November 10, 2017

oversharingNothing has aggravated my writerly sensibilities as much as a recent review in the Atlantic that bashed writer Joyce Maynard for being the “Queen of Oversharing.” Except maybe those critics who bashed her for writing about JD Salinger, a man who had a totally inappropriate relationship with her when she was still a teenager– and an abusive relationship at that. “Jerry” wanted his privacy, they wrote. How dare this girl invade that. 

In the era of Harvey Weinstein perhaps those critics have a different view. Or not. Because this is just part and parcel of what women must contend with. Not remaining in our place. “Oversharing.” These are charges men do not face.

I thought we were further along than that, but the truth has come out. We’re not. We have only to look at the man in the Oval to realize  how much has lurked beneath the surface all these years but is now out in the light of day.

Which brings me to Joyce Maynard’s recent memoir, The Best of Us It tells the story of her finding love at 60 and soon learning that her beloved new husband has pancreatic cancer. The story of their relationship and the progress of his disease–ending with his death– is the meat of this excellent memoir.

What made that Atlantic critic so giddy with judgment was that Maynard opens her kimono fully in this memoir. She reveals herself, flaws and all. And that makes some people uncomfortable. “Oversharing,” they call it.  Well, hold on one minute.

Going there is required

Any writer who has attempted a memoir with any seriousness at all (including me) understands that they are expected to go to all the places they don’t want to revisit and reveal the things that don’t show them–or others– in the best light. My unwillingness to do that has stopped me short in telling my own story. But as my writing coach told me time and time again, revealing those all-too-human frailties and most embarrassing moments is a requirement of a good memoir.

Readers relate to an author’s flaws. Oh sure, readers may judge, but a writer has to be willing to show her own mistakes (leading, we hope, to redemption) to draw the reader through the story.

Memoir in the hands of a talented writer like Maynard goes deep and unflattering. Where I wouldn’t go. But the tension in the story, the cruel and brutal truth of it, those cringe-worthy moments, give it life.  I loved this memoir. I loved its honesty. I loved the writing. I loved everything about it.

Like Maynard, I live in the San Francisco Bay area. I’d heard the story of the two African daughters she’d adopted and then given to another couple. I’d read and heard all the judgment about that.  But I’d never heard Maynard tell the story. She holds nothing back in this memoir. Because she didn’t, the reader got more insight into her character and frankly, I think what she did was understandable in that context. More so than the gossip I’d heard.

The Atlantic critic seemed to feel that her time of penance for placing those girls in a better family was too short. That she had no right to fall in love and have fun just six months after placing those children in a better home. 

Oh, the judgment by those who will never walk in her high heels. Pissed me off. That reviewer may think Maynard an unlikeable narrator. I beg to differ.

“I have come to live out loud.”

Maynard lives life out loud and that seemed to aggravate the reviewer. Somehow, only women are criticized for that, I’ve noticed.

She’s impulsive. And a little reckless. Some of her decisions may well have been questionable to those of us not living her life. Yet, when push came to shove what she did for her husband as his tireless advocate was more than what many would do in her situation. I admire her for it. And I admire her honesty. Not to mention her writing skills. I mean, she is a really good writer.

What the Atlantic critic fails to acknowledge is that relationship, that marriage and the more than a year spent as her husband’s health advocate and support person as he battled one of the most deadly cancers, THAT was Maynard’s path to redemption.

And so when I think of her, I think of that quote in the image at the top of this page. Only through our flaws do we grow. By the end of her book, I saw that Maynard had grown.

I like happy endings. Which is why I don’t read many stories about people who get sick and die. I’ve lived through some of this with my own loved ones and don’t like to revisit it, even in someone else’s book.

Bu Maynard’s book is different. She’s a skillful writer and an honest one. I have to say it’s the best book I’ve read all year and I want to recommend you buy it, read it and give it as a gift.

You can find The Best of Us on Amazon as well as other places. I hope you’ll read it and yes that is an affiliate link.   And here’s a link to a NYTimes essay she wrote about the backlash she faced because she wrote about her Salinger days.  Certainly looks different in these days of revelation

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30 comments on “Oversharing
  1. Pat says:

    Well said. I love anything that Maynard writes and I can’t wait to read The Best of Us.

  2. Andrea says:

    I can’t say that I’ve ever read this book – it could turn out to be very interesting…..

  3. Cole Nemeth says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book! It sounds really interesting.

  4. Diane says:

    Another book for my bedside table. And another woman on my list of heros!

