Life and Oth­er Shortcomings

By – December 11, 2020

Life and Oth­er Short­com­ings is a col­lec­tion oftwelve engag­ing, hon­est, and com­pelling short sto­ries about wom­an­hood; fea­tur­ing relat­able and well observed char­ac­ters that leave one feel­ing as if they’ve met them before. The sto­ries are set in New York, New Orleans, and Madrid and they span across time from the 1970s to the present.

The first sto­ry, Din­ner Con­ver­sa­tion,” intro­duces the three cou­ples cen­tral to many of the nar­ra­tives. Their quick and clever repar­tee, psy­cho­log­i­cal spar­ring, and pre­car­i­ous rela­tion­ships – both mar­i­tal and pla­ton­ic – estab­lish the tone for the col­lec­tion and set the stage for Adjmi’s explo­ration of what lies beneath the tidy façade of women’s com­plex lives.

And com­plex they are – some of the sto­ries, such as Hap­pi­ly Ever After,” and The Dev­il Makes Three,” fol­low these fine­ly drawn women as they dis­cov­er nov­el ways to address their dire cir­cum­stances, while oth­ers explore friend­ship, inter­per­son­al con­nec­tions, and rela­tion­ship strug­gles with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and poignan­cy. Among the women of these sto­ries are duti­ful house­wives, devout­ly reli­gious women, women strug­gling with ill­ness, inse­cure teenagers, and many oth­er col­or­ful char­ac­ters. But, often, their strug­gles over­lap – fac­ing the inter­nal and exter­nal stan­dards set for them and ques­tion­ing their worth, their choic­es, and their place in soci­ety. Pop cul­ture ref­er­ences pep­pered through­out – includ­ing nos­tal­gic call­backs to Dr. Scholl’s san­dals, Swanson’s Frozen Din­ners, Star Trek, and The Brady Bunch – only add to the real­ism and heart of the book.

Over­all, these twelve sto­ries are full of dra­ma, para­ble-like lessons, humor, descrip­tive lan­guage, and insight, and they make for a very enjoy­able read. Adj­mi sub­tle­ty, but so per­cep­tive­ly, unfolds the char­ac­ters’ pri­vate lives, foibles, fears, hopes, and dreams, zero­ing in on how a sin­gle expe­ri­ence or event can change a life.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Corey Adjmi

  1. Corie Adj­mi grew up in New Orleans and lived her adult life in New York. How do the set­tings in Life and Oth­er Short­com­ings enrich this read?

  2. The sto­ries take place over decades. Were the author’s descrip­tions of the time peri­ods accu­rate and moving?

  3. Name some pop cul­ture ref­er­ences. What feel­ings did these evoke?

  4. Did any of the char­ac­ters change or trans­form as the sto­ries unfold­ed? What caused this?

  5. Which char­ac­ter in the book would you most like to meet and why?

  6. Did you enjoy that the sto­ries were linked? Why or why not?

  7. Which short sto­ry did you like best?

  8. What does the title of this col­lec­tion mean to you? Do you think it does a good job of express­ing what the book is about?

  9. For the women in the book, it seems as if cer­tain behav­iors are expect­ed of them as women and, even more specif­i­cal­ly, as Jew­ish women. What sort of expec­ta­tions are placed on them? Are these expec­ta­tions fair? Do you agree with how the women respond to them?

  10. These sto­ries are told from male and female per­spec­tives: Cal­lie, Iris, Howie, and Dylan to name a few. How do you think you would view these char­ac­ters if the sto­ry was told from a dif­fer­ent point of view? What if Din­ner Con­ver­sa­tion” was told from Dylan’s per­spec­tive? Or Dana’s? What if That’s How It Was With Howie was told from Lori‘s point of view or Olivia’s?

  11. Corie Adj­mi is inter­est­ed in social jus­tice and shin­ing a light on women’s issues, in par­tic­u­lar, patri­archy. Does this col­lec­tion of sto­ries illus­trate that per­spec­tive? Did read­ing this nov­el affect your opinion?

  12. How did you feel about the end­ing of this col­lec­tion? Was it hope­ful at all?