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.