5M4B disclosure

scmI couldn’t help but find some irony in the fact that I finished the final short story of Katherine Heiny’s Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories on Valentine’s Day, a day devoted to love and, well, devotion. In these eleven tales, there is little devotion to be found, or perhaps just not the kind typically thought of in loving relationships. The women at the heart of these stories are each searching for something, so perhaps they’re devoted to the idea of love, even as their actions are often in direct opposition to it.

In fact, I came to the conclusion that the title of this collection is somewhat misleading after reading only a few stories. The vast majority of the protagonists here are not single, carefree, nor mellow. Most of the relationships involve at least one partner cheating on a spouse or already established significant other, not exactly my definition of single. I’m not confident that I’d label any of them carefree or mellow, either, as they all inhabit dark and tense places at the times of their stories. As many characters carry on illicit affairs, they live carefully planned lives of secret meetings and well-crafted cover stories. Again, not particularly lighthearted experiences.

While the choices of these deceptive characters are less than honorable, and in fact, are quite sad in their unhealthy effects, there are interesting insights to be found in the stories that speak to the conditions of attraction, relationships, and love. One particular character, Maya, who appears in several of the stories, struggles between accepting what she knows to be a loving and attentive partner and seeking fulfillment outside of that relationship either directly by cheating or by living vicariously through others. Readers see her in various stages of her primary relationship, though I found it difficult to assess if her character showed growth from one to the next.

The challenge for me with this collection was that I greatly enjoyed the smart writing that took on different narrative tones and storytelling devices in the stories, but I struggled with feeling much of anything for the characters. Perhaps it’s that my own personal life experiences differ from these characters in almost every way, and even though I could mostly refrain from judging the characters’ choices for the sake of literary analysis, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of growth or any type of consequence with the characters. And by that, I don’t mean some morality-based punishment for adultery and deception, but any type of consequence in their own assessments of themselves and of their present and future situations. Appreciating the writing style and craft was easy, but I felt less of a connection to the characters than I usually do with contemporary women’s fiction.


This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support this site. Thank you!
See our Disclosure Policy for details.

Walking on Trampolines

Walking on Trampolines by Australian writer Frances Whiting brings to life the sensation of being a teenager in love. For Tallulah de Longland, that love was two-fold, for not only did she find herself the object of affection of a cute boy one day, but she also was immediately branded “best friend” by a new girl in her school earlier that year. Adolescent relationships, whether they’re friendships or romances, often share many of the same traits, and in this case, both were intense and all-consuming, and both leaft a mark on her life that would never fade. A trampoline makes for a good image related to adolescence– a whole lot of bouncing around on unsteady feet, with some fantastic highs and some crashing lows. For Tallulah, who goes
Read the full article →


The Grown Ups

The summer that Sam is fifteen, all of his neighborhood friends catch a virus. After Suzie’s birthday party, it went rampant through his entire group of friends, and while everyone thought that was horrible, no one could have predicted what would follow in its wake. The dissolution of not one, but two marriages, and with the departure of one family, the revelation that there were more than a few secrets going on in the neighborhood. Robin Antalek’s latest novel The Grown Ups is a heady emotional tale that follows a handful of characters over several years. As teens, Sam and Suzie’s brief relationship, if you can use that term for two kids hanging out in secret and engaging in some heavy make out sessions, serves different purposes for each of
Read the full article →


Unique Picture Books from Little Gestalten {Review & #Giveaway}

Last fall, Gestalten, a German publisher best known for art, architecture, photography, and design books, launched a U.S. imprint for children’s books. The selection available so far from Little Gestalten leaves me confident that they will be an incredible resource for interesting and appealing children’s literature, with a unique aesthetic. I received five of their new offerings for review, and all are up for grabs in today’s super giveaway. The Zoo’s Grand Opening: An ABC and Counting Book by Judith Drews (ages 3-8) A zookeeper and his assistant await the arrival of twenty-six animals for their newly built zoo at the beginning of this picture book. In rhyming verse, each animal is described with some subtle humor in the text and the illustrations. With each page turn, a new animal
Read the full article →


Lost & Found

If any novel can make your heart break while simultaneously causing sudden bursts of laughter, it’s this debut from Brooke Davis. Lost & Found tells a strange and convoluted tale with a trio of characters unlike any combination I’ve ever read before. Seven year old Millie, whose red-haired and red-booted likeness graces the cover, is still reeling from her father’s unexpected death when her mother abandons her among the racks of plus-sized women’s underwear in a department store. Of course, at seven, Millie cannot fully grasp the situation, and as a result, her innocent and hopeful perspective can be both sad and comical. In a strange turn of events, she crosses paths with two elderly locals– cantankerous Agatha, old in body, mind, and most definitely spirit; and introspective Karl, the still bereaved
Read the full article →


