Foreword Reviews

Making It Work

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

In Making It Work, the Vietnam era serves as a dynamic backdrop for the story of a young woman’s journey to maturity.

Making It Work by Kathleen Glassburn follows Sheila Doty as she grows into a self-assured woman. Sheila’s transformation takes place during an equally transformative part of American history—from 1965 to 1975. This connection gives the novel a sense of realism.

The book is divided into two sections, suggesting the trajectory of the narrative. In the first part, “Following,” Sheila nervously follows her husband, Jim, to Long Beach, California, after he enlists in the Navy. This portion of the novel focuses on Sheila’s inner struggles.

In Part 2, “Wandering,” the story flows beyond Sheila’s inner struggles. She moves from California to DC to Minnesota, becoming more engaged with larger social issues of the time. The book presents a satisfying glimpse of a historical period through the experiences of an individual.

Most of the novel’s characters are one-dimensional. This is particularly true of the men in the story, who are often controlling and moody. For instance, Jim is identified by his uniform, muscular build, and use of the pet name “doll baby” for Sheila. He expresses his disapproval with cold silences. Like Jim, other men are similarly defined by their appearance and unpleasant behavior. The few men portrayed positively are still less developed than the women in the book.

Sheila is presented in the most consistently sympathetic light. Her problems and concerns, especially at the start of the novel, are standard for a nineteen-year-old. She hopes her marriage will distance her from her controlling, dysfunctional family. She worries about finding friends in unfamiliar places and about balancing her sense of duty to her husband with her hopes for herself. This part of her story successfully demonstrates that a person may be unaware of her own strengths.

As the story progresses, Sheila’s concerns expand. She experiences sexual harassment and abuse, an unequal division of labor, and the limited expectations of others. She rebels against those who attempt to control her choices and attitudes. She strives to express her own religious and political beliefs. By dealing with these issues, Sheila’s story touches on timely themes, giving depth to her character and importance to the story.

Italics signal Sheila’s thoughts, though it is music that most effectively conveys her state of mind. “Eve of Destruction” and other protest songs reveal her developing attitude regarding US involvement in Vietnam. Sheila takes refuge in hymns like “Amazing Grace” even when she is not in church. Receiving her music degree symbolizes her self-actualization.

At points, the prose is vivid. One character’s graying eyes and hair “looked like a wash of white paint.” A character can be “as sad as a bedraggled cat in the rain.” Most of the novel’s metaphors are less inspired.

In Making It Work, the Vietnam era serves as a dynamic backdrop for the story of a young woman’s journey to maturity.

Reviewed by Geraldine Richards

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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