Review: A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin

Women in the the early 1940s. No writer should ever have a problem finding conflict for that setting, and Lynn Austin used all the pressures of the era and the people to create a solid book.

The thing that I realized about writing is this: interpersonal conflict really is what draws a person through a story, if the characters are crafted carefully. And the characters were realatable: I’m a curmudgeon like Helen, I really miss Brooklyn like Rosa did, I was very similar to Jean when I was a teenager, and I’m a wife and mom like Ginny.

Ginny was the character that really got to me, and she pulled me through the story. Her conflict with her husband, hit me in the same way the film The Hours did. Even though I’ve never been treated like that, I think every woman can see herself in that position, and that’s why we overcompensate and, well, become bitches.

Jean’s story kind got shuffled to the back, but it worked. Why? Because she and her mom (who was almost always off-camera) were the very Christian folk, but they didn’t beat anyone over the head with their religion. I didn’t feel hog-tied, with my mouth pried open so Heroic Christian could stuff the Bible down my throat. She did her job, she worked hard, she lived pretty carefully, but when somebody asked her a question, she had an answer. That was cool.
Rosa was the weak point. She seemed like a stock character: hey, let’s get the city girl and stick her in midwestern life, with devout in-laws. She seemed very forced, and very unnatural, and I didn’t like her. Her being from my city was the only saving grace. But even that wasn’t believable to me (but hey, I’m a big critic): mostly because if she really was from Brooklyn, she’d have mentioned a specific neighborhood at least once. ;-)
Well, I didn’t like her at first. But as the story progressed, I really got attached to her. And she became more real as the story progressed: by the last half I was as much into her journey as I was the other women’s.

Also, the balance of historical fact and story was good. It’s hard to do, but it was good. Kudos to Ms. Austin for that one.

Also, there was drinking and dancing in this story. Which was cool. And people didn’t die from either. However — and I’ll probably have to put my foot in my mouth for the next comments — I took issue with the vodka stuff:

Sometimes I think that the writer’s only experiences with alcohol came from I Love Lucy.

  • Fact: approximately 8 oz. of mid-proof vodka (or 8 shots) will make one person very drunk, if not sick especially if they haven’t eaten much because their flight to LaGuardia left way early and there was no time to eat while getting settled, and there were no quick restaurants in that part of the East Village, and even though the Shake Shack taxi dog was really good it apparently was not substantial enough to absorb that vodka martini and the tender looked like Colin Farrell, kinda. also, where was the jazz?!? why was all the jazz gone?!?
  • Fact: approximately 8 oz. of mid-proof vodka (or 8 shots) split between 20 people will get no one drunk
  • Fiction: one sip of vodka turns you into an addict
  • Fiction: not everyone who gets drunk gets slap-happy.
  • Fact: sometimes people get irritable. sometimes people get flirty. sometimes people get very quiet. sometimes people get pushy. there are as many kinds of reaction to alcohol as there are human emotion.
  • Fiction: vodka is sweet. well, maybe it’s sweet if you’ve been eating, like, sauerkraut
  • Fact: while not as odorous as some other liquors, vodka’s scent is still noticeable
  • Fiction: giggling and hiccuping always accompany a drink
  • Fact: You can totally smell vodka on a person’s breath. Just because it doesn’t taste like much doesn’t mean you can’t smell it.
  • Fact: Bears eat beats.

Bears, beets, Battlestar Gallactica.

You guys think a book in the vein of the Howdunit series, but for Christian writers would sell? Possible title: Vice for Saints. Subtitle: I’ll do the dirty deeds so your soul can remain clean and your fiction truthful!

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