Ordinary Charms
by Jan Seale

Literary Press Lamar University, 2017. ISBN 978-1-942-95647-1.
Reviewed by Shawn LaTorre
Posted on 02/04/2018

Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Jan Seale's collection of stories and essays in Ordinary Charms stands as a simple and beautiful legacy of life's ponderings and experiences by a woman who shares humorous and critical insights on many topics. The book is organized into creatively titled sections such as: Whims, Admonitions, Origins, and Groundings. I found myself laughing, crying, and sitting back to ponder her truths, all the while anxious to read on. Her sections evoke memories of her Southern roots as a child with sayings such as "...a man may have a hitch in his git along..." and "You may have to tell someone how the cow ate the cabbage."

These were unfamiliar to me, though getting "bruised in a new place," in her chapter entitled "Change" seemed like something I'd heard before.

Anecdotes from Ms. Seale's experiences as a teacher of writing appear here and there. The chapter on "Women's Worth" is especially moving. She includes a memorable passage from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.
...Alice replied, rather shyly, "I-I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then."

Ms. Seale comments that she often has to remind older women of the many ways they kept things rolling in the schools, their families, and in the communities. They served as very valuable assets!

"Little Known Facts for Campers," "Everyday Blind," and "My Mother's Buttons" are just a few of the topics Ms. Seale probes. Serving as a twenty-year caregiver for a husband with Parkinsons, surviving tuberculosis as a six-year-old, and undergoing another major surgery as an adult, this author has certainly earned her wings.

Her writing is lovingly nostalgic with the wit and wisdom of the ages. In some places, her writing seems reminiscent of American humorist, Erma Bombeck. Bombeck says, "It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else." And that is exactly what Ms. Seale has done.

I highly recommend the book, especially for beginning writers who often wonder what they can write about. In Ordinary Charms, Ms. Seale shows us that the simple, ordinary, often overlooked experiences in our lives can create great stories!

Jan Seale, a South Texas writer, has written sixteen books in a variety of genres. Her work has been published in major newspapers and magazines and broadcast over National Public Radio. Honors include and NEA Fellowship, PEN Syndicated Fiction awards, and appointment as the 2012 Texas Poet Laureate.

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