A book centered around friendships and aging gracefully…. or in some case, not so much.
The book said: The teaching careers of lifelong friends Harriet (Hat) and Elise have come to an end in spectacular style, with the two women leaving more than burning bridges behind them. Now they are looking menopause straight in the eye–and they don’t care one bit for what they see. Fight, they vow, we’ll fight the interloper tooth and nail. More than a tad bruised and battered from the struggle, Hat and Elise undertake a journey to Bryson’s Mill, Indiana, birthplace of Elise s mother, Rose, who by any definition was inadequate to the simplest tasks of motherhood. Stella May and Margaret, old friends of Rose, hold keys to a past very different from Elise’s memory. When Elise adamantly refuses to accept their conflicting reality, Hat is confronted with choices–and risks–about what friendship with Elise actually entails. For both friends the journey to Bryson’s Mill becomes a pilgrimage of a different kind: into the past lives of women, into truth, into sisterhood, and most of all, into new possibility.
I said: This book arrived Friday in the mail box and I started it right away (sorry Elizabeth Bennet, I will get back to you soon!)
Is it possible to love and hate a book? I loved the friendship between Hat and Elise. I laughed out loud as they plotted together how to beat the aging process. The begining of the book reminded me of some of my own friendships. As the pair dives into Elise’s childhood memories of what she believes to be true, some discoveries are made that are hard to take.
Secrets of the past can be a heart wrenching journey. As the book develops, I was saddened – even angered at Rose’s story and without giving away too much of the book, the storyline was hard to read – the book, while a great story of friendship, also deals with some very tough life issues.
Overall I enjoyed this read and loved the friendships that developed. Nancy has written a women’s novel that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you thankful of the great women in your own life.
I am excited to share with you my interview with author Nancy Werking Poling!
Nancy, tell us a little about you.
Nancy: I was born a Hoosier (Indiana) but raised in Orlando, Florida, before Disney, when Orlando was a sleepy southern town. After living in the Chicago area for more than twenty years, my husband, Jim, and I have recently retired to North Carolina. So I’m unclear about whether I am primarily a Southerner who has spent much of her life in the Midwest, or a Midwesterner influenced by years of living in the South. I often linger to chat with store clerks and say “y’all,” if those characteristics are any indication.
Nancy: Unlike writers who snatch an hour or two in the early morning, I need large blocks of time to myself. So I couldn’t really start writing seriously until my children were grown and out of the house—which partly explains my being a late bloomer. Out Of The Pumpkin Shell is my first novel to be published but not the first I have written.
How long did it take you to write Out of The Pumpkin Shell?
Nancy: About two years. It started as a short story, which I read at an open-mic literary event. Someone said, “I assume that’s the beginning of a novel.” The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but I liked the characters Hat and Elise so much that I just kept going. After two drafts I knew the narrative wasn’t yet all that it could be, so I met weekly with a writing coach, Bonnie Kustner. She helped me maintain the momentum of the story and keep the humorous voice in spite of the serious events that developed.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
Nancy: So many places. Over lunch one day a friend, who had a hilarious way of relating even the grimmest events, had me in stitches over the story of how her cousin was terrified of menopause. The cousin was convinced that like her mother she’d go into a deep depression and never come out. That’s how the book’s humorous tone came about too. Another inspiration was the friendship between my mother, Ethel Mae, and Geneva. They went to school together in Indiana. To my knowledge, though, they never engaged in the kind of wacky exploits Hat and Elise carry out. My family moved to Florida when I was six, but we returned to Indiana every summer to visit Geneva and her family, along with my grandparents. That’s how Indiana came to be the setting for the story.
Emotional and clergy sexual abuse are in the book too. I said earlier that I’ve always been fascinated by stories. Sadly, I have listened to many women tell of being abused. In the nineties I edited a book titled VICTIM TO SURVIVOR: WOMEN RECOVERING FROM CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE. Six women tell their stories of having been sexually abused as adults. These stories left me concerned not only about victims but also about the wives of abusing clergy.
Of course, a major challenge was combining the hilarity of Hat and Elise’s perspective and activities with the seriousness of emotional abuse.
My original intention was simply to tell a good story. From the feedback I’ve been getting, I’ve discovered that the book speaks to women on several different levels. Some women see their own lives in Elise’s mother, Rose. One reader commented on how the book reminded her of how stubbornly we cling to a notion from childhood about ourselves or our family. The book has made others think about the importance of female friends and the absence in their life of a Best Friend.
Any advice on aging gracefully?
Nancy: When I find the secret, I’ll market it, maybe sell it on e-bay.
No, seriously. Why should we age GRACEFULLY? Why not step on a few toes? I think that’s what Hat and Elise figure out. No matter our age, we need to continue to search for adventures and skills that excite and enliven us.
Thank you Nancy for sending me your book for review and for taking the time to share with us about Out of The Pumpkin Shell!
**Readers please note that this book contains some strong language**
I received this book from the author, Nancy Werking Poling
This book rates a PG13 for strong language