Jun 2, 2010

The Totaled Woman: True Slices of Life from a Mother of Five

Last week, a publisher friend of mine sent me a "mommy book" and asked if I could review it. Never one to turn down the chance for a free book, I agreed.

The name of the book is The Totaled Woman: True Slices of Life from a Mother of Five. It is a collection of short autobiographical domestic anecdotes written by Marcia Veldhuis, a former English teacher who now directs The English Academy. The book was published by VMI Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, in 2009.

First impressions

When I first received the book, I was excited to start reading it. The cover page was very attractive with a colorful, whimsical, and heartwarming design that promised laughter, domestic misadventures, and wholesome fun, with a liberal sprinkling of not-too-preachy morals.

And fun, colorful, moral-sprinkled, and whimsical it was. Ms. Veldhuis is one of those women gifted with the ability to view with a humor-lit eye each mishap, fiasco, and catastrophe that befalls her family, and she was able to transfer her laughter-filled view effectively on paper for her readers to enjoy. What's more, at the end of many stories, Ms. Veldhuis shared very thoughtful insights that would make any reader stop, ponder, and come away a little wiser than when he or she began reading.

Indeed, this book would have been a very good read had it not lacked one crucial thing that every good book should have:  thorough, detailed, merciless editing.

One missing (or half-taken) step

For instance, several times in the book, especially at the beginning, the author seemed to forget that we, the readers, are as yet strangers to her family. Names were mentioned without any introduction as to who they were, leaving us to play detective and distracting us from the story itself.

The chronology of the anecdotes, too, were somewhat haphazard. One story would have the kids at a very young age, then suddenly shift to them being young adults, then teenagers; and the reader is left with a story in his/her head that jumps and skips and hops from one frame to another instead of scrolling smoothly in an organized sequence.

Finally, there was the punctuation. Never before have I seen a nonpoetry book with so many ellipses, and they weren't even in direct quotations.

Good material; could be better

So would I recommend The Totaled Woman? To be honest, not yet -- not in its current edition.

But since the ingredients of a good book do seem to be there, I would definitely look forward to a second edition of this book -- one that has been reedited and revised accordingly, for good flow and consistency.

In other words, while I think that The Totaled Woman has good material, I am yearning for a version of it that has been more finely "carved, etched, and polished," so to speak. That way, we the readers will not feel somewhat shortchanged on what could have been a pretty good deal.

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