Friday, 12 August 2011

Updated Feedback on The Meaning Of Children

I have been overwhelmed by people's generosity in offering their comments on my book, some of which I've collected here...

A keen, incisive vision into the hidden world of children as well as intimate knowledge of the secret spaces that exist between the everyday events of life. A work with a brilliant sense of story…Magical, and so refreshing for me to read. I absolutely loved it and I hope it goes on to do marvellous things. Yours is a luminous talent.

~JoAnne Soper-Cook, Author, 2010 David Adams Richards Prize judge

Loved your book... read it in one sitting. I loved how after going from story to story... it led perfectly together into your last chapter's list.

~Mutsumi Takahashi, Anchor, CTV News Montreal

Haunting and powerfully emotive, drawing on the subtleties of childhood, youth and parenthood that undermine us in strange and unexpected ways. Your writing is polished and mature, something I am always in awe of and why I got into publishing to begin with.

~Meghan Macdonald, Transatlantic Literary Agency

This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.

~Katie Hewitt, The Globe & Mail

Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.

~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette

Counter-intuitive to the title, for me these stories resonate with the sad truth of being a grownup. Life is that damn hard and just-under-the-surface tension saturates our existence. But the kids, they know what's going on. They may not understand all the details but they know the score. Akerman nails that sorrow, highlights it with unexpected humour, credits our resilience and almost never skips a beat. As with any collection of stories, some are stronger than others. Lighter Than Air, The Mysteries, and Broken knocked the wind out of me, forcing me to take a long pause and mull them over, sit a while.

~Chris Benjamin, Author of Drive-by Saviours, on Goodreads

Your book The Meaning of Children is great and so are you!

~Anne Lagacé Dowson, CJAD Radio journalist, on Twitter

Thanks so much, Beverly. The book looks great. I read a couple of the stories and really liked them. Also revisited the ones you wrote in class and it was like wow, what prompt was that? What prompt was it, by the way? Do you mind if I use one for a writing book I think I might write?

~Nancy Zafris, series editor for The Flannery O’Connor Awards, former fiction editor of The Kenyon Review

Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children…If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us. Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning of Children reminds us of that.

~Darrell Squires, The Western Star

Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories…characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life.

~Francine Diot-Layton, The Rover

Your book is filled with insight and wisdom and gorgeous moving stories...You are dazzling. (I had read “Pie” long ago. It is just as moving the second time).

~Hal Ackerman (no relation), UCLA Screenwriting Area Co-Chair and author of Stein Stoned and Stein Stung

All I seem to read these days are parenting books. But I think I might be learning more about being a parent from Beverly Akerman's The Meaning of Children than from anywhere else. I can't put it down.

~Jenn Hardy, Writer, Editor and Blogger at

I adore your knack for leaving questions hanging in the reader's mind…and then there are those thought provoking zingers tucked neatly inside the last thought, description or action of your narrators. I haven't enjoyed short stories like this since Margaret Atwood, Barbara Gowdy and Alice Munro.

~Rusti Lehaye, Writer and Editor

Beverly Akerman is what Alice Munro was supposed to be.

~Mike Rose (received by my publisher, via email)

A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure...Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain…Children weave their way through every tale…always sparking the reader to question where in all these stories sits their own story.

~Michelle Greysen, Writer, Editor, and Blogger

[You show us how] our childhood experiences affect us forever. And what we bury comes to the surface from time to time….The story about the woman who couldn't touch anything without it dying was sad and funny - loved the boys next door - and I liked PIE - as you have now given me a simple recipe that I can remember for pie crust -I am a baker. And the poor woman who had entered probably menopause and her marriage had broken without her noticing it. She was just so angry and exhausted. So many women I feel are and hide it.

~Carlene Orefici, a Facebook friend I haven’t met in real life (yet!)

Just finished “Like Jeremy Irons.” That was a tough one. Saying I loved it feels contrary to the agony I'm feeling right now. (Perhaps I shouldn't have settled into it with a glass of wine?) Awesome writing - even if my uterus is cramping!

~Lisa Dalrymple, Winner of The Writers Union of Canada’s 2011 Writing for Children Competition

I enjoyed The Meaning of Children so much that I wished there were twice as many stories! If I had to pick one, “Pour Un Instant” was my favourite. I was sad to come to the end of the book.

~Lisa De Nikolits, Author of The Hungry Mirror, on

@Beverly_Akerman I am devouring your fabulous book The Meaning of Children!

~Alison Palkhivala, Writer and Editor, on Twitter

This morning I wrote to a friend in Victoria. I told her: ‘I finished Beverly Akerman's book and really liked it. The theme throughout is children: being a child, being pregnant, abortion, losing a child, being a father, giving a child for adoption. Touchy stuff but she has such kindness, such compassion and infuses hope and love in the saddest situation. She offers unique and surprising insights, it's never sappy or cliché. All this within the short story frame, quite a feat in my opinion. If you can't find her book, I'll send you my copy.’ Thank you for writing such an amazing book and for promoting yourself at the gym. It was a bold and creative move. I would have not known about your writing otherwise.

~Diane Des Roches, new gym friend and budding writer

Comments on individual stories from The Meaning of Children:

Beautifully unbearable.

~Nancy Zafris, series editor for The Flannery O’Connor Awards, former fiction editor of The Kenyon Review

Emotional and tightly written.

~David Bright, Editor, Gemini Magazine

Oh, it's lovely. I like it when my body responds to writing; right now there's an ache in my throat.

~Susan Rendell, Editor, EarLit Shorts

The judges liked…the resistance to the happy ending, and the idea that there is often something or someone waiting for the small mistake.

~The Writers’ Union of Canada 2007 Short Prose Competition Jury

I love the mystery and the fear in this story—the ending works so well.

~Colleen Donfield, Manuscripts Editor, The Sun

“Paternity”: you take a man's voice and point of view; stepping in the Oratoire and being confronted by the statue of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus is soo powerful and literally a validation of his own paternal feelings for Daisy.

“Pour Un Instant”: such a sensitive story, two English kids kissing at la Saint-Jean, seduced by Harmonium's lovely song Pour un instant. There are many layers here. Conflict in our two communities. Akiva being murdered for being Jewish, senseless abominable antisemitism. Marcy's lifelong grief. Your ending is so clear and liberating. I felt the water of the lake, I experienced the hope, the joy of being alive - in spite of all this.

“Like Jeremy Irons”: I love that you use the second person. It sets the necessary tone of detachment, as if the self is someone else. Your first paragraph is amazing. The OB closing up shop and the Gyno performing abortions = the English community is shrinking. Those were the days when one could choose a doctor! You give a chilling and accurate description of the whole process, from the waiting room to the operating room. Again, I found your ending to be compassionate, surprising and unique. You are a very talented and creative writer! Thank you for writing such an amazing book and for promoting yourself at the gym. It was a bold and creative move. I would have not known about your writing otherwise.

~Diane Des Roches, new gym friend and budding writer

The Meaning Of Children is available in fine bookstores across Canada and online at, Chapters, and through Exile Editions.

Lots more at Fictionaut...and you can also find me at Goodreads and on Facebook (both me & my book). Stop by if you have a chance, set a spell. We can share a slice o' mah "Pie."

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