Retro Review: A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

Boy meets girl

Boy and girl fall in love and get married

Boy and girl live happily ever after

That, my friends, is the basic outline for most love stories. But in well-crafted stories of true loves, the narrative goes above and beyond these three steps to something richer and deeper and makes a relationship compelling.

And compelling is the.love story in Kaye Gibbons novel, A Virtuous Woman.

A Virtuous Woman is told in two voices. One is that of Ruby, who is loving and genteel. She is only 20 years old when she meets Jack, who is 20 years her senior. Jack is a bit rough around the edges, not known for grand and sweeping romantic gestures. But he is very caring, the very opposite of Ruby’s first husband, an abusive lout.

Over the course of their marriage, Ruby and Jack, deal with both the good and the bad. They relish the good and try to survive the bad, their love and devotion rarely at a breaking point.

The chapters in A Virtuous Woman trade Ruby and Jack’s voices, making this novel more of a character study than one is plot driven.

As for Gibbons’ writing? It is simple but never lacks conviction. Her writing is filled with sentiment that is never maudlin. And it is sweet without giving the reader cavities.

I’m a fan of Gibbons’ work and A Virtuous Woman is a stand out decades after its initial release.

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Book Review: Maid-Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Over the past few years I’ve read several books on what it is like to live in the richest country on low pay, back breaking work, while striving to make a better life for oneself and perhaps one’s family. Some of these books include Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado, We Were Witches by Ariel Gore, The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel, and of course, Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic, Nickel and Dimed.

I didn’t think I could handle reading another one until I came across Stephanie Land’s memoir, Maid-Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. (Introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich)

Not quite 30, Land found herself leaving an abusive relationship with a young daughter in tow. What followed her was a nightmare of homelessness, deplorable apartments, low wages working as a housekeeper, and a very unpleasant journey through the so-called safety net when it came to acquiring government assistance. Unlike some fortunate souls Land lacks a supportive family who help her in her time of need.

Land decides to clean houses to support herself and her daughter while also attending college. She works for a local housecleaning company but also takes on freelance gigs. Not surprisingly, housekeeping is truly back breaking, horribly paid, and demoralizing. Some of her clients don’t see her fully human and worthy of respect. And then some of them just don’t see “her.”

Not making enough money to buy even the basic necessities, Land has to go on government assistance, a tangled weave that is often very difficult unravel with its endless paperwork and noxious questioning of Land’s eligibility and worthiness. If one earns a few extra dollars, one can find their benefits slashed or lose them in their entirety.

Keep in mind, not only is Land taking care of her daughter and cleaning houses, she’s also attending college. I just dare any reader to call her a slacker. She is the antithesis of lazy. In fact, due to my research, most people receiving some type of assistance are working and/or going to school. They are not cheating the system and most are not lazy losers.

But back to the book…

Maid is searing with brutal honesty. Land’s love and devotion to her daughter is undeniable as is her willingness to make a better life using various options. Her resourcefulness is both admirable and clever. I couldn’t help but root for her. Does she at times feel sorry for herself? Well, of course. She is human, after all. There certain times in one’s life when you just got to cry over your lot in life, and then you move on.

In the end people who are struggling like Land deserve respect, not empty pity or utter derision lacking any type of empathy.

In the end Maid convinces the reader to look beyond the stereotypes you may have swirling in your brain when it comes to the poor, anyone on benefits or those faceless, nameless heroes and heroines who make our lives much easier through their blood, sweat and tears.

Maid is a treasure of a memoir. Land should be very proud of herself, and I hope she keeps writing. I expect more from her. She’s one to watch.

Book Marks

  1. Jimmy Fallon wants your vote for “The Tonight Show” Summer Read.
  2. Indian women are tapping into the power of writing memoirs
  3. Libraries are cooler than you thought!
  4. Yes, it is possible to jump from one genre as a writer to another.
  5. The “Nickel and Dimed” life in the age of Amazon.
  6. Why YA novels about royalty are huge best-sellers.
  7. Printable color sheets showcasing amazing women and girl power!
  8. How two sisters are sharing their love of bedtime stories via social media.
  9. Libraries are drawing the line when it comes to digital books.
  10. Milwaukee’s most mispronounced words.

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