Summary and book reviews of Our Kind by Kate Walbert

Our Kind

A Novel in Stories

By Kate Walbert

Our Kind
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2004,
    195 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    208 pages.

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Book Summary

From the award-winning author of The Gardens of Kyoto comes this witty and incisive novel about the lives and attitudes of a group of women -- once country-club housewives; today divorced, independent, and breaking the rules.

In Our Kind, Kate Walbert masterfully conveys the dreams and reality of a group of women who came into the quick rush of adulthood, marriage, and child-bearing during the 1950s. Narrating from the heart of ten companions, Walbert subtly depicts all the anger, disappointment, vulnerability, and pride of her characters: "Years ago we were led down the primrose lane, then abandoned somewhere near the carp pond."

Now alone, with their own daughters grown, they are finally free -- and ready to take charge: from staging an intervention for the town deity to protesting the slaughter of the country club's fairway geese, to dialing former lovers in the dead of night.

Walbert's writing is quick-witted and wry, just like her characters, but also, in its cumulative effect, moving and sad. Our Kind is a brilliant, thought-provoking novel that opens a window into the world of a generation and class of women caught in a cultural limbo.



Contents

The Intervention

Esther's Walter

Bambi Breaks for Freedom

Screw Martha

Come As You Were

Sick Chicks

Warriors

Back When They Were Children

The Hounds, Again

The Beginning of the End

Chapter One: The Intervention

It was one of those utterances that sparkled -- the very daring! Could you see us? Canoe shrugged, to be expected. After all, Canoe was our local recovering; it was she who left those pamphlets in the clubhouse next to the men's Nineteenth Hole.

Still, the very daring!

Intervention.

Canoe cracked her knuckles, lit a cigarette. We sat by her swimming pool absentmindedly pulling weeds from around the flagstones. The ice of our iced tea had already melted into water and it was too cold to swim, besides.

"It's obvious," Canoe said, blowing. "He's going to kill himself in less than a month. I don't want that blood on my hands."

Who would?

He was someone we loved. Someone we ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Who is narrating? Discuss the use of the first person plural -- is it effective? How does it alter your view of these friendships?

  2. Who are "Our Kind"? What kind of women are they? How does the narration, language and style reflect or enhance the story and the characters? Share an example that you find particularly effective.

  3. In "The Intervention," what does it mean when the narrator says, "we've seen a lot, it's true, but know so little. How were we to learn? Years ago we were led down the primrose lane, then abandoned somewhere near the carp pond"? What is the significance of the intervention? At the chapter's end, why does the narrator say, "We must save Him, quick. But first, no. We must ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Despite glowing media reviews, these connected short stories are hard going and not as enjoyable as Walbert's earlier book, 'The Gardens of Kyoto' It is not clear if it was the ephemeral writing style or the subject matter that didn't gel...the characters would work better if they said what they had to say, instead of making the reader do the work of understanding them - especially as the reader may not be interested enough in the characters' lives to make the effort.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (496 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

In an era when women went to college to study the three Gs Grooming, Grammar, and Grace, Walbert's characters are caught like insects in amber as they make late-in-life discoveries no school could ever teach. Brittle, funny and poignant, this is a prickly treat.

Booklist - Elsa Gaztambide

Walbert daringly depicts the golden years of a generation of women, better described as the 1950s country-club set, now that they're either divorced or widowed and their homes are devoid of children.....An eye-opening experience for anyone who thinks that the 1950s woman is still in the kitchen wearing a housecoat.

Kirkus Reviews

Whole lives are handled with grace, deftness, and skill . . . [these pieces] are among the finest there can be.

Organic Style

Walbert adores her characters...they're...giddy, resilient possessors of a girlish beauty. They have a blast; the reader does too.

Chicago Tribune

A portrait emerges from selective moments--some sharp and painful, others tender and questing. They evoke all the details.

Newsday

There's no denying Walbert's talent - or her ambition.

The New York Times - Jennifer Egan

One of the many pleasures to be found in Our Kind, a ''novel in stories,'' is the fact that Walbert's chosen genre is acutely suited to her artistic goals.....Had Walbert tried to force her material into a more conventional format, the result would very likely have been diffuse and flat. In its present form, though, Our Kind works pragmatically, and its fractured telling accumulates a sneaky, wrenching power.

The Washington Post - Elizabeth Gold

Walbert, author of The Gardens of Kyoto, has written a touching and often surreal group of linked stories about being born a little too late for one era and a little too early for the next.

The New York Times Book Review - Laura Miller

[E]xquisite. Of all [the] first-person narrators, this gang is the most inviting. They are good company.

Reader Reviews
Easily annoyed

I would recommend to no one this collection of muddled, poorly written, sophomoric stories. I know this book got good reviews. Why? Do reviewers these days consider it creative to neglect rules of grammar and logic? Good writing is what it is ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Kate Walbert made her writing debut in 1998 with Where She Went, a collection of interlinked stories about the lives and travels of a mother and daughter.  Marion moves frequently, a lifestyle that never permits her to form a stable identity. Her daughter Rebecca, by contrast, travels with the intent of "finding herself," but only becomes more and more rootless in the process. The New York Times named Where She Went a Notable Book of 1998 and said that it "contains many quick flashes of beauty. . .it goes far and takes us with it."

In 2001 ...

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