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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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The message in his face—unmistakably a message—was complex and would have to be decoded at leisure. But even this quick glance, like a glance at a patient, told something. Embarrassment, along with a cavalier disregard for it: we know each other so well, Violet, I can afford to let you see my embarrassment. Depletion. Maybe self-pity. All so unlike what she'd imagined. All these years, as she glided over the even surface of her life—her work, her succession of men, her friends—she'd pictured Seth as the doting husband and father, and as being doted on in turn, basking in fond attention. Years ago Violet would have loved the taste of this moment; now it soured her mouth.

Suddenly Seth began bouncing the baby in the air. Encased in its terry cloth, the child gurgled and giggled.

He's just been fed, Violet thought. If you keep that up he'll spit all over you.

She was prophetic. From the baby's lips, parted in glee, popped a gob of clotted milk that formed a spreading island on the front of Seth's blue shirt.

"Oh, I'm so sorry." Carla, the new daughter-in-law, rushed over with a wad of tissues, dabbing furiously at the shirt, then at the baby's glistening chin.

Cindy shook her head. "I had a feeling that would happen." She looked at Violet for confirmation: we mothers know, don't we? Violet couldn't bring herself to grin in complicity. She hadn't forgotten Grace and Evan's teenage reports on Cindy, offered along with the photos. Grace: She doesn't like me using her shampoos. She watches how I do the dishes. I tie up the phone too long. Evan: She says I'm a sloppy eater. She didn't want me taking the car ... Violet had counseled patience. Soon they'd be grown and none of it would matter. For herself, though, long after she was able to think of Seth without anger, the shampoo and the forbidden car still rankled.

Cindy had barely spoken when Lisa and Jenny moaned in unison like a Greek chorus. "Yuck. You smell all cheesy, Dad."

More stooped than before, Seth trudged upstairs and reappeared in an old tan sweater. His sparse graying hair was slightly mussed like a boy's, as if his mother had tousled it affectionately. That must have happened when he pulled the sweater over his head and didn't think to repair the damage. He looked more boyish now—a boy afflicted by premature aging—than he had in his youth.

"Dinner!" Cindy announced brightly. Seth circled the table pouring wine (a less than steady hand, Violet noted—anxiety or Parkinson's?) while Cindy carried platters out from the kitchen. Be sure to say something, Violet reminded herself. Give credit where it's due. She probably couldn't have managed a dinner on such a grand scale. She was long out of the habit, just a meal now and then for a few women friends, or for Philip, her occasional lover of the past three years.

"Dad, you passed me by," Lisa, the fifteen-year-old, complained. "Don't I get any wine?"

"Well, I don't think ..."

"Come on, it's a special occasion."

He poured her half an inch.

"Me too, then," wailed Jenny.

"Uh-uh. Thirteen is too young."

"What on earth are you doing?" said Cindy, entering with a bowl of rice. "Wine? You know it's not allowed. Lisa, put that down this minute. What is the matter with you, Seth?"

"A few drops won't do any harm."

"Well, I'm definitely old enough and I'd love some, Dad." That was Grace the good, extending her glass to salvage the moment. Seth didn't seem to hear her. He was staring at Violet again with some kind of appeal in his face. But what could she do? She couldn't even fix his rumpled hair.

"This roast beef is marvelous, Cindy. And the green rice. How do you do that?"

By sautéing it lightly first and using plenty of parsley, Cindy disclosed. She'd be glad to share the recipe. It was the least she could do, thought Violet, and leaned down to stroke the dog, who'd parked himself beside her chair.

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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