Susan P. (Boston, MA)
The Short History of Us
The premise of the book is overwhelmingly sad (single mom of a young boy is dying) but it is compelling. As much as a young child can understand what will happen to his mom, it makes sense he wants to know who his father is and wants to meet him (probably would under any circumstances). This is the story of the mom struggling to do the best for her child and struggling even harder to make sure everyone knows SHE is the most important person in his life right now. All characters are believable and real. Interesting side story about the mom's profession of handling politicians' reputations. While not a book for those for whom it cuts too close to home, it is warm as well as heartbreaking and very readable.
Carol R. (Pembroke, MA)
Our Short History, Lauren Grodstein
It is difficult to write a review of Our Short History without giving away some of the story, so I'll begin by saying that being the single parent of a son, I went into the second chapter already in tears. Like Karen, I was never married to his father and unlike her, I never loved his father, Tom. We were young and eager to experience sex, unaware of the responsibilities that it involved. I decided to proceed with the pregnancy alone, which wasn't a popular choice in the late 1950's, I gave birth to a beautiful son.
As i read more of Karen and Jake's story, I realized that I had experienced many of the same feelings that I was reading on those pages - her intense need to be all that she could be to him and so certain that it would be enough.
Being that, tragically, Karen's life was uncertain as she was diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer, she decided to start writing notes to 6 yr. old Jake to be read when he was old enough and commenced writing down her feelings hoping that it would help him to know her better. She, valiantly, made that the focus of her life from then on. As sad as this book was and as hopeless as the situation was, the author, thankfully, was able to inject a bit of humor into it here and there.
If I could say I enjoyed this book, I can not, but I must say that is because reading it awakened in me so many familiar feelings and I related to the honesty with which is was written in that so much of it was difficult.
Eileen C. (New York, NY)
A family matter
With this novel, Grodstein has accomplished something that is nearly impossible—she has written a heart-breaking novel about love, family, acceptance, and what it means to live which is also laugh out loud funny. I liked the feistiness of the main character, Karen, but was torn about whether her actions were completely understandable. It would be a terrific pick for any book club.
Beth M. (New York, NY)
Keep tissues handy!
I loved this book. I read it in two days. Lauren Grodstein has done an amazing job of taking you on the awful journey of battling cancer, while trying to work and be a mom. This story is told through journal entries to Karen's six-year-old son. I was right there with her. The highs, the lows, the strength, weakness, impossible pain and great love. And all those decisions she was forced to face. One of my favorites parts was Karen's discussion with Bev. It was a beautiful scene of two moms breaking through barriers to share a common ground. Plus I loved the ending. It was perfect and fulfilling in a way that so few novels are these days. Read it. You will cry, laugh and be emotionally expanded by the end.
Milda S. (Warwick, NY)
Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein is a heart wrenching book written by a mother to her son. Karen Neulander, a political consultant, has a limited time to live having been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She begins to write a memoir of her life, her son's life and advice for the future.
Karen's world revolves around her son Jake. After her death she has made legal provision for Jake to move from New York to Mercer Island to live with her sister Allison's family. In preparation for the future, she and her son are spending the summer on Mercer Island.
We learn that Karen cared deeply for Dave, her boy friend, and was shattered when he told her he did not want a child. She doesn't want Dave to know about Jake
and has kept him a secret. She is perplexed when Jake tells her that he wants to meet his Dad.
Karen's love for her son leads her to reconnect with Dave who has remarried and wants to meet Jake.
When father and son meet, they not only look alike but instantly connect.
Karen struggles with her animosity for Dave and her son's desire to see his Dad. She admits that Dave has changed and likes his wife but anger still boils over when she thinks of raising her son alone.
We only learn at the end whether Karen bends to Jake's and Dave's wishes or forbids their relationship to continue.
Shelley C. (Eastport, NY)
A Wonderful Story
Sometimes a book grabs you and won't let go. "Our Short History", is one of those. Poignant and heart wrenching and full of joy and life, it held me enthralled from beginning to end.
This is the story of a young woman who is dying of cancer and who wants her young son to remember her long after she is gone. Yet, it is uplifting and not just sad. And this is due to the author's well drawn characters and her ability to tell a story so well, that you feel you know these people. You could be these people.
This book will stay with me for a long time.
Marjorie W. (Bonita Springs, FL)
Our Short History
What a good read! I really enjoyed the story - it kept my attention from start to finish. Karen's story - which she is writing for her son - their short time together. Jacob's missing father comes into the picture at Jacob's insistence- with enthusiasm to Karen's surprise. Her struggle to let him become a permanent part of Jacob's life is poignant.