Friday, July 27, 2012

"Shout Her Lovely Name"

Natalie Serber received an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in The Bellingham Review and Gulf Coast, among others, and her awards include the Tobias Wolff Award. She teaches writing at various universities and lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Shout Her Lovely Name, her debut book, and reported the following:
Uncanny! I couldn’t have picked a better page to represent the heart of my story collection, Shout Her Lovely Name. Page 69 falls smack in the middle of “Free To A Good Home,” a story that finds Ruby Hargrove (a recurring character in the linked stories) in the charity/maternity ward of St. Vincent’s Hospital, struggling with an excruciating decision that will change her life. She’s being pressured on all sides; by her boyfriend who wants her to give up their baby daughter, by her family who wants her to bring the baby home, and by her own temptations for Ruby understands that if she chose to, she could walk away and be completely free.
Girls stick together is what Ruby repeated to herself as she walked back up the hall toward her bed. She skimmed her hand along the wallpaper, over the laughing dog, the happy dish escaping with the spoon, the soaring cow, and the moon beaming bigheartedly in the night sky. Her hand left the wall and came to rest upon a window. Five babies slept in soft light. Swallowing down her thumping heart, her gaze racing from one baby to the next, she found her daughter in the second row. Baby Hargrove. Ruby could see the little body, wound tight in a pink blanket, curved like a kidney bean. She could see the downy head, the face turned toward the window, the lips; were they moving? Ruby pressed her palm against the cold glass. Sister Joseph stepped into the nursery, and seeing Ruby in the hall, she lifted the baby and brought her to the window. The baby’s face was scrunched tight, her skin tone blotchy and uneven, red along the chin and across her nose. The baby’s faint eyebrows were drawn together in a scowl. Ruby motioned for Sister Joseph to unwrap her daughter. As she did, the baby’s tiny fist flew up and her mouth opened, though she did not cry. The baby had her thumb tucked inside her hand. Her fingers wrapped over the top for safekeeping, her nails as fragile as tissue paper. Ruby stayed in the hallway, shaking her head no when Sister Joseph motioned for her to come. Ruby preferred to keep the window glass between them.
Yes, as Ruby says, girls do stick together. Mothers and daughters are bound to one another by love and rage, delight and dismay, pride and jealousy. Standing outside the nursery, seeing her daughter for the first time, Ruby makes her choice not in a rush of love and devotion, not breathing in her baby’s warm cotton and milk scent, but with a pain of glass between them.
Learn more about the book and author at Natalie Serber's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue