Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life

  • Review
By – May 3, 2016

The pow­er of Ron­na Wineberg’s writ­ing lies in her abil­i­ty to cre­ate lov­able char­ac­ters. From the moment her sto­ries begin, you feel for these smart, intense, and high­ly self-crit­i­cal men and women who inhab­it the pages. Most of them are involved in or have been divorced. All of them have had com­plex rela­tion­ships with their moth­ers, fathers, or chil­dren. And, they are all still explor­ing their motives, mis­deeds, past his­to­ry, and cur­rent sit­u­a­tions for answers.

Her open­ing sen­tences always draw you in. Melody” begins this way: When I was ten years old, I smashed my best friend, Melody Andrews, against her lock­er in the hall­way after school.” This con­fes­sion alone is enough to com­mand atten­tion and ques­tions that prod us to read on. Anoth­er sto­ry, Hap­py to See You,” starts with I stand in the hall­way of the house, my baby, Jen­nifer, strad­dling my right hip, the oth­er hand hold­ing the vac­u­um clean­er. The stereo is turned up high. I sing to Mozart, pre­tend­ing my voice is a vio­lin or a piano.” The read­er is drawn to a woman who is capa­ble of vac­u­um­ing and car­ry­ing around a baby while she improves her­self cul­tur­al­ly by lis­ten­ing to Mozart. Rebec­ca is high­ly relat­able when she rumi­nates about her anx­i­eties: Nights when the baby is cry­ing or Sam­my has awak­ened even after every­one has gone back to sleep, I stay awake and think. What if Bri­an died, or if I was crip­pled, or some­thing hap­pened to the chil­dren.” These uni­ver­sal­ly mater­nal fears endear Rebec­ca to us before the plot even begins to evolve.

Anoth­er poignant theme explored in the book is the pain of sep­a­ra­tion either from chil­dren, hus­bands, or par­ents. Tak­ing Leave” depicts the day par­ents take their fresh­man daugh­ter to move her into her dorm. Told from the mother’s view­point, we per­ceive the dorm room’s claus­tro­pho­bic shab­bi­ness down to its yel­low linoleum floor as she thinks,“This is where they will leave Meg, their mas­ter­piece, whom they strug­gled to con­ceive, reg­u­lat­ing month­ly cycles with charts and ther­mome­ters for years, the beau­ti­ful baby born on a Tues­day morn­ing.. Eigh­teen years, three months and two days ago.” How clear­ly Wineberg explains the roots of what is known as the emp­ty nest syndrome. 

Oth­er kinds of sep­a­ra­tions per­me­ate the book from falling out of love while stay­ing mar­ried, to the slow ordeal of the divorce process. All of these are pre­sent­ed in graph­ic detail. This book is a col­lec­tion of vignettes, depict­ing slices of life as if they were half-fin­ished paint­ings which require fin­ish­ing touch­es applied by the read­er. It is an excit­ing type of writ­ing which coerces the read­er into shar­ing the writer’s expe­ri­ence by pre­dict­ing the future of the char­ac­ters’ lives.

Read Ron­na Wineberg’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Research­ing and Writ­ing Short Stories

My Father’s Letters

Eleanor Ehrenkranz received her Ph.D. from NYU and has taught at Stern Col­lege, NYU, Mer­cy Col­lege, and at Pace Uni­ver­si­ty. She has lec­tured wide­ly on Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and recent­ly pub­lished anthol­o­gy of Jew­ish poet­ry, Explain­ing Life: The Wis­dom of Mod­ern Jew­ish Poet­ry, 1960 – 2010.

Discussion Questions