LATE NIGHT LESBIAN READS
A literary gem. This is not a romance which saddens me because I fear a lot of people will pass on reading this beautifully written fictional memoir. They will miss out on the bittersweet humour mixed with sadness, missed opportunities and regrets. They will miss out on the genuine empathy you feel for this far from perfect family, a family that is trying to cope as best they can.
The story begins in 2015 with 79 year old Lucy recounting the events of her life following the death of her younger sister Alice. Her wife died four years previous and her mother died back in 1989, an event which haunts Lucy and one which she feels compelled to recount.
I was fascinated with the contrast between the three major players in this story. Lucy is the narrator and supposed sane one of the bunch. To escape her challenging relationship with her mother she has been living in Portland, baking wedding cakes and living a carefree if scattered life. When her mother’s neighbour calls to inform Lucy that she should come home to Santa Cruz she is reluctant to go.
Her mother is suffering from dementia and is being cared for by her sister Alice, a woman who clearly lands somewhere on the aspergers side of the autistic spectrum. Alice is a fascinating character. Her inability to accept change and her need for consistency generates much of the humour in the story. Her life is black and white.Her lack of emotion contrasts with her mother’s kaleidoscope of emotions. Lucy is the sane one, the one with a life, a job and friends. She is also aces at avoiding responsibilities, ignoring her mother and sister until she can no longer pretend that everything is fine in Santa Cruz. As if Lucy’s life wasn’t already in a state of flux, an earthquake hits changing the future for every member of the family.
The title of this novel refers to the perfect little worlds Alice creates in bottles as a hobby. These miniature scenes help her to cope, allowing her the control she needs to keep her sanity. How ironic this title is in a world which is far from perfect. I fell in love with these selfish, caring, vulnerable women trying to do the best they can under the circumstances.
Humour mixed with pathos is a powerful and memorable combination. The icebergs and eskimos conversation is one I will take away and hold close to my heart.
THE VELVET LOUNGER, CURVE MAGAZINE
86 year old and half blind Mac escapes from a rest home away-day and steals a car to fulfill a promise – driven on by his wife’s ghost. 3 octogenarian ladies rush to his rescue in the care-home mini-van and gain national TV coverage as the Runaway Grannies.
Meanwhile his lesbian daughter, Morgan, is having a crisis because her Alpha wife is obviously having an affair with a younger woman who is, almost certainly, not having hot flushes and suffering middle aged-spread. When the call comes that her father has disappeared she is determined to prove her capabilities and reassert her independence.
The ensuing chase reveals things to all involved. Mac finds out just what he is capable of, the ladies form a bond that will change their futures, and Morgan goes on a journey of self-discovery that will decide the fate of her marriage.
The story is full of humor and pathos, written with love and care. The characters are well developed, well rounded and delightful. Their life experiences shine from the page. All are drawn out by the ‘adventure’, challenging their own self-perception as well as our image of old folks and middle-aged women.
As much as anything this is about exploration, finding out who we are and who we are capable of being. Life can put us in boxes to do with our age that we aren’t ready for. In this charming story we watch as each group fights against those restraints and choses who they want to be – old and consigned to the scrap heap, or living life as an adventure to be taken.
This isn’t a romance, but it is full of romance none-the-less. Morgan and her wife, Treat, have had a happy and successful marriage. The life they have shared is revealed in the gentle touches of remembered experiences. The challenges we face of both aging and long term relationships are lightly drawn, but will resonate with all of us who face the issues of parent care and our own aging.
Funny and touching, this story held my interest and kept me turning the pages. Ms Henderson’s novel is brilliantly written and full of delightful observation. It would make a wonderful movie in the style of “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Richard LaBonte, Book Marks
Henderson has a way with oddball families. Her previous novel, “Spanking New”, (narrated by a fetus) mixed gay and straight folks anticipating the arrival of a feisty, gender-curious newborn. In this well-wrought novel about a young woman’s uncommon upbringing, narrator Brianna is called home from a vacation – and newfound lesbian love – when her mother falls ill. Also brought to mother Maye’s bedside: Brianna’s long-gone father, Jake, who has been estranged from his daughter ever since Maye fell in love with Jake’s twin sister, Jen – who Jake hasn’t spoken to in years – and “Aunt Jen,” who was Brianna’s second mom but who has since moved on. All in all, it’s an uneasy reunion of an unorthodox family, further complicated by a shocking adolescent secret that Jake has been keeping from Jen for decades. The novel’s serious subject matter – shattered families, religious fundamentalism, emotional instability – is balanced nicely by Henderson’s flair for lighthearted prose that carries the narrative without undercutting the serious issues she explores.
Sam Martino, Out in New Jersey
Maye’s Request is simple; she wants the healing process to begin for herself and her family, but like all processes, it’s not going to happen overnight. It is after all, a process, and at the moment Maye is hospitalized with a severe illness, and is unable to speak or move, her prognosis is grim.
Like all humans, Maye has had her fair share of successes and failures, but the one success and constant is her daughter Brianna Bell, aka “Bean” who has just arrived in Mexico and is about to embark on a new relationship with the girl of her dreams, until her trip is cut short.
Jen and Jake are twins, but unlike some twins, the only thing they have in common is Maye. Now with the two of them forced to come face to face at Maye’s bedside, the twins can either deal with their deep-seated issues, or continue on their path of denial. Guess which path they choose?
Clifford Henderson takes the reader on a frightening journey of physical, emotional and spiritual illness to a place of love, enlightenment, healing and forgiveness. There are times in this story that will be difficult to read, but you will feel no choice but to continue because the writing gently nudges you forward to come out the other side, hopefully unscathed.
