BOOK CLUB: The Crying Room

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The Crying Room by Australian author Gretchen Shirm is a powerful emotionally moving story of family drama, hope and life.

Enter the Rodgers family as we burrow into the lives of four women: Bernie Rodgers, her daughters, Susie and Allison, and Allison’s daughter, Monica. Different lives, different age groups, and different personalities weaving their way through life.

Bernie and her husband David moved from Sydney to a small coastal town, Ballina. For at least ten years Bernie had occupied the thought of leaving him but now she sees it as the thing that keeps them together grafted as one.

With money left over from selling their house, David bought into a partnership with a small legal practice on the main street. Bernie’s days were free, but her thoughts consumed them, feeling distance from her daughters and the looming allegation against David.

Susie works at The Crying Room located near Kings Cross Station, Sydney. The room runs mostly by donations and Government grants, open to all levels of society that need a safe space. After working at The Crying Room Susie’s own feelings and sadness changed within herself which was quite different from when she cried in the interview.

Allison is straightforward and driven in life, one would think she had lofty standards, which is the reason her daughter Monica lied to her parents when she moved to Melbourne. She was studying for a degree in creative writing and being so far away they’d never find out. Monica cared deeply and loved writing; she only wished Allison would feel the same about her. Why is it so hard to have a problem with love?

The plot is engaging and paced with great skill, moving between characters’ individual stories to expertly keep the reader always engaged. At first, it was difficult to see where each chapter would fit as there is such disconnection but overall, the book came together and fitted into one whole story.

The narrative is excellent, it features powerfully descriptive and emotionally insightful passages. The themes are intelligently woven into the story and there is a striking balance when it comes to character, setting, and plot. This is an absorbing story that entertains and informs readers, inviting them to walk the path of love, compassion, and patience

Shirm is an author that knows how to create compelling characters, with real problems and real-life situations to solve them. You come to understand their feelings and dreams and it embraces the finest of human values.

I found this book about all the essential elements that make up a family, touching on both the good and the terrible things that go on. I cried, I laughed, I smiled, I could not put this book down. It is a true to life fictional story of any family and the obstacles they face. Anyone who reads this may be able to identify with parts of the story, this is not just a novel; it is a real-life lesson and a gift that many would benefit from reading.

I loved the cover of the book; it is visually attractive with a nice shimmer to the print when in light. I love designs you find an emotional connection with.

I highly recommend The Crying Room to those that love literary fiction, you will not be disappointed.

Before you go, check out our interview with the author, Gretchen Shirm.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Crying Room by Gretchen Shirm. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

4 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Crying Room

  1. I wasnt quite sure what to make of this story at the start but then found that I became engrossed and read this book swiftly and with delight.
    Its one of those stories where you see that the way someone is raised and their experiences as a child make them into the parent that they become and that then impacts their children and so it goes on down the line. It shows that even if a parent is trying their best and doing things the way they are for reasons they keep to themselves things will often still be taken the wrong way and until we learn and understand how our parents were raised its hard for us to understand how and why they raised us the way they did.

    I really enjoyed this story. I good weekend read.

  2. This is one of those novels which you can tell immediately won’t appeal to everyone. However, for those who can handle the unusual story-telling, it offers a thoughtful exploration of family responsibilities and of the variety of ways love is expressed.

    The novel dips into the lives of Bernie Rodgers, her daughters and her grand-daughter. It skims, landing on events of great significance to one or more of the women. It explores the relationships between them, how those relationships affect and shape each other, and how the outside world intrudes on them.

    One reason many people will find this difficult is the way it’s told. The story shifts between different women and different times, and “fictional” stories written within the story using a character’s name. These shifts are not signalled in any way; you’re left to work it out from context. Sometimes it’s not obvious till chapters later. Similarly, relationships aren’t spelled out. You need to work them out from context and indirect statements.

    In other words, this can be really confusing. I was concentrating, and even so I was thrown by the “fiction” written by one character. I still can’t decide whether what it added to the story out-weighed the confusion it generated.

    However, I found the rest of the novel really interesting. The shifts between time and character initially seem fragmentary, but eventually build to a full and rounded picture of the relationships between the women of a family. Men have very little presence here, although their absences have a great deal of impact.

    There is not a linear plot. I found that didn’t matter a great deal. The main problem was that every time the novel skipped, I was briefly distracted by trying to establish who we were with now, and when. This made it hard to stay immersed in the novel, but became less of an issue as my reading progressed.

    I found this thought provoking rather than enjoyable. I’m glad I read it, though. It’s a challenging read, it hits some surprisingly strong emotional beats, and you’ll likely be thinking about it for some time after you’ve read it. Just don’t mistake it for a beach read.

  3. The Crying Room is a about family drama and relationships.
    Susie, her sister Alison,Monica Alison’s daughter and their parents Bernie and David are the family. Their relationships with each other are complex. Each have busy lives, with complicated issues.
    The story really does highlight the complexities life can present you with which impact on the whole family.
    Initially I had to re read the first few chapters to work out who was who and where it all fitted.
    I enjoyed the book, especially Susie’s character.
    Even when the whole story tied together, I found the book rather sad.
    The story certainly was thought provoking, which I think for me is the sign of a good book.
    Thankyou for the opportunity to read it.

  4. For me The Crying Room by Gretchen Shirm is a novel about families, about relationships and how we can love someone, but the love might not be obvious. For me it is also about loneliness and how we sometimes stay quiet when we should speak up and other times when we accidentally say entirely the wrong thing and hurt someone we love. Also with the title The Crying Room its not surprising that another subject is sadness.
    I have to admit that I started this novel very positively and was intrigued by the idea of a crying room. However, after a few chapters I felt confused, I struggled with the way the story jumped between characters’ stories and timelines. I found myself having to re-read sections to try and follow the novel as it was written.
    Due to this I don’t feel I connected with the story and its characters as much as I felt I should have done. I intend to keep this novel to hand and to reread it again, preferably when I have plenty of time to give it the attention that it deserves. I’m sure a second reading will produce a different review, I do find sometimes you can really struggle with a book but a few weeks, or months later re read it and have a completely different response. Having read so many excellent reviews of this novel I do feel it warrants a second reading.

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