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Online Book Club Review

12 Sep 2016, 05:32

[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Elephants in the Room” by Charlene Wexler.]

Book Cover


4 out of 4 stars


Review by hsimone


Are there times where you just need a feel-good read without the drama that most novels contain? If so, I highly recommend in giving Elephants in the Room by Charlene Wexler a try. Categorized in the Other Fiction genre, Wexler has created a collection of essays and short fiction stories that will make you chuckle, smile, and even melt your heart.

This collection of essays are split up into five sections: “Coming of Age”, “Family and Friends”, “Animal Magnetism”, “The Passing Parade”, and “Senior Moments”. Each section is balanced with sweet, loving essays as well as stories that are filled with sadness and reflection. As the reader progresses through the book, the character voice within each part ages overtime. With aging, different perspectives and maturity level come to surface.

Personally, I loved “Family and Friends” and “Animal Magnetism” sections because I feel they relate more to me, at the current time, than the others. Whether the author writes about The Temperature Game, where a husband and a wife can never seem to agree whether the temperature is too hot or too cold, or speaks about Loss and Grief, where a young child is taken too soon from this world due to leukemia, Wexler knows how to deliver her messages and has done so beautifully.

The specific story in which the book is named after, Elephants in the Room, speaks of exactly what the title alludes to, “elephants in the room”. This idiom refers to those obvious truths that no one seems to address in a gathering. For instance, when the storyteller’s hands shake, at first no one says anything, making this an “elephant”. However, when eventually it is pointed out and is referred to as potential Parkinson’s, then the elephant is “out of the room”. To be honest, the title and cover is what grabbed my attention, and seems to fit so perfectly throughout Wexler’s works.

Major themes of love, friendship, family, coming of age, death, everlasting love, growing up, lost love, optimism, role of women, and will to survive are all cleverly included here.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the “Coming of Age” stories, but I soon came to realize that this collection is probably one of my favorites, thus far. With very little grammatical errors, less than a handful, I simply could not put this book down.

With the author’s inviting writing style and her way to connect with her audience, with a doubt, Elephants in the Room deserves a 4 out of 4 stars rating. As mentioned previously, if you are a reader that needs a sweet heartwarming read, then give this one a try. I assure you, there will be something you will enjoy!

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Reviewed By:

Gisela Dixon

Review Rating:

5 Stars


Reviewed By Gisela Dixon for Readers’ Favorite

Elephants in the Room by Charlene Wexler is a delightful collection of fictional short stories. Elephants in the Room is divided into short stories on a few different topics relating to life and living, and stories on each topic are grouped together. Some of the topics include Coming of Age, Family and Friends, Animal Magnetism, and Senior Moments. As the titles suggest, these are short stories on everyday ups and downs of life ranging from the young and carefree years to years of maturity with love, illness, death, and joy in between. The stories are a mix of fiction and fiction inspired or based on Charlene’s own life and experiences.

Elephants in the Room by Charlene Wexler is a wonderful and easy read with the short stories ranging in length from a few paragraphs to a few pages. The stories do not have to be read in any particular order and the book can be started anywhere. All of the various topics are well written and meaningful, but I found the stories in the Senior Moments to be the most interesting. It is, after all, during these wiser and older years that life’s truths are sometimes revealed. That being said, I also enjoyed the animal stories and the stories of teenage and college life. The stories are a great mix of sadness, joy, humor, and showcase the average human life beautifully. This is a great collection to have on hand and would make a nice gift to someone as well.

Reviewed By:

Rosie Malezer

Review Rating:

5 Stars


Reviewed By Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite

Elephants in the Room is a collection of short stories written by Charlene Wexler. Each chapter of this wonderful read covers a different era in time, taking an in-depth look at the everyday lives of a group of people from that era. Starting off with teenage girls wishing their boyfriends were as handsome as President Kennedy, followed by the shock of a nation when the president is assassinated, prepare to be transported back in time to when the proper behavior of men and women in the 1930s will have you raising an eyebrow, or agreeing that things were so much better back then. The excitement of young men who are ready to serve their country, with most never to return, will draw a tear. Girls getting dressed to the nines so that they can outshine each other at an Elvis, Easybeats or Peter, Paul and Mary concert will bring a smile. Prohibition will either give you a sense of relief or annoyance. Regardless of what year you were born, Elephants in the Room is sure to stir up some incredible memories of moments in time which you may or may not have forgotten.

Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing when significant events took place, whether it be putting a man in space, news of a president or legendary singer dying, or even a girls’ or boys’ night out. Charlene Wexler has combined an excellent style of novel writing with the history books and has presented it so vividly that it is like watching a modern day remake of Back to the Future on film. The memories which this book stirred up inside me have brought about conflicting feelings – not about the book itself, but of the happenings in my own history since I was a young child. Watching those moments brought back to life while interacting with the people of that era was a wonderful way to reminisce about days gone by, and I am sure I will be reading this book again and again. I thoroughly enjoyed Elephants in the Room and recommend it to history buffs who enjoy being transported back to the days that shaped us all, making us who we are today.

