Life and Other Shortcomings is a collection oftwelve engaging, honest, and compelling short stories about womanhood; featuring relatable and well observed characters that leave one feeling as if they’ve met them before. The stories are set in New York, New Orleans, and Madrid and they span across time from the 1970s to the present.
The first story, “Dinner Conversation,” introduces the three couples central to many of the narratives. Their quick and clever repartee, psychological sparring, and precarious relationships – both marital and platonic – establish the tone for the collection and set the stage for Adjmi’s exploration of what lies beneath the tidy façade of women’s complex lives.
And complex they are – some of the stories, such as “Happily Ever After,” and “The Devil Makes Three,” follow these finely drawn women as they discover novel ways to address their dire circumstances, while others explore friendship, interpersonal connections, and relationship struggles with sensitivity and poignancy. Among the women of these stories are dutiful housewives, devoutly religious women, women struggling with illness, insecure teenagers, and many other colorful characters. But, often, their struggles overlap – facing the internal and external standards set for them and questioning their worth, their choices, and their place in society. Pop culture references peppered throughout – including nostalgic callbacks to Dr. Scholl’s sandals, Swanson’s Frozen Dinners, Star Trek, and The Brady Bunch – only add to the realism and heart of the book.
Overall, these twelve stories are full of drama, parable-like lessons, humor, descriptive language, and insight, and they make for a very enjoyable read. Adjmi subtlety, but so perceptively, unfolds the characters’ private lives, foibles, fears, hopes, and dreams, zeroing in on how a single experience or event can change a life.
Renita Last is a member of the Nassau Region of Hadassah’s Executive Board. She has coordinated the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Programming and Health Coordinators and as a member of the Advocacy Committee.
She has volunteered as a docent at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County teaching the all- important lessons of the Holocaust and tolerance. A retired teacher of the Gifted and Talented, she loves participating in book clubs and writing projects.