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Excerpt from Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Stories, Fables, Glimpses

by Lynne Schwartz

Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz X
Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2020, 224 pages

    Nov 2021, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Come meet Lisa and Jenny." Obeying Cindy's wave, the teenage girls sidled up, more Seth's than their mother's, at least in appearance—lanky, olive-skinned, in tight jeans and bare midriffs. Nothing much to say. Well, what could they say? Their father's first wife? Opposite of a stepmother—a negative quantity, no word in the language for what she was to them. Could they even believe their father had once been married to her, a doctor, they'd surely been told, with shiny black hair gathered in a knot at her neck, green eyes—tiger eyes, Seth used to say—and of all things, a designer suit for a family dinner? Yet it was their admiration she would have liked, more than Cindy's. To her chagrin, Violet was wishing they could find her in every way more awesome and glamorous than their mother, unattainably glamorous. A futile wish, she knew, for their idea of glamour would be a bared navel studded with a rhinestone.

Drinks and snacks appeared. Five minutes later Grace was at the door, exuberant even after the four-hour drive from Boston, rushing over to Violet first. "Mom, it's so great to see you! I've missed you! I took two days off so I can stay with you."

Violet lapsed into easeful pleasure, a kind of melting from within. Her daughter brought a change of weather, light breaking through smog. Next came the guests of honor, the reason for this reunion: Evan, returning home after two years in Prague, with a wife, a new baby, and mounds of luggage. Her son had gone away a boy, she thought with a lump in her throat, and come back a man. Embraces, clamor, everyone happy and beautiful. So happy, so beautiful, that Violet was stunned to be feeling joy here in Seth's house. She could almost ignore Cindy's high-pitched, restless voice. In fact if Cindy and her sulky girls would be considerate enough to disappear, this would be her family, her loved ones assembled, blooming, thriving. She would have had time to watch Seth grow old and his decline would not be so appalling.

Not that she wanted him back. God, no. She was no longer the woman who could contort herself to fit his erratic moods. She just wanted to pretend, for one Sunday afternoon, that all the banal ugliness of his leaving had never taken place, the mutual rants, accusations, recriminations. And when they stopped, the dialogues that kept fomenting in her head, with her supplying Seth's half, brutally parsing her every failing, social, sexual, culinary, political, parental ... until she'd exhausted her imagination. The whole ordeal was like some dreadful disaster cliché—earthquake, volcano, hurricane—and in the aftermath she had set about rebuilding. But so many disaster areas never regain their former luster.

After his bottle, the four-month-old baby was passed around. Violet could have swept him off to a private room and held him in her arms all day, but she didn't prolong her turn. There would be plenty of time to revel. She simply recorded the soft, compact feel of him, a memory to return to later, as she used to record the feel of Seth's caresses to summon up the next morning when her patients arrived with their woes, their cataracts, their ripped corneas and detached retinas.

When Seth's turn came he cradled the baby awkwardly, letting the head loll backward over the crook of his elbow as the small torso threatened to slip from his grasp. Violet held her breath.

"Not like that!" Cindy darted over to settle the bundle securely in his arms. "With Lisa and Jenny I was always afraid he'd drop them on their heads, he had such a weird way of holding them."

Seth shot a glance at Violet. His myopic eyes, narrowed behind the frameless octagonal glasses, were duller than she remembered. She used to write his prescriptions. He might need a change; he was squinting, though it could have been from anger. If she'd ever spoken that way in public, which was inconceivable, he would have been enraged. Anyway, he'd held their babies just fine.

Excerpted from Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz. Copyright © 2020 by Lynne Schwartz. Excerpted by permission of Delphinium Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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