The Night of the Weeping Women

The Night of the Weeping Women is my first novel. It came out in 1988. Morgan Entrekin bought it for Atlantic Monthly Press. It’s about a woman I knew a long time ago. I don’t know what she thought when she read it, except someone told me she said something like, It was confusing, because after awhile I had to think if something he wrote actually happened, or if it was made up, they all got mixed together. I bet it was. Imagine reading a book about a life except it’s worse than it really was, and funnier and crazier than it really was, but mostly everything kind of, sort of, happened. Somehow the book resonated with psychoanalysts because I got letters from them telling me they were using the book in their practice, giving it to certain of their women clients because they thought it would help them. I am guessing they meant, help them see themselves as “daughter of messed up father who, when, too young and too full of hope, marry a man who later turns out to betray her just like her father did,” because that’s what the book is about.

Here’s an excerpt:

Sally waited alone. She waited in that desperate, paralyzed way the child waits to be spanked, having been told to do so. She waited in the same way a patient stands immobile for the needle, the way a victim waits before the hollow barrel of the gun, waiting to be shot.

She curled up under the blanket and fell asleep for a moment. The fire was out when she jerked back awake and she pulled the afghan her mother had made and given her when she went off to college, and wrapped that around her, as well.

The dog scratched on the door and the cat jumped up on a table on the porch and looked in at her through the window. The dog scratched again and sounded a faint and pitiful whine along with it and the cat put one paw on the cold windowpane and stared at Sally until Sally acknowledged his exotic countenance.

“I can’t get up now,” she said. “Just wait.”

The dog scratched again and she thought how many coats of yellow ochre she had put on that door trying to make up for years of dog scratching and she arose looking like a rag lady or a refugee from the faded films of World War II.

“It’s not much warmer inside,” she told the animals, but it wasn’t true. There were those soft chairs and the pillows and no cold wind and the animals knew where they wanted to be, with her, in the house, a place, she thought, she ought to leave.

If I’m not here, then what?

She opened the oven door and turned the dial to 450 and lit all the burners as well, and she pushed the kitchen chairs near the stove and sat on one and put her feet on the other and she thought about leaving until she realized that it was possible, quite possible, and, indeed likely, that Robert would return to be with her and how horrible it would be for him to meet that old man alone, and so she waited in the kitchen and listened for the sound of someone coming down the drive, and she even prayed a little, casually and without effort, making a few deals while she was at it, for things to come out right.