How can a woman learn to let go of the people she loves the most? Read more...
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How can a woman learn to let go of the people she loves the most?
Karen Neulander, a successful New York political consultant and single mother, has always been fiercely protective of her son, Jacob, now six. She's had to be: when Jacob's father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn't in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone.
But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying. When she finally calls her ex, she's shocked to find Dave ecstatic about the son he never knew he had. First, he can't meet Jake fast enough, and then he can't seem to leave him alone. Karen quickly grows anxious as she watches Dave insinuate himself into Jake's life just as her own strength and hold on Jake grow more tenuous.
As she struggles to play out her last days in the "right" way for Jake, Karen wrestles with the knowledge that the only thing she cannot bring herself to do for her son--let his father become a permanent part of his life--is the thing he needs from her the most. With heart-wrenching poignancy, unexpected wit, and mordant humor, Lauren Grodstein has created an unforgettable story about parenthood, sacrifice, and life itself.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Karen Neulander has a rotten deal. Diagnosed with stage-IV ovarian cancer, she tries to manage her healthsurgeries and treatments to prolong her lifeas well as her careerpolitical consultant to a philandering New York City councilman running for reelection. Most important is her six-year-old son, Jake. While Jake knows she has a terminal illness, Karen fiercely protects his world and pens a book for himthe very book we are reading, in factso that she can leave him something tangible as a guide for his life without her. Knowing she wont be around forever, Jake suddenly wants to find his father, Dave, the love of Karens life, who ditched her when he learned she was pregnant. Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) deftly explores family relationships, but the device of Karen writing a book for her son is cumbersome and artificial. The power of the book is also undermined by the sentimental circumstances and predictable ending: will Karen let Dave, who has changed and is eager to have a meaningful relationship with the son he never knew he had, be a part of her sons future without her? (Mar.)
Reconnecting before it's too late
Love often exceeds the power of words, but Karen Neulander is doing her best. Whenever she has a spare moment, Karen tries to write her way to telling her son how deeply she adores him. Someday, she won’t be there to say it herself.
Karen has stage IV ovarian cancer, and it’s only a matter of time before she leaves 6-year-old Jake to face the world without his mother by his side. She’s made plans for her son’s care after her death, but Karen also wants him to know her. She is the parent who loved him and cared for him no matter what. She’s been his only parent—until recently.
As Karen faces a terminal diagnosis and tries to reconcile her son’s life without her, Jake asks for the one thing she’s reluctant to give: his father. See, Karen’s pregnancy was a surprise, and her then-boyfriend, Dave, was uninterested in becoming a father. After Karen told Dave she was pregnant, his bad reaction led her to cut him out of her life forever.
That was the plan, anyway. But how can she deny Jake a chance to meet the person who provided the other half of his DNA? Surely it’ll be a one-time meeting, Karen convinces herself.
If only life were so simple.
Our Short History is the book Karen writes as she grapples with mortality, love and the fear that her ex will take Jake away before her final days. It’s a meditation on love and grief, and lauded novelist Lauren Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) plunges into both beautiful and ugly emotions without hesitation. That’s real life, after all. Even when we want the best for someone, our own self-interest and insecurities can arise. It’s what we do afterward that can truly reveal love.