The Woman Who Was Not All There

Home ] I Loved You All ] Crows over a Wheatfield ] [ The Woman Who Was Not All There ] Contact the Author ] Lost In Jersey City ] The Imposter ]

The Woman Who Was Not All There (first novel)

Harper & Row 1988 - Terry Karten, Editor

A Selection of the Book of the Month Club 
Winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club Joe Savago New Voice Award

Jacket illustration: Eric Fowler   


Description of  Novel  

Read the First Page

Publisher's Description

         Marjorie's husband, Byron Coffin, had misled her for so long, that she learned to lean away from life to keep from falling over, like a woman walking a large dog."  So begins the disarming and funny story of Marjorie Leblanc--"the woman who was not all there."  After Byron abandons her in 1963, Marjorie works as a nurse to support herself and her four young children.  With no eligible husband on the horizon, she settles for sipping gin and gossiping with her lady friends like Rita, the rough-talking laundromat owner, or dealing with daughter Karen, a budding Peeping Tom.  The problem is that Marjorie can't keep things from changing --  her friends scatter and her children grow up and move away.    It's only when a near-fatal illness strikes that Marjorie realizes how to get on with her life, this time, on her own terms."



Louise Erdrich, The San Francisco Chronicle:

     "Paula Sharp has written a smart, funny novel about the coming-of-age of people at every stage of life.  Her prose quickens every paragraph, and her characters are always believable.  Their frantic daydreams, quagmires, escapes, delusions and everyday triumphs ring true."

Carolyn See, The Los Angeles Times:

        "Rich and full and heartbreaking and fun ... a swell first novel.  And revolutionary ... The Woman Who Was Not All There  takes a look at [the] time frame in a woman's life ... when she is 'left' to the moment when the family she has held together for a dozen years begins to peel away, to give her some freedom at least... I would say right here that this is a book to buy several copies of, to give to mothers on Mother's Day or Christmas; to give to desperate girlfriends who have just seen their husbands snuggling up to someone else."

The New Yorker:

     "The earnest voices of [Marjorie's] lantern-jawed children .... chronicle a decade of growth in the sixties and early seventies... One is soulful, one tomboyish, one political, and one prim; all are worth getting to know."

Kirkus Reviews:

     "A first novel of appealingly comic twists, crackling regional flavor and a passel of engaging women ... a grandly cacophonous gathering of fun people and wild kids."

Carlton Smith:     "A wonderful first novel ...Like Flannery O'Connor before her, Paula Sharp has an ear for southern voices."


First Page of

   The Woman Who Was Not All There

Marjorie's husband, Bryon Coffin, had misled her for so long that she learned to lean away from life to keep from falling over, like a woman walking a large dog.  The week after Marjorie and her husband separated permanently, she quit her job as a nurse's aide and withdrew from the evening nursing classes she had been attending sporadically for years.  All month, she sat on the living room couch from morning until night, playing cards with her four small children, reading "Humor in Uniform" in the May, 1963 Reader's Digest, and watching monster movies on afternoon television.

        Marjorie was amazed by the variety of monsters that had developed over the years of her marriage when she had been working and unable to watch much television.  There was the Wolfman, whose victims became wolfmen, and Dracula, who turned the ladies he bit into female replicas of himself, pale women with desperate-looking eyes and widow's peaks.  There was the Phantom of the Opera, who carried girls into underground sewers, and the old wall lamp in Marjorie's living room had the same smooth, glistening surface as the phantom's face.  There were also the monsters who were more modern and appeared in color on late-night television.  These arose from scientists toying with human genes, from men overexposed to radioactivity or archaeologists thawing in human creatures from ice beds in the Artic.  The more modern monsters could not be stopped by silver bullets or ordinary acts like falling from cathedral tops.  They were shapeless forms that grew from the size of molehills into mountains by devouring everything in their path, beginning with the stick that prodded them and the hand that held the stick and then the whole man attached to the hand; or they were men who should have died but could not, their natural deaths having been interfered with by the unnaturally curious.

If you want to write the author about this book, go to The Reader E-mail page.  

Go to Top of Page