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Angels on Friday Night - Book Review

By Susan Lowinger
Publisher: Independently published, 2020
Paperback: 151 pages
Amazon: $9.90; Kindle: $2.99
Reviewed by Judy Shapiro

It has been said that the novelist Henry James wrote like his brother, William, a psychologist, while William James wrote like his brother Henry, the novelist. The fourteen original short stories comprising "Angels on Friday Night" are vignettes of human relationships written by Susan Lowinger, a published writer of short stories and a psychologist.

Readers will recognize parts of themselves, or of people they know, in some of the characters. They can identify and sympathize with their personality imperfections and their lack of self-awareness. They can empathize with their reactions to grief and to their demonstrations of loving-kindness. They care what happens to them.

Biblical and Talmudic excerpts introduce each story, acting as a leitmotif, guiding the reader to appreciate the nuances and behavior of the characters. Concomitantly, the reader deepens his regard of the wisdom and the prescient insight of our ancient texts in understanding the human condition.

The power of love as a healer is a dominant theme in the stories. Fractured family relationships and misunderstandings between friends can be repaired. Husbands and wives, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren and even unrelated polar opposites can achieve greater understanding with forgiveness, compassion, empathy, wisdom and an open mind.

Many of the stories involve secrets that bind the characters to silence. They live with these secrets but it affects their behavior and increases their anxiety. It is only when the truth is no longer concealed that the relationships improve and there is greater understanding, acceptance and repair of situations that seemed unnatural, incomprehensible and hurtful.

A few of the characters in some stories find themselves in situations beyond their control. They don't understand how they got there, how to act or how the situation can be resolved. By looking beyond themselves, by looking at the world beyond the window of their office or of the bus on which they are riding can they slowly reach a point of self awareness which leads them ultimately to a change for the better.

The stories are beautifully written and one can sense that the author loves the people about whom she writes. She cares about them and wants them to be happy and resolve their dilemmas. In one searing story, a mother's profound grief at her son's death is relieved by the appearance of a Hassid singing a tune, by the appearance of her pregnant daughter and a friend of her son who comes to plant flowers at her son's memorial, where she sits every day, overlooking the beautiful hills of Tzfat.

The author uplifts us through her stories. She tells us that the giving, receiving and acceptance of love, truth, friendship, kindness, wisdom, courage and time can improve relationships with our families and friends.

Susan Lowinger is a clinical and developmental psychologist who has written and edited six books on autism in children and adults. She holds graduate degrees from The New School of Social Research in New York City and from Bar Ilan University in Israel. She is especially interested in mother-child interactions and the effects of early attachment on subsequent development. Dr. Lowinger directed a clinic for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, lectured at the Bar Ilan School of Education and organized special conferences for the professional community. She is also one of the prize winners of the ESRA Magazine short story contest 2019. 



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