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Rerun: Lawrence reviews Spencer

Saturday Review: “Love Just The Way It Is” a review by Sally F. Lawrence of
Elizabeth Spencer’s Starting Over:Stories. (2014) in NCLR Online 2015

Over the summer, we’re sharing some reruns of older book reviews.

It’s delightful when we get to visit anew works by writers who’ve left this plane. Scholar Sally Greene has helped us do just that for Elizabeth Spencer, by collecting The Edward Tales, to be reviewed in NCLR Online Fall ’23.

The last review we did before Spencer passed away in 2019 (at almost 100!) was of the short story collection Starting Over. Reviewer Sally Lawrence wrote, “As a master of the short story form, Spencer continues to offer her readers fresh perspectives about familial connections in Starting Over.

Lawrence delves quickly into several of the story characters and plots, calling out the similarities the family members struggle with. The stories deal with cousins, parents and children, and spouses (or, rather, former spouses). “Having lived in Italy and Canada as well as the South, Spencer seems able to keep Southern characters true to their settings, yet lift the context and themes of her stories away from regionalism,” explains Lawrence.

“Much as some readers want a story to end with all the loose ends tied up, Spencer is unflinchingly honest about some of her characters’ inability to determine the outcome or to unravel the mysteries they’ve set in motion during the plot,” Lawrence discloses. However, this doesn’t detract from Spencer’s work. Rather, this very quality of writing life as-is garnered Spencer dozens of awards and recognitions, including the 2013 Rea Award for the Short Story.

Read the rest of the review in the ’15 Online issue.