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In 1967, a young married mother of three abruptly discovers she feels a sexual attraction for another woman. Her marriage erupts in violence, and her family is thrown into chaos. Narrated in third person, this is the opening story of Barbara Ritchie’s memoir. From there, the author uses first person--often present tense--sharing dramatic points of her life that shaped her; but, as shards, the pieces fall where they may. The twelve stories and vignettes in this collection are all true, though the names and some locales have been changed.
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Barbara Ritchie lives near family in Portland, Oregon, where she worked as a therapist the last twenty-six years of her forty-two year career in the mental health field. She found her way into that career in 1969, still reeling from the violent eruption of her marriage and needing the means to support her three children.
This memoir is her first published book. She is presently writing a novel.
“Four Stars (out of five)” “As a twenty-five-year-old mother of three in 1967, Barbara Ritchie had never even heard the word ‘lesbian’ until she went to work in a local factory and found herself attracted to another woman. Her life’s path veered abruptly, turning her home into a battleground and upsetting the orderly, predictable world she once knew. In presenting her story, Ritchie chooses to share fragments of her life both before and after that point, and she writes each vignette like a short story. She notes in the introduction that the experiences are true but that creating a fictionalized memoir allowed her to make some people and events into composites. In many ways, the approach also provides a sense of objectivity about difficult events and gives Ritchie greater freedom to contemplate the emotions and motivations of others....many times they are stand-alone stories that convey greater power as a single, focused event... For example, in “The Sand Quarter and the Starfish,” Ritchie details the budding relationship started at her factory job, but also weaves in other memories of that intense time, like taking her children to the beach. When one of her sons is anguished over the death of the starfish he took home as a prize, Ritchie’s character, Jean, tries to comfort him but feels parental guilt over her failure to explain that the starfish wouldn’t live out of the water. The parallel between the intertwined stories is subtle and heart wrenching... The staccato pace of the stories works well to create a portrait of Ritchie, and her graceful, wistful writing style pairs beautifully with the many complicated situations that have given her life meaning... Ritchie’s mosaic doesn’t always fit together neatly, and that’s her point. She delivers fragments that shimmer with honesty but remain as singular events that transformed her in distinctive ways.” —ForeWord Clarion Review
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