(Ex­tra)or­di­nary Women: Ten In­spi­ra­tional Sto­ries

Kristin Bart­zokis

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Ki­cam Projects (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $12.95 (216pp) 978-0-9991581-4-2

Kristin Bart­zokis’s (Ex­tra)or­di­nary Women fea­tures ten con­tem­po­rary sto­ries of women who’ve been through hell and back. The hard­ships they en­dured are re­lated with their first­hand in­put and a steady au­tho­rial tone.

Each chap­ter is de­voted to one woman, and goes over the tough in­ci­dents they faced and fought through; these in­clude grief, bomb­ings, se­vere health is­sues, sub­stance abuse, and home­less­ness. They sur­vive hard­ships in­clud­ing guerilla at­tacks in 1940s Greece and drug ad­dic­tion in mod­ern-day Illi­nois. Many sto­ries have a health fo­cus, and re­lated med­i­cal is­sues are of­ten de­fined and ex­panded upon.

The sto­ries mostly fol­low the same nar­ra­tive for­mula, and the in­spi­ra­tional fac­tor ty­ing them all to­gether is that their sub­jects are sur­vivors. Sto­ries are en­hanced with quotes from their sub­jects, giv­ing the book a true qual­ity of in­ti­macy, like the feel­ing that arises in a sup­port group when oth­ers take the time to lis­ten to a per­son’s long, dif­fi­cult story.

Still, there is a same­ness to how the sto­ries are told that leads to some nar­ra­tive dis­tance, and at points the book can read like a cat­a­log of woe. A pas­sive tone re­duces many of the women to the things that hap­pened to them, sim­pli­fy­ing them ac­cord­ing to the virtues, from strength to re­silience, that they gained through their ex­pe­ri­ences. Con­tex­tual asides pull fo­cus away from the sto­ries, while sum­maries are given pref­er­ence over scenes, so that even shock­ing events don’t have much ur­gency. Here, the sharp bits seem to have been tum­bled smooth with time and re­peated retellings.

These are true, emo­tional sto­ries of per­se­ver­ance. The re­mark­able women pro­filed sur­vived in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult times, and their life sto­ries are re­told with com­pas­sion. MERED­ITH GRAHL COUNTS

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