... luminous ... capacity for self-reflection marks many of the smart, hungry and astoundingly funny women in these stories ... Paulette is a delightful and complex narrator, equal parts witty and sad ... haunting, deliberative, utterly convincing prose ... this is a stunning and memorable collection.
... the stories in Today A Woman Went Mad shine as brightly, cut as deeply and entertain as deliciously as if they’d been written today ... Wolitzer’s gifts for capturing time and character are on fine display in the title story ... Each of these stories is like a circus clown car, stuffed with more meaning than Wolitzer’s deceptively simple sentences seem able to contain ... the collection ends with 'The Great Escape,' a ferocious COVID-19 story that could only have been written in the hideous year of 2020.
Wolitzer has a gentle touch for conveying the nuances and humor to be found in small moments of intrigue ... Many of these stories were published in the ’60s and ’70s...and are rather concrete in plot, traditional in style. By the time Paulette and Howard have reached their 60s, in 'The Great Escape,' written in 2020, Wolitzer has moved into a more lyrical, abstract and fragmentary present ... Common themes connect the other stories to these linked ones: absent fathers, infidelity, a trembling line between the hyper-sanity of daily ritual and the tilt into madness. However, some of the book’s charm is lost in the gaps between Paulette and Howard’s story line. Throughout these dispatches from the American homefront, the family unit is formed, broken, pasted back together, mused over—but always serves as the anchor for Wolitzer’s narratives ... Intrigue may lead a story, but for Wolitzer the daily rituals of family always carry it.
What an astonishing amount of family love, confusion and sadness Hilma Wolitzer fits into the short stories in Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket ... The book comes to a fiercely affecting conclusion in The Great Escape, written last year, in which Paulette and Howard, nearing their 90s, face a frightening new challenge: the coronavirus pandemic. Somehow, this heartbreaking story is infused with the same candor and comedy as those written in the 1960s. It’s an unforgettable ending to a wonderful collection.
... the best piece of fiction or non-fiction I’ve read about the toll of the pandemic. 'The Great Escape,' the final story in the collection, is an astute and shattering piece inspired by Wolitzer’s experiences of coronavirus ... a universal horror story brought to life through specific detail ... Fans of Mortimer’s Saturday Lunch at the Brownings collection will find a similar style and approach in Wolitzer’s stories: cutting humour and discernment on the everyday events that can quickly descend into tragedy or horror ... , Wolitzer is observant and truthful on the tensions that exist in daily life, particularly in the domestic realm ... The collection is full of...strange, fitting twists or moments, queer and vivid and memorable.
It is characteristic of Wolitzer’s warmth and perception that we understand the feelings of both women in this [title] story, and she captures the narrator’s own confusion, helplessness and distress ... Her stories are recognisably of the time they were written, yet they are timeless. She captures the extraordinary aspects of life in the daily routines we take as ordinary, and her strong-minded characters are realistic in their frankness about sex, their optimism and their humour ... for those who are not already familiar with her work, this collection of her stories is a fine introduction to it.
What a treat it is to have this baker's dozen of stories in one volume ... masterful ... Wolitzer, who, like Paulie, (spoiler alert!) survived COVID-19 but lost her husband to it, has miraculously found notes of grace in a graceless disease — and demonstrated literature's power to both move and console ... Like Anne Tyler, Wolitzer clearly believes there are no ordinary people — everyone is extraordinary ... This book is filled with interesting characters. But it's the carefully selected details — like the distressed shopper's empty pocketbook, devoid of ID, car keys, or wallet, or the hangnail that sends Howard to a podiatrist at the height of the pandemic — that really get you.
... wonderfully alive .. provides an intimate look at the domestic life of women ... This is a collection brimming with life and humor, and yet death is ever-present, leading the collection forward to its final, inevitable conclusion.
Now in her nineties, this author of nine celebrated novels is an artist with a deceptively light touch, creating stories of psychological and social incisiveness that are at once poised and lacerating. Wolitzer deftly reveals how women are harshly judged and how women judge, how children are trapped in their parents’ snares and snarls and how they escape. Delectably funny and radically insightful linked stories featuring Paulie and Howard reveal how marriage can be oppressive and freeing, and how a woman’s love can move mountains. Writing with startling candor about pregnancy and birth, what it takes to keep oneself and one’s family together, and role reversals ... A striking and enlightening gathering of polestar short stories.
Thirteen timeless stories ... After the crystalline title story zips us straight back to the mad housewife era and a second introduces the centrality of female desire in Wolitzer's work, there's a run of seven narrated by Paulette, or Paulie as her husband, Howard, calls her. Full of the pleasures of intimacy, these are unusually happy stories about a complicated marriage ... Completing the trajectory of her early triumphs with a pandemic masterpiece, Wolitzer takes our breath away.
Along with their shared plights and appetites, there is a certain sameness to Wolitzer’s straight, married, and presumably white protagonists. But while there may be a uniformity to her characters, the details give them a specificity that makes them recognizable as individuals, giving their fears and desires flesh ... Even as the pandemic rages, Wolitzer finds humor ... Wolitzer, who survived COVID but lost her own husband to it, once again wields the salient particulars to conjure a time, an illness, and life’s inevitable heartaches. That she does so while keeping us engaged with these very ordinary characters speaks to her skill and her humanity.