Celebrating Barbara Delinsky’s Birthday

Barbara Delinsky

Barbara Delinsky is one of my favorite writers.  Her birthday was yesterday.  Sixteen of her books are on my shelves.  I’ve loved every one and have read several more than once.  Her characters credibly move through the stages of surviving, thriving, and finding joy.

Her life is rich with experiences that I believe have informed her writing.  I was amused to learn that she got kicked out of high school Honors English and that her first pen name was Bonnie Drake.

When she was eight years old, her mother died of breast cancer.  Barbara has survived breast cancer and funds a cancer research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard’s teaching hospital) with the proceeds from her book of practical advice from breast cancer survivorsUplift:  Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors.

She earned a BA in Psychology from Tufts University and an MA in Sociology from Boston University. She worked for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cuelty to Children and for the Belmont Herald.  She is married to an attorney and is the mother three boys including a set of twins.  She claims her writing career was a “fluke” and explains her niche:

I write about the emotional crises that we face in our lives. Readers identify with my characters. They know them. They are them. I’m an everyday woman writing about everyday people facing not-so-everyday challenges.

My novels are character-driven studies of marriage, parenthood, sibling rivalry, and friendship, and I’ve been blessed in having readers who buy them eagerly enough to put them on the major bestseller lists.

A Woman’s Place became a Lifetime movie.  Claire Raphael leverages her hobby of refurbishing furniture into a highly profitable enterprise called WickerWise.  As her star ascends, her husband Dennis’ career as a venture capitalist fails.  He becomes Mr. Mom, but she still finds herself doing the laundry and making dinner:

Respect?  That’s it.  The problem is respect.  Men choke when it comes to giving it to a woman, because maybe, just maybe, it means she’s stronger than he is, and that is so threatening he can’t bear it, but it’s the truth.  Women are stronger.  We create and construct and accommodate, and look at the world with wider eyes than men do.  We keep trying harder, because it isn’t an ego thing for us.  It’s survival.  And necessity.  And good common sense.  Good God, it’s amazing, men have always let me down.

Where is her rock?

Dennis blamed Claire for his failures and had an affair with his boss’ wife.  In every career woman’s worst nightmare, Dennis successfully gets custody of their kids and sues for alimony.  Ms. Delinsky artfully nails the experience of litigation abuse as well as judicial misconduct and the misogynistic attitude that “a woman’s place” is in the home barefoot and pregnant.   I loved the book because Claire’s no victim.  She’s very pragmatic.

A Woman Betrayed is an authentic examination of complex family dysfunctions lurking behind the closed doors of many picture-perfect houses.  Jeff Frye, a CPA engaging in tax fraud, disappears suddenly with his Porsche and leaves his wife Laura, a successful restaurant owner and caterer, to clean up his mess.  Laura took the mommy track while her best friend Daphne Phillips, a criminal attorney, took the career path.  Laura’s mother Maddie, a university professor, is domineering, narcissistic, and uber-critical.

Laura quickly discovers that the IRS considers people guilty until they prove themselves innocent.  They could seize her assets without going to court.  How will she keep her restaurant afloat?  She turns to Jeff’s partner David, who sexually harasses her.  Gradually, Laura discovers her predictable, boring husband had lots of secrets:

While she’d been raising the kids, keeping the house, and building a business to supplement Jeff’s income, he had been having affairs in a condo he’d bought on the sly. . .she was violently sick.

The betrayals mount and the intrigue builds to a stunning conclusion.

Flirting with Pete is an intriguing look at the manifestation of child abuse in all its guises.  I believe it is Ms. Delinsky’s most brilliant book.  I loved the way she wove together the complex lives of people who have no clue to how closely they are all connected:

Jordan was a strong man. . .Yet his father had the power to make him grow silent, evade questions, be defensive. . .[Casey] was still there, wanting her parents’ approval. . .making them proud.  Parents held a remarkable power over their children. . .They received messages from their parents from the moment of birth. . .deeply etched on the psyche as hair, eyes, and height in the genes. 

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