Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
Imagine three generations of women living under one roof — a grandmother with a shoplifting habit, a recent divorcee who's given up on sex, and a teenager whose marijuana brownies get served a little more widely than she intended. In a starred review, Publisher's Weekly said, "Thereís a rare honesty in Pennebakerís work that allows for both empathy and schadenfreude as the women examine themselves and each other, and their inner lives have a winning warts-and-all air of authenticity. Pennebakerís effort delivers right through to its hopeful but realistic conclusion."
Over the past 30 years
I've written young adult novels, essays, newspaper columns, magazine articles, humor books, and public radio commentaries. It's interesting — maybe even therapeutic — for me to pull much of this work together on a website.
My most recent work is the novel pictured above, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKTHROUGH. Itís my first adult novel and itís about three generations of women living under one roof Ė so itís kind of a horror story, as you can imagine. You should buy several copies right now.
More than anything, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKTHROUGH is about the complexity, craziness and humor of the mother-daughter relationship. Itís about how you can live very closely with other people Ė even people you love Ė and still have no idea whatís going on with their lives since youíre so focused on your own hopes and sorrows and private dramas. Three different voices narrate the novel: Ivy, the grandmother, whoís in her 70s and has lost much of her savings in the recession; her daughter Joanie, the almost-50 divorcee whoís re-entering the job market; and 15-year-old granddaughter Caroline, whoís socially invisible in her big high school.
-- Ruth Pennebaker
Ruth Pennebaker blogs about women, men, families, marriage, politics, aging, writing and anything else that occurs to her at her Fabulous Geezersisters' blog, www.geezersisters.com.
Snappy Quotes from Ruth Pennebaker, in case Bartlett's is Interested
ON NEUROTICISM: I was just born this way — one of those canaries they use in mine shafts that drop dead when dangerous gases are leaking out. Great system for the miners, but it kind of sucks to be the bird.
ON FAITH HEALING: I even relied on Oral Roberts once to heal my eyes. He was on TV, empowering the lame to walk, the bent to straighten, the drunk to sober up, but evidently couldn't bother with a 10-year-old girl who had an astigmatism. Listen, you lose your faith at crucial moments like that.
ON AGING: As usual, I pondered this whole aging dilemma in a very confused way, wondering why I'm far happier than I was when I was younger, but Iím still not that enthusiastic about crow's feet and imminent death and ageist condescension from smart-alecky teenage store clerks who are going to be really sorry when all their tattoos are wrinkled, ha, ha, ha.
ON TEXAS WOMEN'S VOICES: Voices that are soft and low, an excellent thing in a woman, have rarely been observed in a gathering of two or more Texas women.
ON PERSPECTIVE: My husband worries about immortality. I worry about next week.
ON MIDDLE-AGED CENTERFOLDS: You know what? This isnít about looking good for your age. Itís about looking good for your daughterís age.
ON FASHION: Iíll give you a tip. My personal acid test is: If I wear this, will I have to hold in my stomach?
ON HOLIDAY NEWSLETTERS: Stop bragging about your kids. Many important psychological studies have shown that children whose parents yak about them in their annual newsletters suffer from tragically low self-esteem, a startlingly high rate of acne, bad posture, twitching and hats worn backward and, worst of all, they have no chance whatsoever of getting into an Ivy League school.
ON HOLLYWOOD CASTING: I can do math. When a woman is in her 40s or 50s, her romantic lead needs to be 30 years older. So, if I go to Hollywood and become a movie actress at my age, the only men I could co-star with are already dead.
ON JOINING A SOCCER TEAM: Iíll never forget the first time we lined up on the field for our very first game, facing the other team eyeball-to-eyeball. This is emblazoned in my memory as the only time in my life I wished I weighed more.
ON SARAH PALIN: Somebody, I think morosely, staring at the TV, the beehive, the blankly moronic gaze through the glasses, is going to have to do something about Palinís accent. The word ďgratingĒ only begins to convey how truly awful it is. Pass the Pepto-Bismol and splash it on the rocks. Make it a double, baby. Iím in pain.