abandonment of her, by the loss of love in her first marriage, and the devastating loss of two children in her second.  But Caroline does take her by surprise: pulled along by the force of Caroline's hunger for understanding, Hannah is moved, almost unwittingly, to examine the self she has worked for years to put aside -- the self that has experienced all the loss and guilt and terror she confronts every day in her patients but refuses to confront again in herself.  And so Caroline and Hannah become both foil and mirror to each other -- alternately provoking each other, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes with powerful intent.     The story of Caroline's journey through therapy, of Hannah's journey back through herself, and of these two women's relationship -- growing from animosity and reluctance to trust and affection -- unfolds with immense humor and sympathy and feeling.  We see the often raucous events of Caroline's life as she ferrets out the angels and demons of her past, confronting (in her mind and in fact) her parents, her ex-husband, her lovers, and herself.  We see how Hannah has carved her "peaceful old age" out of tragedy and joy, and the hard-earned ability to learn from both.  And we see how each of them -- helped by the other -- bravely allows herself to break down, and through, her stalwart defenses so that she may finally grow up.

About the Author:

Lisa Alther is the bestselling author of the novles Bedrock, Five Minutes in Heaven, Kinflicks, Other Women, and Original Sins.

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Alther, Lisa
Published by Plume (1996)
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Alther, Lisa
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ISBN 10: 0452276780 ISBN 13: 9780452276789
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