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Reviewed By:

Christine Nguyen

Review Rating:

5 Stars


Reviewed By Christine Nguyen for Readers’ Favorite

Elephants In the Room: Short Fiction and Essays by Charlene Wexler is a compilation of stories about the author’s life growing up in the mid-fifties in Chicago: a much more innocent, wholesome America that many of us readers have only witnessed on television. Now, we are lucky enough to read about it as Wexler takes us into her family, what it was like growing up Jewish in a middle class family where her father was a pharmacist and her mom a stay at home mother. Divorce was a scandal in those days and Wexler went to college for a Mrs. Degree, as in trying to catch a husband in college as that was the highlight of each girl’s career back then. The stories chronicle the most important aspects of the author’s life, the whole cycle of coming of age for a young girl into adulthood into motherhood, and into the winter of her life. It was a different time and a different era.

Charlene Wexler winsomely spins her stories with real personality and heart. The author has a way of getting to the essence of what is important in life – love, family, food, happiness. The reader is pulled into her life of how it was to grow up in the fifties and the normal cycles of each person’s life. Elephants in the Room was one of my favorites as it captured the essence of what family is: having people in your life that know your whole history and what you are really like. Being with people that will call out the elephant in your life and support you no matter what. Loss and Grief was her nightmarish account of when she lost her son due to cancer at such a young age. Her pain and anger were palpable, my heart just ached. There are so many wonderful stories, and wait until you read about her funny pets. Readers will surely love Charlene as I do! These short stories touched my emotions. I enjoyed reading them – some made me laugh, some made me cry.

Reviewed by Ben Green for Reader Views (10/16)

I was genuinely excited to check out “Elephants in the Room” by Charlene Wexler, for the most part, because collections of short stories in book form are rare these days, and I always wonder why so few people try to write them. “Elephants in the Room” is a collection of well over 40 short stories. The stories appear to be chronologically ordered, and cover topics and events from the different stages of life. It seems they are based primarily on the author’s life, though it is sometimes hard to be sure.

Wexler’s experience and ability as a writer is clear throughout each story. The writing is superb and the book is well organized. It is clear the author put some serious effort into the writing and the actual book itself. The cover has its own well-done artwork and the production value of the book alone is obvious. All of this makes the review of the actual subject matter even harder, because even though Wexler abilities are clear, the content is somewhat lacking, at least for anyone who is not yet a senior citizen. I don’t mean that some younger folks won’t find something of value in the book, but overall there is very little that would be relevant. The stories are mostly just stories. Something about the book felt constantly familiar, but it took me quite a while to figure it out. The writing style and stories themselves reminded me of the stories I would find in Reader’s Digest as a kid. This was a nice nostalgic feeling, but ultimately I would expect to find stories like this on a blog and not in a book.

Other than the Reader’s Digest explanation, the best way I can sum up this collection is that this is a book best suited for family and friends of the author as a fictional collection of shared history. In that context, the book ultimately succeeds, mostly because Wexler really is an excellent writer. Beyond that “Elephants in the Room” may find a scattering audience among die-hard short story fans, a few grandparents, and those who enjoy the wholesome story telling style of Reader’s Digest. Overall, I give “Elephants in the Room” by Charlene Wexler 3 out five stars, since the writing and book quality are exceptionally well done and it clearly is a labor of love.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/charlene-wexler/elephants-in-the-room/

Wexler (Milk and Oranges, 2015, etc.) mixes humor, nostalgia, and reflection in her second collection of essays and short fiction.

The book opens with a recounting of a day in the life of a Chicago teen in 1959. The author offers a loving but cleareyed reminiscence of working in her father’s drugstore that sets the tone for the first section, which deals with her own coming-of-age in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The following sections take on different topics, including lighthearted memories of pets and general observations of human nature and life. The longest section, about family and friends, also contains the strongest piece in the book, “Loss and Grief,” which recounts the death of Wexler’s 12-year-old son from leukemia. She delves into her raw emotions of grieving, and particularly her anger: “The sun and I were angry all the time, but it was our secret.” A subsequent remembrance of the dog that helped Wexler through her grief suggests that this powerful theme could carry a full-length memoir. The final section, which includes several poems, takes on the weighty topics of growing older and mortality, but in a high-spirited way. In the last essay, “When I’m Gone,” Wexler plans her own funeral. Although many of the longer essays are affecting, some seem superficial, such as a brief perusal of an autograph book she found in a closet. Full-color photographs illustrate several selections, but other than some family photos, they don’t add much. A few short stories are mixed in with the essays and poetry; the title story, in which several cousins gather for a family funeral, reflects on the enduring strength of family bonds. “Band of Girls,” about a maverick running for president of her sorority in 1963, has a strong opening but no real resolution. These tales seem out of place next to the personal remembrances that make up the bulk of the book, and might have been better saved for a fiction collection.

Remembrances of a long life in an uneven but mostly satisfying collection.

Cassandra’s Review (http://www.cassandramsplace.com) –   The author has a writing style that invites you to have a seat and bring your children for a great reading outloud session.  I like how this book is written with such detail that each short story is pleasing  and feels like you are a part of it.
 I loved hearing giggles and answering questions along with being able to share a few memories of my own along they way.  So whether you have a a few minutes or a few hours, this book is going to entertain.   It is also clean so you can read without skipping anything and all ages will enjoy it.

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