Different Women Dealing
with a Common Condition: Aging
Nancy Huddleston Packer's fourth short story collection
showcases a mixed cast of older women.
The protagonists of the eleven stories in Old Ladies, Nancy Huddleston Packer's new fiction collection, may be old ladies, as the book's title suggests, but they are by no means stereotypes. They are, in fact, remarkably different from one another.
Although more than half of them are widows, one is a happily married writer of children's books, another is a happily unmarried academic, and a third is a revenge-seeking divorcee. Some of Packer's women are weak, but more of them are strong, stronger than their grown children think they are or than their former lovers want them to be.
As the characters in Old Ladies are different, so are the stories. No two have the same subject, theme, or situation. Some of the stories are funny, especially in the way old people cope with aging and come up with inventive solutions. Other stories are filled with loss, loneliness, and the prospect of dying. Many of the stories have that mixture of grief and humor that comes with the accumulation of years.
Whether funny or sad, Packer's writing is always strong, solid, and entertaining. Her stories hit the ground running, develop in a chain of consequences, and move quickly to their satisfying end. And one thing these old ladies have in common is that their creator makes us care about every single one of them.
Nancy Huddleston Packer is a literary figure well known to and much admired by a large and prestigious community of writers and readers. As a teacher and director of Stanford University's Creative Writing Program, Packer influenced and cheered on some of America's best writers. She also had a strong influence on her own children, best-selling authors Ann Packer and George Packer.
Packer's first story was published in Harper's Magazine in October 1953. Since then, her short fiction has appeared in numerous important magazines and literary journals, including Sewanee Review, Epoch, Cold Mountain Review, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly, North American Review, Kenyon Review, The Reporter, and Women's Studies. She is also the author of five published collections of stories. Small Moments received the Commonwealth Club of California Award, and Jealous-Hearted Me the Alabama Library Award for Fiction. She is also the author of the mystery novel Funny Little Pictures, and two books about writing, The Short Story: An Introduction, and Writing Worth Reading.