Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Photo: Cover of the book, from imagesbn.com (bn.com; Barnes and Noble)
My friend Sheryl Sorrentino has crafted a sort of unique novel in a style that she calls "real fiction." In an Afterword, she describes "real fiction" as "...provocative, culturally-inclusive stories that explore women's inner struggles in a socially-significant context."
Sheryl's "real fiction" novel, Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz, is about a middle-aged woman who is rocked by the death of her father. His death leads to various skeletons escaping from her family's closets. Millie must make sense of it all to find some peace not only with her present, but also with her troubled past.
It starts off with a twelve-year old Millie trying to find some sense of belonging. She's a product of a troubled family, of adults with their own powerful issues, and she feels neglected and without any role models to teach her what she should, and should not, do for attention. Without this knowledge, and without a solid role model to tell her differently, Millie unfortunately gets the wrong sort of attention from men without morals, and she becomes pregnant.
The book then flashes forward to Millie's present: she's married to an African-American (she's white) and is the mother of two daughters. She's a successful attorney, and she hasn't heard from her father, or from her brothers, in many years.
And then she gets the phone call.
Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz is indeed a novel that, in a sort of fictional memoir sort of way, tackles these issues--and many others--head-on. In her Afterword, the author mentions that much of the book is at least semi-autobiographical, while much of it is straight-up autobiography. A lot of it is, of course, completely made-up as well, but the reader can see the dots of the author's life being connected, and as such it is an extra benefit to see how the author constructed her book to put those pieces together.
I wished the author had focused a little more on the young Millie, because she's a kid you really root for, and for whom you wish better things. Like Em, the main character of one of my favorite YA novels, Norma Fox Mazer's When She Was Good, the young Millie has an existence that wouldn't be wished upon anyone, and which is caused, predominantly, by forces outside of her control that make her a lost soul in a tough world. Lost kids will do lost things, as they both do. Em--the narrator of Mazer's book--fares a bit better than does Millie, at first, but it was a joy to see Em learn things on her own, and become the more put-together person the reader knows she's going to be. I would've liked to've seen a bit more of that in Sorrentino's book, but that's not the gist or purpose of the work, as I've said.
But the first few pages are so good, so detailed and so strong, that clearly Sorrentino has a future in the YA genre if she ever wanted to tell a story that limited itself to that time-frame of a young girl's life.
So if you like socially-relevant issues explored in a middle-aged woman's (and a young girl's) life, with a bit of soul-searching, peace-finding, the mafia, a father's long-standing mistress, and disgruntled family members all thrown in, please check out Sheryl Sorrentino's book. You can read more reviews about it (at least 30, averaging over 4+ stars!) at this Goodreads page. You can get a copy at this Amazon page, in various formats: Kindle ($2.99) and in used (starting at $2.94) or new (starting at $11.22) copies.