SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME
Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, pride, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husband’s fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place. And in a suite of stories, we follow capricious, ambitious single mother Ruby and her cautious, steadfast daughter Nora through their tumultuous life —
Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, pride, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husband’s fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place. And in a suite of stories, we follow capricious, ambitious single mother Ruby and her cautious, steadfast daughter Nora through their tumultuous life — stray men, stray cats, and psychedelic drugs — in 1970s California. Gimlet-eyed and emotionally generous, achingly real and beautifully written, these unforgettable stories lay bare the connection and conflict in families. Shout Her Lovely Name heralds the arrival of a powerful new writer.
“In the complexities of family triumphs and catastrophes, Natalie Serber is always achingly specific. Between mothers and daughters, women and their lovers, she misses nothing, and in all her scenes, the reader feels the true breath of life.”—Charles Baxter, author of Gryphon
“Shout Her Lovely Name joins the ranks of the finest books ever to address relations between daughters and their mothers – equal parts love and sandpaper. I ached for these characters and cried at their hard-earned moments of joy. A book to make you marvel that someone really does understand, to make you grateful that she wrote it all down so fiercely, so tenderly.”—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
“In the tradition of Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff, Natalie Serber's stories uncover the secret hearts of seemingly ordinary people. Funny, heart-felt, and keenly perceptive, this is a book worth shouting about.”—Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake
“Coming of age is a painful and beautiful experience in Natalie Serber's hands. These are funny and poignant pieces, building a book that feels novelistic in sweep, yet true to the precision and direct aim of the short story. A real pleasure.”—Antonya Nelson, author of Bound
The first story in Shout Her Lovely Name deals with a mother trying to make sense of a disease that is tearing her family apart. Why do you think our society, when looking at eating and body image issues, tends to point to the mother as the responsible party? Or do you feel this may not be true? Why do the mother and father react differently to their daughter's disease?
The author chose to include several images in her story. What role do you think imagery plays in the telling of this story?
What does the story say about the wider implications of eating disorders in American society? Why do you think the author began the collection with this particular story?
In “Ruby Jewel,” Ruby seems to have undergone changes during her time away at college that are evident to her family and the people in her town. Describe an experience in which you’ve felt removed from the community you grew up in.
Do you think Ruby’s father influenced the type of man she chose to pursue romantic relationships with later in life?
Why do you think Ruby ignored her missed periods for so long? Do you think she was in denial or genuinely did not think that she was pregnant? Why do you think she engages in such reckless behavior after she finds out she’s pregnant?
Why do you think Marco and Ruby decide to move to Manhattan, away from their families?
One of the other new mothers in the hospital tells Ruby, “Una hija will never leave you. Girls stick together.” Do you think there is any truth to that statement? Are daughters more loyal to their mothers than sons?
The narrator of “This Is So Not Me” is married to a much older man. Do you think that it’s possible to have an egalitarian relationship with a person who is significantly older than you?
In the story “Manx,” Ruby goes on a date with Dr. Shapiro and doesn’t return until the following day, much to the chagrin of their next-door neighbor, who proceeds to lecture Ruby on responsibility. Do you think society looks down upon single mothers who choose to pursue romantic relationships while raising children?
In “Take Your Daughter to Work,” why do you think Elena went to Ruby’s house when she was in trouble? Do you think Ruby is a better teacher than parent? If so, why?
What do you think finally spurred Nora to see her father? Do you think Nora regrets reconnecting with her father? Do you think their relationship continued after their initial meeting?
Do you think it’s possible for parents to have a relationship with their children after missing their childhood? Do you think it’s better for parents to stay together for the sake of a child even if they aren’t in love?
In the story “Rate My Life,” Nora tries out some irresponsible behaviors. Do you think she is mirroring her mother’s raison d’être? How does skipping finals, taking LSD, and staying at Butterfly Beach with Aaron serve her? Or does it?
Cassie seems to be experiencing some existential crisis in her life. What do you think set her on this path of ennui and discontent?
Have you ever had to redefine yourself vis-à-vis the needs of your family, your work, and your relationships?
Many of the relationships portrayed throughout the collection are strained, and yet there is an undercurrent of love and desire to care for one another, hence the epigraph from Joni Mitchell. Do you think the stories are a fair representation of family life?
Some people think stories and novels about family and relationships are the territory of “women’s” fiction. Do you agree that literature is gender-specific?