Wednesday, September 24, 2008

At a Loss for Words by Diane Schoemperlen

Review and Giveaway

At a Loss for Words: A Post-Romantic Novel by Diane Schoemperlen

Fiction, paperback, 188 pgs.

Harper Collins

She can't eat. She can't sleep. She drinks too much coffee and smokes too many cigarettes. She can't focus. She's a writer who can't write. She checks for messages several times a day and her disappointment is palpable. What's wrong with her? She's in love. Such is the author's strength that she makes us feel everything her character is going through.This woman's first love has walked back into her life after many years while she's giving a reading in a bookstore. Her euphoria knows no bounds. It's a long distance relationship this time and she just can't get enough of his letters, emails, phone messages or the occasional day or two together. The bad news is that, between the exhilarating highs of passion and devastating lows of doubt and fear, she can't concentrate enough to work. This has never happened to her before. She doesn't want to panic but books on writing don't help much with their simplistic though well-meaning suggestions on how to get past the big WB-writer's block. She uses some of their ideas to great satirical effect in the novel, which reads much like journal entries. "Take some swings in a batting cage". "Write in the woods while leaning against a tree". In her mind these become as inane as "Make a paper clip chain six feet long or more." This is the story of words and the power we give to them during the throes of romantic love. We go over every word or phrase the object of our affection says. Was there more there than stated, some unspoken meaning, did he mean it seriously or was it just a casual remark? Is he as commited as he says or just a smooth talker? Our character finds sudden meaning in crossword puzzle definitions or horoscopes, things that emphasize her new feelings or sharpen her worry and pain. It's not long before the reader begins to squirm a little because you've see yourself behaving the same way. She's exposed us all a little, told the unspoken truth about how obsessed or even goofy we can be when we think we're in love. We all have friends who act like this and we know there's little reasoning with them when their under the influence of adoration. We suffer along with her but like our friends we sometimes want to shake her and tell her to get real. The author has done a terrific job, with a slow reveal of the other side of the relationship. I reread large portions just to enjoy the way she uses language. Schoemperlen has several novels to her credit already but the format is different here. Some may not like that it's not a simple narrative but it works for her purposes very well. And some will think the story should have ended sooner but then so should some of our own rides on this rollercoaster of the heart. Four stars out of five.

Thank you to Deanna at Harper Collins Canada for the reviewer's copy.

Lack of space forces me to relinquish my ARC copy in another Thursday Giveaway. It is gently read but slightly marked from having a sticker removed from the cover. Entry is open worldwide until midnight Wednesday October 1, 2008.

1) To enter recommend a five star book of literary fiction. NOT science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, action, thriller, Western, horror, supernatural etc. I don't read them. I'm looking for really good books to enjoy. Books in translation interest me too. Anything written during the last hundred years.

2) A second entry goes to anyone who blogs about this giveaway and puts a link back to it. If you don't have a blog, email 3 friends telling them about this giveaway and copying me at sfuhringer(at) sympatico(dot) ca.
Please leave a contact address if you're entering the giveaway and don't have a blog where I can contact you.

Winner will be announced on Thursday, October 2, 2008.


  1. Me again! Please enter me in this giveaway too! One of my favourite works of literary fiction is Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible.

  2. No need to enter me, lady. I'm just popping by to say I've got this posted at Win a Book.

    I'm reading one you'd like: The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat. Very thought-provoking; the type of book to savor.

  3. Please enter me! My recommendation is Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. :-)

  4. This is an older book, but one that I enjoyed in college was "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe.

  5. I blogged about it here:

  6. I actually just finished previewing a great novel that is scheduled to come out October 6th, "Letter's Between Us," by Linda Overman. Can I just say wow! It is a story about childhood friendship and how two of the best friends can end up taking totally different paths in life. Awesome book!

  7. I recommend Yellow Knife by Steve Zipp. It is neither of the above and is a very interesting book. You wil like it.

    Please do enter me. I love the title!


  8. I recommend to you The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I think you'll like it.


  9. I would have to recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. It's an insightful and emotional look into the lives of Afghani women. A high quality work of fiction.

  10. I have a few: The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips, Mudbound by Hilary Jordan, and Undiscovered Country by Lin Unger: in order of appeal to me.

  11. Irene Yeates and Becky: Please leave some sort of contact information. You can email it to me if you don't wish to leave it here. I hope you're coming back, those sound like good suggestions and I don't want you to miss out.

  12. Sandra,

    I have sent you an emial.


  13. I would suggest The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky).

  14. I would recommend The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's one of my favorites. :D

    aleareads @ gmail dot com

  15. I'd suggest Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess.


  16. hey..i saw that you're following my blog through blogger. I am so sorry for the inconvenience. But my blog has moved. Please visit me now at:

  17. Without a Backward Glance by Kate Veitch.


  18. Lizzie's War by Tim Farrington was one that both my husband and I enjoyed reading. It's a thought-provoking story set in the late
    '60s about families left behind while their husbands/fathers serve in Viet Nam.

  19. An author I only "discovered" a couple of years ago and fell in love with is Kent Haruf. The first book I read was Plainsong and it was so beautifully written, he actually changes the writing style to reflect the mood in the story.
    I blogged about this giveaway here. Thank you.

  20. The Seamstress is a wonderful novel set in Brazil in the late 1920's early 1930's

  21. I would definitely recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It's one of the best books I have ever read.

  22. Please enter me! I recommend two of my favorite books: The Ambassadors by Henry James and Possession by A.S. Byatt.

    bluebyrd24 at gmail dot com

  23. I'd love to be entered! Five star books I read last year were Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Book Thief, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

  24. Oh yeah, and for the 1% well read challenge you don't have to review all of them if you don't have time for it. Just making a list is okay!



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