Six Women


Fiction - Womens
97 Pages
Reviewed on 06/10/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Although I cursed it in my youth, dyslexia turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not being able to read or write until the age of ten forced me to express myself through acting. At the Stephens College playhouse in Missouri I fell in love with an actor, a married actor. That experience led to the publication of my first book, Love and Madness: My Private Years with George C. Scott.

When I found myself pregnant. George wanted me to abort the baby. I refused. My friend Tammy Grimes, who later became a two-time Tony Award winner (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Private Lives) helped me find the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers outside of Boston, where I gave birth to our daughter. My play, Bad Girl, was based on that experience.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Six Women is an interrelated collection of short stories written by Karen Truesdell Riehl. The Chester Writers Club held monthly meetings at which a selected member would read one of her works to the group. It was expected that the others would feel free to offer constructive criticism, with the unspoken understanding that anything harsher might lead to dissension and an unpleasant evening, which did inevitably, if rarely, happen. While the six women had very little in common, they all loved to write and had gotten to know each other through a writing class they had attended at a community college. The youngest was 42 years old, and the oldest, a venerable 93, with the others' ages scattered in between. As is indeed the case with most such clubs or groups, there was the one who seemed to fit in the least; who the others would gossip about when she wasn't there and often expressed a wish that she might not attend that month's meeting. And, as is also the case, Glenda, that odd-woman-out, knew it. Even so, when Glenda was injured in a car accident and was in the hospital, the members murmured their sympathies, but Greta, the eldest, was not content to leave it at that. She was going to go to visit their bedridden fellow club member, and, reluctantly, the others followed suit.

Karen Truesdell Riehl's short story collection, Six Women, is a remarkable and compelling read that will richly reward the reader who decides, like the Chester Writers Club, to venture onwards. The author gives each of her women a unique voice and outlook on life, and each shares with the reader a capsulized view of the history that's made her who she is. I was especially taken with Sheri's story; the published writer who wrote self-help guides to happy marriages and whose dream marriage and perfect companion hid a fatal flaw. Annie's story of the summer she learned to read is poignant and unforgettable, as is Barb's story as the “bad” girl who got pregnant, was sent off to live with an irascible great-aunt and found comfort, love and life where it was least expected. Riehl saves the best for last, however, in Greta's tale. The 93-year-old's story, starting with her early life on a farm in North Dakota, is stunning and lyrical. As I read each of these impressive stories, I began to realize that my initial impressions of the Chester Writers Club were superficial at best. This deceptively short volume packs a lot within its pages -- and it's all very, very good. Six Women is most highly recommended.

Maria Beltran

The first thing we discover in Karen Truesdell Riehl’s Six Women is a narrator talking about The Chester Writers Club of Chester, California that meets every last Thursday of the month. Created thirteen years ago by six women of different ages and writing levels, the club chooses a member’s latest work each month for a literary critique which could turn a bit nasty at times. And then we eavesdrop on the women talking about Glenda, a sixty-six-year-old former member who is the least liked in the group. What happens next is an unfortunate event that brings Sheri, Annie, Molly, Barb and Greta to her hospital bed, at which point we get to know each of them intimately.

The first thing that strikes me about the literary style of Karen Truesdell Riehl's Six Women is its elegance. The quality of her writing is certainly ingenious but not overly so, although it gives you the feeling that she has done a fantastic job in this novel. The story telling smoothly shifts from an omniscient narrator to a first person point of view, resulting in an enhanced sense of engagement with each of the women who goes on to tell her personal story. Each of these stories can stand on their own, so much so that the reader can become completely engrossed in them, except for the references, which will bring us back to the present time. Karen Truesdell Riehl brings to life six women whose lives are shaped by their traumatic past and, after turning the last page, one feels an irresistible sense of reading something that is completely original and unique.