Bookin' It

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The Manicurist by Phyllis Schieber


My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

I really wanted to love this book. Really. Phyllis Schieber’s short story in The Firefly Dance touched me, and I immediately downloaded The Manicurist in order to enjoy more of her work. The sad part is, I didn’t actually enjoy the book at all. It is a very dark, disturbing, and yet somehow rather boring, account of a wife and mother struggling to overcome (or at least make sense of) her past. As the child of a woman with severe bi-polar disorder, she was often caught up in a role reversal situation where she took care of her mother more than her mother took care of her. And then her mother disappears, and she’s left to be raised by her grandmother. All of this sets the stage for her own emotionally stunted and often cruel behavior as a mother and wife.

Let me make it clear that I usually enjoy character-driven, introspective books that study the Human Condition. Usually. But not so much this time.

To me, the strongest parts of the book were the very vivid descriptions of her mother’s erratic, manic-depressive behavior. The weakest parts were just about everything else. The characters mostly lacked any real substance, and what substance they did have wasn’t pleasant. I wanted to smack Tessa right over the head and tell her to quit her moaning and groaning, grow up, and learn to love and appreciate her own husband and daughter. She never seemed to see she had been given a chance to have a good life, in spite of her rocky beginnings. And she spent inordinate amounts of time reliving every miserable second of her past life, but learning nothing from it.

It could be just me . . . the book received more than just a few 4 and 5 star reviews . . . but when I turned the last page, it was with a sense of relief that the whole thing was finally over. Would I read another Schieber book? Probably. I liked her writing style enough to be interested in seeing what else she can do. But it would definitely depend on the subject matter. I have no desire to read anything else quite this dark, especially since I didn’t get any feeling of overall redemption at the end. Mostly, I just wanted to grab the funniest book in my To Be Read basket and throw myself into it, feet first. Maybe  a re-read of  Terry Pratchett’s The Wee, Free Men. I could use a few Nac Mac Feegles right about now.

The Manicurist

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2 thoughts on “The Manicurist by Phyllis Schieber

  1. Felix on said:

    I like your write up, your choice of words.
    “her own emotionally stunted and often cruel behavior as a mother and wife.”
    I really like your description. Especially as a former Social Worker and student of Human Behavior. The Tittle itself its a turn off for most man. Too feminine. So the audience for this book is rally for Women.


    • It is definitely a woman’s book, Felix, though I’m sure there are some men (confident enough in their own masculinity, of course) who would enjoy it. Thanks for your kind comments on my reviewing style. I hate to give a negative one, for sure, but this book had so much promise, and yet fell flat to me. It makes me sad for the writer, now that I know just how hard it is. I wanted the book to be a good study in behavior, as you mention, but it was ultimately very unfulfilling, and even by the end, I didn’t sense any real growth in the characters.

      Good to see you posting today. I love it when you stop by here!


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