Monday, March 23, 2009

Willing Spirits by Phyllis Schieber

After participating in the Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tour for Phyllis Schieber's The Sinner's Guide to Confession (you can read my review here) and really enjoying the book and her writing style, I knew I had to be part of the tour for Schieber's Willing Spirits.

Willing Spirits opens with Jane Hoffman, a forty-something teacher, catching her husband in bed with a girl not much older than their college-age daughter. She realizes she's had enough and was never really happy with Arnold, and she decides a divorce is in order. Jane immediately turns to her long-time best friend, Gwen Baker, for comfort. Gwen has problems of her own, though, as her married lover decides he's finally ready to leave his wife.

Gwen and Jane have been there for each other since they met, and they are so close that it's almost as though they don't need anyone else.

Women comfort each other with touch that is meant to heal, rather than to excite. The mysteries of love are less complex between women. The hidden passages are easier to negotiate. And the dangers do not seem as great as when the same journey is taken with a man. Around each dank and frightening corner, women hold out their hands to each other and form a human chain that is, quite simply, spiritually different. The lucky ones find men who (and it is a deep and well-kept secret between women) are more like women. (pages 50-51)
Schieber brilliantly shows the complexity of female relationships. Both women had difficult relationships with their mothers, and Jane doesn't really get along with her sister. Schieber also does a good job showing how women often can't make up their minds when it comes to men (Gwen wants Daniel around because she doesn't want to be alone, but at the same time doesn't like seeing his stuff all over her house). Both Jane and Gwen are moms, and I could really relate to some of the passages about motherhood.

Some secrets were meant to be shared. But now it was her children and their secrets that frightened her. The subterfuge they must have already been a part of. The tacit pledges they had sworn to strangers. She did not want to know. And she did. That made her too much like her own mother. The sameness frightened her. (pages 157-158)
I think Schieber's writing is beautiful. Her characters are well-developed and interesting, and while I didn't think there was a major conflict or plot point that carried the book from beginning to end, I enjoyed watching Jane and Gwen deal with the tensions in their roles as mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, and friends. I recommend Willing Spirits for readers who enjoy character-driven novels about women and their numerous, complex relationships.

About Willing Spirits:

Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker, both teachers and in their forties, have a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other.

Now, as each is tested by personal crisis, Jane and Gwen face new challenges—as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship—and themselves.

About Author Phyllis Schieber:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – Free books will be awarded during the tour.
Each comment on any of the blogs in the tour will offer a chance to win a free copy of Willing Spirits or The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. A couple of people who make a real impression on Phyllis during the tour will be chosen to win a free book. We’ll see you on the virtual blog tour trail.

For full details about Phyllis Schieber’s virtual tour, visit her tour home page here.

Order Your Copy here –
Penguin Publishers

You can visit Phyllis Schieber here.


Willing Spirits also was reviewed by:

Peeking Between the Pages
S. Krishna's Books
Ramya's Bookshelf
Book Addiction
Confessions of a Real Librarian

If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Willing Spirits from the publisher for review purposes.


Sandy Nawrot said...

There is nothing quite as complex as relationships between women. They can be vicious, or stronger than any marriage. I know when I have issues, there is nothing more powerful than the support of the "sisterhood"!!

bermudaonion said...

This one sounds really interesting to me. I love to read about women's relationships.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Good morning, Anna! Thank you again for a well written and insightful review. I appreciate your perspective and your thoughts. I am so glad that the work resonated for you!

Sandy: I couldn't agree with you more--the "sisterhood" is powerful. I love my friends. They sustain me.

bermudaonion: There you are! I can't wait to hear your thoughts after you read WILLING SPIRITS.

Serena said...

this sounds like an interesting premise for a book, but I'm not sure that I would want to read this one after our discussions.

I really adored Sinner's Guide!

Serena said...

Let me clarify...I prefer books with overarching plot catalysts...not so much "little" struggles by characters...I guess I want something the ties the whole novel together a bit more than this one seems to have.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Oh, Serena! Take a chance! The novel is "tied together" by the bond of the friendship between Gwen and Jane. I think if you loved THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION, you will love WILLING SPIRITS even more!

Julie P. said...

Everyone seem to love this book! And I'm really impressed with how Ms. Schieber responds to all the comments! I'm going to have to check this one out!

Anonymous said...

So glad that you enjoyed the book. I haven't heard of it before now.

Blodeuedd said...

Interesting, I have to look it up at amazon :)

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Great review Anna. You have me intrigued. I love character driven relationship books.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Julie: You're so sweet to think it's nice of me to respond to all the comments! I think it's wonderful that all of you take the time to comment on the reviews!

Stephanie:Well,now that you've heard of it, rush out and buy it!

Blodeudd: Yes, please do, and then write to me and tell me what you think!

Nicole: I'm with you! I love character driven books. They're so much more intriguing. I hope you will read WILLING SPIRITS!

Darlene said...

Wonderful review Anna. I'll be doing this one this week. I really enjoyed it, so much so that I have her first book on it's way to me as we speak. That first quote sure is popular. lol.

Anonymous said...

Great review, Anna. I am touring this one too, my day is the 31st (I think, lol, I already have the post scheduled) and I also really enjoyed Willing Spirits. Schieber is a great writer, I hope we see more from her in the future.

Unknown said...

I love reading about close friendships between women, especially now that my best friend has moved all the way across the country. Phone calls and emails aren't the same as spending the day together chatting and laughing!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Dar: Thanks for the support. It mean a great deal to me. And I'm thrilled that you will be reading THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION. I look forward to your thoughts on it.

heatherlo: I'm so flattered by your comment. Thank you. I'm working on a new novel and have ideas for two more, so I hope that you will be seeing more of my work in the future.

Janrl: I know how you feel. One of my dear friends moved back to LA, and I miss her. Even though we talk and email It's not the same as face-to- face!

Anonymous said...

I just read this book and reviewed it last week as well as part of the tour.. I enjoyed it as well!:)

Anna said...

~Sandy: So true!

~Bermudaonion: I hope you get a chance to read it soon. I think you'd enjoy it.

~Phyllis: I'm glad you liked the review. Thanks for stopping by to respond to comments.

~Serena: I think you'd enjoy the book anyway. Even with a major plot catalyst, the characters and the story was very interesting.

~Julie: I hope you get a chance to read it. I think you'd like it, too.

~Stephanie: I hadn't heard of it until The Sinner's Guide tour, but I hope this tour is helping spread the word.

~Blodeuedd: Let me know if you read the book. I'd love to know what you think.

~Nicole: Thanks! I really enjoy character-driven stories, too.

~Dar: Thanks! I really hope you enjoy The Sinner's Guide.

~Heather: Thanks! I'll keep an eye out for your review!

~Janel: I hear you. One of my dear friends and my sister both live 8 hours from me! :(

~Ramya: I'll have to check out your review. My computer issues mean I'm really behind in Google Reader, but I'll eventually get there.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Welcome Ruth! I hope you will read WILLING SPIRITS and let me know what you think!