Review: Our Kind, a Novel in Stories

By Brownstein, Rachel M. | Women's Studies Quarterly, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Review: Our Kind, a Novel in Stories

Brownstein, Rachel M., Women's Studies Quarterly




In "Sick Chicks," the sixth of the ten mordant, moving stories that make up Our Kind, Kate Walbert's dead-on novel about women at the end of their lives, there's a book-group meeting in a hospice, in the Sunshine Room. Some of the members are "guests" for life in the "state-of-the-art facility"; the others are visiting Judy. "Bring a different perspective." Judy says: "Can you imagine if it were just us sick chicks?" Judy might be making that nice distinction with irony: irony is the mode of choice tor these women, required by their circumstances. Our Kind is narrated in the present time, in the first-person-plural voice of ten women (including Judy) who "were married in 1953. Divorced in 1976. Most of us excel at racquet sports." Detritus of the 1950s, they are washed up together in old age in their rich Connecticut suburb, "in the same boat," ruefully rifling their memories to identify the beginning of their end. ("The Beginning of the End" is the title of the unforgettable final story). To "us," the still enterprising and finally dry-drunk Canoe and her buddies, Judy's fellow hospice residents are immediately familiar, "like all the women we had ever known, their faces slipping past in the silverplated coffee urn, in the sugar bowl, the salad fork, the butter long." Elegant outmoded accoutrements of the well-born, prosperous, propertied class: nice things like the women themselves, if cold and hard and (some of them) pointed ones, "not used to unpleasantness."

Viv, who is running the book group, is among the nonresidents; Mrs. Dalloway is the assignment of the month. Viv sets up the discussion by explaining it is about "us," that is, "women of a certain age" ("we" Americans don't of course mention class; and Clarissa, who invites the prune minister to her party, is of course English). Too brightly, Viv asks the teacher's standard question, "Did she peg us? How many of you identified with Clarissa?" Total silence. Then, "I've always been fond of the name Clarissa," Barbara says. "You don't hear it anymore." You know just where Barbara's coming from, and so does everyone else, poor deflated Viv included: wittily or stupidly, these women cling desperately to words. ("Intervention," half-crazy Esther says, when she's asked to make one in the hrst story [called "Intervention"], "is not a word of which I am particularly tond." In another story, Barbara remembers that when her ex-husband called to tell her that their daughter Megan committed suicide in his garage, she had to stop herself from correcting him: not /IMHO but hanged.) So Viv battles the depression and distraction endemic to the Sunshine Room and her own regretful nostalgic memories of more focused attention to books, when she was a star student at Smith College; she soldiers on through the fine points of Mrs. Dalloway. But Betsy Croninger says the phrase "the hour irrevocable" makes her think of the word cancer, then plaintively observes that she would rather not die. Stalwart, formal Mrs. William Lowell continues to insist that Virginia WoolPs novel is "intentionally confusing": she prefers a good story, she says, and wants them all to read Pride and Prejudice next. The women agree. But Mrs. Lowell dies before the next meeting, and the group misses what, "given her own pedigree," she would have said about Darcy and Elizabeth and their social problems ("there was a First Lady in her background"). And as they think of her, Mrs. Lowell is suddenly vivid to them, or rather her former self is-"a spry Mrs. Lowell in pearls and mules, carrying the conversation as she no doubt once carried the conversation at dinner parties. I like a good story,' she would offer. A beginning, a middle, and an end.'"

You gather the beginnings and middles of these women's stories from painfully sharp shards: Gay Burt terrified in the closet on her wedding night, group excursions with daughters, a collective recollected pang for the sexy nameless real estate man who is "our common "past encounter. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Review: Our Kind, a Novel in Stories


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.