World’s Worst Mom, Lenore Skenazy Comes to TV {Books on Screen}

Way back in 2008, Lenore Skenazy let her then 9-year-old son ride the subway alone, and her story prompted a fair level of public outrage. Her name became associated with the label “America’s Worst Mom,” but Lenore didn’t tuck her tail and fade away. Instead, she stuck with her gut and continued to pursue the idea that children are more capable than many imagine. The parental decision that her son was prepared and experienced enough to make a solo subway ride paved the way for a movement in modern parenting. The blog Free-Range Kids was born shortly after, and Skenazy’s 2009 book, Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) presented the main thesis of her viewpoint– kids need to be kids, but
Read the full article →


Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

When nonfiction reads like a story, children can get lost in the story. In the case of Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, I found I even needed to remind myself that this lyrically told, incredible story was in fact a true one. Children and adults alike, prepare to be amazed. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born with a significant physical deformity in his right leg. In his community in Ghana, there was little, if any, respect for people with disabilities. Though his father left, his mother had faith in his ability to overcome his disability and live a “normal” life. He learned to adapt- crawling and hopping to get around, shining shoes for money, and
Read the full article →


When Otis Courted Mama

Cardell is a young coyote quite content with his life. His “perfectly good” mama and daddy may not live together, but he’s happy with the time he gets to spend alone with his mother or with his father, stepmother, and younger stepbrother. As the title and cover illustration indicate, things get a little tricky for him when his mother has a new suitor. Kathi Appelt’s When Otis Courted Mama presents a child’s perspective on blended families and watching a parent date again. Cardell appreciates the special qualities of both of his parents, and as the text states, he’s “mostly used to” his living arrangements, split between his parents in different parts of the desert. His time with his mama isn’t shared with anyone, though, and the few coyotes
Read the full article →


The Novel Cure

With most medical guides, you can look up an illness and find information about diagnosis and treatment, maybe even for self-care at home. Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have taken a different route, one they’re dubbing bibliotherapy, or “the prescribing of fiction for life’s ailments.” In The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You, the authors round up fitting titles for your therapeutic reading. The idea behind this collection is that literature can be used to provide relief or comfort, and the ailments that they include are vast and varied. These ailments often fall more in line with life-related problems than medical illnesses, so “Bullied, being” and “Organized, not being enough” will be listed alongside “Panic attack” and “Sleepwalking.” For each problem that
Read the full article →


Men, Women & Children {Books on Screen}

The first thing I noticed when I saw the trailer for the movie Men, Women & Children earlier in the fall was the casting of Ansel Elgort in one of the main roles. My teenage son noticed the same thing, and as we had only recently re-watched The Fault in Our Stars on DVD, we were both intrigued. The trailer made me think that the film might be another movie to view with my son, especially as it focused, at least in part, on relationships among teenagers. What I didn’t realize at that point was that the film was an adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s 2011 book of the same name- Men, Women & Children. While I didn’t get to see the film when it had a limited
Read the full article →


For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health

You know that image of the blundering, uncomfortable parent trying to have “the talk” with his or her teenager? There are countless reinforcements of that stereotype in our society, especially in pop culture, but I’ve always believed it didn’t have to be that way. From a young age, I opted to use correct terminology when talking with my kids about their body parts. I would joke that we don’t tell our babies that they smell with their “sniffers,” but instead call it a nose, so why would I feel the need to come up with a cutesy name for my son’s penis or my daughter’s vulva? I’ve tried to retain that openness and candor with my kids as they’ve grown, and with my oldest now
Read the full article →


Encouraging Reading with Magazine Baskets {On Reading}

My oldest child has been a book lover from early on. As an infant, he would look up as I showed him board book after board book held above us as we lay on the living room floor. Even with his active nature, as a preschooler, he would sit on my lap for picture book read alouds. Now that he’s a teen, he’s still a big reader, but if left to his own devices, I’m fairly certain that he’d read nothing but Marvel comics. If I pick up novels from the teen section at the library, he’ll read them. If I stack newly released YA books on his desk, he’ll grab them eventually. But what I’ve come to really appreciate is the power of a
Read the full article →