Cover Image: Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket

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Member Reviews

Terrific title I was drawn right in to the title story and each story after.Loved this collection so real so well written.Will be recommending this and her other books .#netgalley #bloomsburybooks
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I enjoyed this collection of short stories immensely. I think that it is the perfect collection if you want a little bit of everything. I tend to struggle with some stories as my attention span isn't always the best, but I did not have that problem with this book. I thought that it was emotional riveting as well as thought provoking, and the details alone transported you to many different places throughout the duration of the stories. By the first page I became excited and fully immersed into this world created by the author. I thought there was a great balance of enough details so you were able to understand, while there was also a good mixture of opportunity to be able to sort of fill in the blanks with your imagination. I also think the title and the cover art is absolutely brilliant, and so incredibly aesthetically pleasing as well. I loved all of the stories, and thought that they all served a greater purpose to the collection as a whole which is something that I find to be rare when it comes to most short stories. Overall, I cannot recommend this enough and I am so thankful I was able to read it. I fully plan on getting my own physical copy so I do not have to part with it.
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𝘽𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙣𝙤 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙩𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙢𝙚 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙢𝙮 𝙤𝙬𝙣 𝙗𝙖𝙙 𝙙𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨, 𝙣𝙤 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙙 𝙢𝙚 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝙨𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙨.

Old stories don’t really exist, not when it comes to human relationships, responsibilities, the load we carry simply by being alive. The space we inhabit whether we’ve abandoned someone or are a fixture in the landscape of their lives has a heartbeat, a life of its very own. Some things never change, some aches are timeless, universal. We can go mad in a supermarket or feel empathy for someone who does, so many of us have been there, or will be. What makes Hilma Wolitzer a ‘masterful writer’ is her eye for all our little lives, pulsing into the universe with banal thoughts- we all have them. No one escapes the stress of not being good enough, of having to keep your head up and keep on moving despite the burdens of our responsibilities. We all have longings we cast out into the world, even a child who has grown up fatherless and envies all those other selfish girls who get to sit next to real fathers at the movies. Life is unfair, we all know it! Yet, there is strength and heart in the home with her mother and grandmother’s support, holding up her universe. There are variations of family, then as now.

Like the witness to the supermarket madness, sometimes we just can’t do anything but fill our role as spectator. “Of course, I’m too sophisticated in things psychological (isn’t everyone today?) to think that one goes mad at a moment’s notice. There are insipid beginnings to a nervous breakdown.” It’s the collection of failures, pressures, disappointments, wounds, that make one lose heart or mind. Written in the past (60’s-70’s and currently as well), how often were women and their little ‘episodes’ minimized, leaving them to feel ridiculous? I’m fine, everything is swell, don’t mind the tears! If there are great mysteries to solve, in being a human, no one has done it yet. Each life is large to the person living it out.

Here the theme is domestic life, plans that stretch into a million tomorrows, pregnancy, partnership, and like giving birth how we have to learn to ‘just breathe’ through it all. Where do our dreams go, some so small we can keep them in our pocket? How do we protect our marriage from threats, interlopers? How do we measure happiness, what does it look like when you have children and not a moment of solitude to ponder it? Isn’t it good to know we are all restless, how else would we find the energy to show up every single day? Too, we drag our childhoods behind us, people growing up and learning to ‘get used to the ironies of life’. Learning not just how to love, but to accept love and likely screwing things up.

We all are tormented by the ‘minds mutterings’, hearts will be broken and mend, no one we love is a blank slate anymore than we ourselves are. Through insomnia, outside threats (even sex maniacs on the loose), ex-wives, an evil virus, death, grief, rotten childhoods and the bodies we occupy- these are stories most anyone can relate to. Maybe our lives aren’t all great fodder for Hollywood movies, but it’s ours with all its mess and glory. Nothing spectacular has to happen, the reward is in connecting. It truly is, in the end, all the little things that make up a life. How we betray our hearts and each other, what we do with our pain, how we can still be happy despite knowing the worst. Time allows for so much forgiveness, and maybe time itself is the nourishment so many marriages require. The final story is a last breath, and tender. Yes, read it- this an intelligent collection.

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Bloomsbury USA
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I am writing early about Hilma Wolitzer’s charming new collection of short stories, "Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket.," which will be published next month. Why? I am bursting with enthusiasm over “The Great Escape,” the last story in the collection, a poignant, witty masterpiece about Covid-19. The other stories appeared in magazines in the ’60s, ’70’s, and ’80s, and I love the wry voices of the women. In the early days of Second Wave feminism, her characters cope with domestic overload, accidental pregnancies, touring model homes in suburbs (and making fun of them), worrying about a “sex maniac” loose in the apartment complex, and witnessing a woman who has gone mad in the supermarket. The stories are light, simple and graceful, fast reads, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

But “The Great Escape” is on a higher level, truly a great work of literature. I am sure there are many Covid stories now, but this is the first I’ve read, and it is exquisite and breathtaking. The narrator, Paulie, and her sexy husband Howard, whom we have met in previous stories, have grown old: they are now in their nineties. They pop pills, squabble, and watch the news on TV, but are satisfied with their lives. Paulie, though annoyed by the loss of her curvy figure and grieving the devastation of Howard’s looks, is spirited and funny about old age.

