Our Short History: A Novel
Karen Neulander is dying. Soon. And as a single mother with a six-year-old son, Jacob, there’s no peace to be made with her fate. Still, she’s doing her best to carry on as normally as possible, working as a political consultant and giving Jacob plenty of time with his aunt, uncle, and cousins–the family he’ll live with when Karen is gone. Karen manages to live with knowing she’ll never see Jacob grow up by writing him a lengthy letter full of advice and anecdotes. But her best-laid plans are upended when Jacob’s requests to meet his father intensify. When Karen manages to find him, she’s stunned that her former lover is more than eager to meet his son–and that father and son alike want a relationship that Karen believes will ruin everything.
Our Short History is heartbreaking on every page, so it’s fortunate that Grodstein has given us a narrator so strong, funny, rueful, and wise. Karen’s journey is magnetic, even though we know where it ends. Her dread at the unwelcome reappearance of Jacob’s father–and her willingness, nonetheless, to bring him into the fold for Jacob’s sake–shows movingly the lengths parents will go to ensure their children’s happiness even when their wishes seem too wild, too dangerous, to lasso and tame.