Maye’s Request is Clifford Henderson’s third novel, and like the others before, she continues to excite, enthrall and entice.
Bibliophilic book blog
I read this sweet and heartbreaking story in one sitting. Bean has no idea of the depth of the rift between her parents – all three of them. Bean’s mother, Maye, fell in love with Jake Bell and later with his twin sister Jen. Now that Maye’s illness (Guillain–Barré syndrome) has brought them all back together, will the time together heal the rift or only rend them further apart? The story splits between the present and the twins’ past giving the reader the full picture of how the relationships formed and fractured. Unfortunately, Bean was caught in between. I truly laughed out loud at some passages and cried at others. A beautifully written and touching story of love, healing, family, and truth. Ms. Henderson has made me an instant fan!
RLynne, Just About Write
Eadie T. Pratt dumped her girl friend, left San Francisco, and set out for the freedom of the famed Michigan Women’s Music Festival. Unfortunately, her ancient T-bird broke down in front of the Rauston Baptist Church in Rauston, Texas. With this beginning, Henderson grabs her readers in a firm grip and never lets go. The Middle of Somewhere is a wonderful laugh-out-loud read filled with pathos, hope, and new beginnings. Rauston, Texas is a dust-filled small town, which Henderson populates with real characters, not cliches. Whether she’s describing the bully, the minister, or the con
artist, she uses words which help the reader understand rather than dismiss.
Henderson also describes the panhandle of Texas so her readers can feel the heat, the dust, and the poverty. Rauston is a place where church serves as a community gathering spot, and where news is passed along at the local grocery store. The radio stations play either gospel or country music, memories are long and secrets are deeply buried. It is in this setting that Eadie finds hope, friends, and herself. This is a very good read.
Sam Martino, Out in Jersey
Clifford Henderson’s first novel, The Middle of Somewhere published by Bold Strokes Books is a poignant tale about a lesbian who is left by her lover and finds the only way to move on, is to move out.
Eadie T. Pratt leaves California in a ’66 T-Bird, her only home is the travel trailer hitched to her car, which she affectionately refers to as the egg. Her plan is to make it to the Michigan Woman’s Music Festival, relax, and do some soul searching. When her car breaks down in the middle of Texas, Eadie has no choice but to rely on the kindness of a bunch of small town Texas Baptists to help her get back on the road.
In the time that it takes to get her car fixed, she exposes a church ponzi scheme, reunites her new girlfriend with her biological Mother, and finds she must first love herself if she is ever going to truly love someone else.
The characters in this book are easy to relate to, I found myself caring about their struggles, and celebrating their triumphs. Most of all I was curious to see if Eadie would ever make it to the festival but to find out, you’ll just have to purchase a copy. Clifford Henderson writes with depth and ease. Her writing gives you the sense that her muse was not only visiting, but had moved in.
Richard Labonte, Book Marks
Spanky, the narrator of this delicious novel, is an unborn baby who can flit from one character’s thoughts and emotions to another’s – a storytelling perspective that, from a less able author, might have come off as a diaper-load of a gimmick. But Henderson, in only hers econd book, handles the unorthodox point of view with inventive style and charm. Spanky’s parents-to-be are Nina, an aspiring actress without a role in sight, and Rick, a musician paying the rent changing tires in a garage. Nina’s circle of friends include fag florist Pablo and dyke diva Dink – who harbors an unrequited lust for Nina, and who eventually serves as Rick’s best man at a hilarious “Love Happening” wedding, standing in for his best friend Howie, killed in Iraq. These are just a few of a fabulous novel’s well-rounded characters, which also include Rick’s right-wing father, Nina’s censorious sister – and a queer dog. And, of course, Spanky – who thinks she’s going to be born a boy. Already a “best” of 2010.
Sam Martino, Out In Jersey
Spanking New is Hilarious and Poignant
Spanking New is a book that brings the fantasy of what happened before I was born, to life. If you have ever wondered what you were, or where you came from, Clifford Henderson gives you an interesting, oft times hilarious answer. The gender benders in this book are lovable characters, the most memorable being “Spanky” the “floating soul” that is looking to attach to his parents. When Spanky finally does manage to finagle a meeting of his soon to be parents Nina and Rick, the sparks fly, and all seems right with the world that he is about to enter, until Spanky finds out he is a girl! Other than being hilarious, this a poignant point of view, and makes for a fun and interesting read.
This is Clifford Henderson’s second novel, and it does not disappoint. I am happy to have discovered this writer, as she is never dull, and lends much to the imagination. I look forward to a lifetime of reading her.
Anita Kelly, LGBT Coordinator, Muhlenberg College
Clifford Henderson has written a masterpiece in “Spanking New”. She explores the serious issues of our day such as heteronormativity, heterosexism, homophobia and pro-choice in a humorous and non-threatening manner. The author’s use of the unborn as the storyteller generates an air of awe, wonder and hope regarding these important topics. Henderson’s clever exploration of her protagonists’ feelings leads the reader into a world where gender and identity are fluid. “Spanking New” should be a required reading for all gender and queer study courses.
While the author addresses serious issues, her book is fun, fun, fun! The playfulness, curiosity and fresh naivety as portrayed through the eyes of the storyteller is refreshing and often humorous. It is pure genius on Henderson’s part to write from this perspective. The protagonists are endearing and very human as you follow their struggles to navigate through life. The reader is able to sympathize with the antagonist’s feelings as well, in this richly developed exploration of human being’s struggles to make sense of their worlds.