"We’d both become relief maps of keratoses, skin tags, and suspicious-looking moles. 'What’s this thing on my back, Paulie?'' Howard would say, yanking up his shirt while I searched for my reading glasses.   'It’s nothing,'  I’d tell him. 'I have a million of those.'  Cheerleader and competitor at once."

And here’s another:

"There were running death jokes in our family. My father, driving past a cemetery: 'Everybody’s dying to get in.' My mother: 'Death must be great—nobody ever comes back.' Howard’s mother: 'When one of us dies, I’m going to Florida.' That would have been funny except that she actually meant it. Now, none of them was laughing or ever coming back."

Then one day their anxious daughter calls to warn them about the novel coronavirus, which, as far as Paulie can tell, is only happening in a nursing home in Washington. Eventually, Paulie and Howard are housebound in New York, wearing their “disguises” (surgical masks and vinyl gloves) on the rare exoduses from their apartment. There is a hilarious segment when Paulie’s book club attempts to meet on Zoom. Nobody can find the mute button, or the unmute button, and they are suddenly disconnected – after Paulie has actually raised her hand to talk.

And then someone catches Covid. Everything you have imagined or experienced, including separation from loved ones, is documented in great detail and with an admirable lack of sentimentality. And yet while the plague rages, dysfunctional they may be, history holds them together.

By the way, Elizabeth Strout wrote the preface to this wonderful collection. Though England entertains us with Diary of a Provincial Lady, we have the witty Hilma Wolitzer.
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I was drawn to this book because of the title.  Who hasn’t broken down in the grocery store?!  It was a nice collection of short stories and I enjoyed reading them very much.  I can’t believe I’d never heard of Hilma Wolitzer before.  I’m glad to have found her.
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How have I gotten through life without having heard of Hilma Wolitzer? The stories in Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket are so delicious! I laughed even when I guiltily recognized the truthful honesty behind these stories which first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, and literary magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

When I found the title story online, shared by The Saturday Evening Post on their website and first published in the magazine in 1966, I knew I had to read more. A woman has a nervous breakdown in the grocery store, her son clinging to her skirts, her purse empty, while the pregnant narrator tries to help her. “You can’t mother the whole world,” her husband consoles his sorrowing wife. Oh, how many times have we seen a crisis and felt powerless? But where better to lose it than food shopping? Woman carry so much, especially in 1966, the family needing to be feed and the house cleaned and the dog walked and so on and so on. It’s enough to crush any woman’s spirit. The relentless need and the never ending futility of it all.

The story of Paulette and Howard is told through the stories: their shotgun wedding, the struggles of marriage, depression and anxiety, in-laws and kids, and finally, old age in the pandemic and the losses it inflicts.

The last story, The Great Escape, opens with Paulie watching Howard sleeping, reminiscing of the days when she would wake him up for a quickie before the kids woke up. Now, she checks to see if he is still breathing. It is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once.

She captures the routine of old age, their days reduced to the same endless routine, “as if it would all go one forever in that exquisitely boring and beautiful way.”

The kids order them to stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer and to fill the freezer, the book club switched to Zoom meetings (as did the bar mitzvah), hair cuts are skipped, and masks and gloves became a part of their wardrobe.

It is like the story of my 2020 life, down to the Zoomed bar mitzvah attendance!

In the Foreword by Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, My Name is Lucy Barton), she writes that Wolitzer “is largehearted in her work, judging no none.” And I loved that about these stories. Like Strout’s characters, Wolitzer writes about ordinary people, with great honesty and sympathy and insight. I loved these women and I loved these stories. Wolitzer’s brilliant writing is not to be missed.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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Not really a collection for my personal tastes but I did love the title and some of stories. Others were less consistent. Just okay, but not great.
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The writing was good, but I didn't really enjoy many of the short stories in this collection. A lot of the stories are interlinked, I wish I would've known that going in. After a while, I got sick and tired of hearing about Howard, Howard, Howard! Ugh. The title story was probably the best, but way too short. 

Thank you, Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the digital ARC.
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I knew this was a collection of stories going in, but not much else. After reading through several of the stories I realized this is not the collection for my taste. No negative thoughts really, just didn't match well.
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As a woman who constantly goes mad the supermarket I had to read this.  This book is a collection of incredibly insightful stories.  I found them to be absolutely astounding.
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