  5. I am definitely an oversharer, but because of sharing I feel a lot of the things that hurt me in the past have healed and I am better for it. If we didn’t keep things in the dark more people would be held accountable for their actions and we are just starting to see that come about, hopefully. This book sounds really good, a memoir that doesn’t hold back is my favorite type.

  6. Beth Havey says:

    I have now and again followed Maynard’s career and admired her writing, her perseverance. There is NO DOUBT that she is talented. Wrote the screenplay for a Kate Winslet film about 3 years ago–LABOR DAY. Any writer has the right to communicate her experience. OVERSHARING sounds like an off shoot of Facebook. I’m beginning to hate the word SHARE and often avoid it. Maynard wrote a memoir, a creative work using the creative process.Let her be.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I’m almost the opposite. I end up keeping a lot inside and keeping to myself. Sometimes it saves heartache, other times it causes it. I’ve been trying to learn to keep a good balance between the two.

  8. Kelly Reci says:

    Oversharing is really not bad at all. It takes strength and courage for us to tell what we really want to tell. Unfortunately, some people nowadays are very judgemental the way that they really never knew what others people going through. Anyway, I really can’t wait for this book. It is really inspiring.

  9. Jen Temcio says:

    I LOVED Joyce Maynar’s old memoir and did not even know a new one was out!! I really like her a LOT and over sharing?? Who is to judge what is over shared or shared just the right amount. There is no person to make that judgement other than Joyce herself.

  10. eLIZABETH O says:

    Yes!! Oversharing is not bad at all. Sharing what we feel, what we eat, what are problems or what we feel is Ok! But we have to limit our share, not all can be shared. Especially the personal problems and private problems. By the way, I am looking forward to reading this book.

  11. Angela Cardamone @marathonsandmotivation.com says:

    This is a great post! I am really looking forward to reading this book!!

  12. We are now in 2017 yet some, women included, find fault in us being us. Just maybe Ms. Maynard needed that closure. Maybe other women needed to read her story because the whole damn world seems to forget that for women to stand equal the best have to let the rest know it is O.k. to stand up for themselves and if necessary against the takers of this male dominated world. At 16 I was manipulated and raped. Someday those in the blogosphere will read about it, although I am not brave, so I thank Ms. Maynard for her candid story.

  13. This book looks like a good read. I haven’t heard of this author before but it sounds like she’s a good author. I like story that captivate the readers.

  14. I am definitely intrigued and want to read this book now.It does take confidence to share things that are uncomfortable this is what I am learning myself too!

  15. Jake Ferrer says:

    Getting curious about The Best of Us. It sounds interesting. I should read this soon. Thanks for sharing!

  16. beautiful words of wisdom you have shared. They are so impacting for those going through life journeys

  17. Debby says:

    I have to confess that I knew nothing about this subject matter but you did a beautiful job bringing me up to speed. Of course, writers are oversharers, that’s what makes reading so interesting. We often find a bit of ourselves in others.

  18. There is far too much ‘giddy with judgement’ going around these days by people that have no idea what it is to walk in another’s shoes or what is in someone’s heart.
    When we judge others I feel strongly that it brings us the worst kind of karma.
    Great review Carol, I’m looking forward to reading this book. I’ve been nervous about it because of our son’s pancreatic cancer.

  19. Ritu says:

    What a wonderful post!! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
    Have a great week <3

  20. With winter approaching I need book recommendations. I will have to check this out.

  21. Krysti says:

    Really enjoyed reading this and I certainly would love to get my hands on The Best of Us!

  22. I haven’t read it but it sounds compelling. I agree we should let it all hang out because that makes us human and much more interesting.

  23. Adaleta says:

    It can be so easy to overshare, I would really like to read that book! So cool, thats for the review!

  24. Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    I have not read the book but I sure will! I don’t think it should be called oversharing. When a writer opens up a part of her life, shows her vulnerability, that I think is a very courageous act, and should be admired, not wrongly judged.

  25. Our Family World says:

    I have not read any book by Joyce Maynard yet, but I think I found a new author of books that I will definitely enjoy reading. Sometimes it just makes me upset that some people can be so quick to judge! What is wrong with these people? And to come up with a new word for it – oversharing? OMG. For me, there is no such thing as oversharing. It is being honest. It is being in touch with your feelings, With reality. What really exists is over-judgment.

  26. jill conyers says:

    I imagine writing a memoir could easily become giving more than you anticipated.

  27. Glenda K. says:

    I love reading books that people feel comfortable opening up. It sucks that in 2017 women are still being attack for speaking out.

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