Maybe my failure to respond to I Need a Man's Pants to Wash, Lorie Kleiner Eckert’s collection of columns on being a divorced, Jewish woman in Ohio, is due to something of a regional prejudice. Call me crazy, but a bunch of stories on the Ohio singles scene doesn’t strike me as a rollicking read – and I say this as a proud former Midwesterner. But truthfully, if Eckert’s stories (or more accurately her style of writing them) were outrageous, funny or even poignant, it wouldn’t matter where she was telling them.
Eckert is a syndicated columnist who, as previously mentioned, writes about her newly single life. In the introduction, Eckert says she wanted to write a singles column to track her journey to self-sufficiency as she emerged from her divorce – a noble goal. She also uses the column to introduce today’s readers to the Yiddish phrases she heard regularly as a child – also a positive goal.
However, the Yiddish words sprinkled throughout the book seem awkward and forced-in. It doesn’t help that every single one of them is italicized on first reference. This creates sort of a weird distance between Eckert and the reader – it’s as if she’s saying, “Hey, look at this strange word I put in just to enlighten you.”
A glossary of the terms in the back of book is a good idea, but there’s no good reason for not leaving the words in regular print. Readers are more than capable of recognizing the Yiddish words on their own.
But this is a very small problem with Eckert’s work. Yes, divorce can be hard and painful to discuss, but to write an affecting piece about second-singlehood, the author should be willing to be open about their feelings. Eckert gives us little information about the circumstances of the divorce, which is ok, but we also don’t get a lot of insight into how this makes her feel. She says she feels “alone” at times, but most of those feelings seem to revolve around her realization that she now has to find a way to handle her own household repairs and other tasks her husband would have done. Emotional issues, if addressed at all, are quickly brushed over in Eckert’s columns.
She’s a bit more open about her dating life, but there’s still the feeling that she’s keeping us at arm’s length. We never really get to know Eckert. That’s too bad, because the brief glimpses we do get into her soul (as in a sappy but sweet column about her best friend) reveal someone worth knowing. Here’s hoping that readers get to meet that person in future books.