(Stephanie Jocelyn Gertler)
PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY; daughter of Menard M. and Anna (Paull) Gertler; married Mark B. Schiffer, September 19, 1981; children: David, Elyena, Benjamin. Education: New York University, B.A., 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Dance, exercise.
ADDRESSES: Office—23 Grand Park Ave., Scarsdale, NY 10583-7611. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Journalist. Newsweek, Miami, FL, office manager, 1975–77; Grune & Strathon, New York, NY, senior production editor, 1978–81; Greenwich News, art/lifestyles editor, 1995–97; Greenwich Post, art/lifestyles editor, 1997; Greenwich Magazine, senior writer, 1997; Westport, senior writer, 1998.
AWARDS, HONORS: Award for general column, Society of Professional Journalists, 1997.
Jimmy's Girl (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.
The Puzzle Bark Tree (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Drifting (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
The Windmill (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Adrienne Lopez) To Love, Honor, and Betray: The Secret Lives of Suburban Wives (nonfiction), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Hour (Norwalk, CT), Wilton Villager, and Spotlight Magazine. Columnist, Advocate (Stamford, CT).
SIDELIGHTS: Stephanie Gertler worked as a freelance writer for years before producing her first novel, Jimmy's Girl. The book's heroine, Emily Hudson, is a married mother of four who grows dissatisfied with her seemingly ideal life. Her relationship with her husband, a workaholic attorney, has become passionless. She is inspired to find her first love, Jimmy, from whom she had separated when he went off to war in Vietnam and she became a peace activist. Though he is also married and the father of a child, they meet at the Vietnam War Memorial and spend a nostalgic, romantic weekend together in Washington, DC, There they discuss the past and the ways they have changed since then, and try to decide whether they should abandon their current lives to renew their relationship. The story is told from the perspective of both Emily and Jimmy, in alternating chapters, so that Gertler slowly reveals the differences between what each character says and what the other hears. On her Web site, Gertler explained that Emily's memories and emotions were linked to her own memories of first love. She wrote: "When I was writing Jimmy's Girl, I remembered what it felt like when 'he' would call, when I would mention 'his' name, when 'he' would ring the doorbell, put 'his' arm around me. When your heart is opened for the first time, even the agony is sweet."
Readers found that Gertler's story of young love touched a nerve. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly said that Gertler has produced an "assured debut," calling Jimmy's Girl "a winsome morality tale." Critics remarked on the universality of Gertler's main theme of "the road not taken," what Ellie Barta-Moran, in Booklist, described as "one of life's constant what-if questions." Joanna Burkhardt, writing for the Library Journal, similarly commented that Gertler has created characters and problems with which her audience can identify, suggesting that "readers will react viscerally to the pain and pathos of their dilemma." In an interview on her Web site, Gertler herself imagined that "ninety-nine percent of people" wonder what happened to their first love. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called Jimmy's Girl "predictable fare," but nonetheless concluded that Gertler's novel "offers a tender evocation of lost love, and what it means to find it again."
Gertler's second novel, The Puzzle Bark Tree, was published in 2002. In it, Gertler tells the story of Grace Hammond Barnett, whose emotionally distant parents commit suicide and leave behind a house Grace never knew of in the upstate New York village of Sabbath Landing. When her husband, Adam, refuses to go with her to visit the house, she goes alone. In Sabbath Landing she meets Luke Keegan, who knew Grace's family when she was a child and remembers things about them that Grace has long since forgotten or repressed. As Grace learns more secrets about her family's past, she also comes to understand the problems in her failing marriage. "Emotional without ever being overwrought or sappy, The Puzzle Bark Tree is a series of powerful and evocative revelations and repercussions," Roberta O'Hara wrote in a review for BookReporter.com. A critic for Kirkus Reviews, however, found the book a "dull romance," while a contributor for Publishers Weekly called it a "strained effort." On the other hand, Carolyn Kubisz, writing in the Library Journal, felt the novel provided "a good popular read."
Gertler's third novel, Drifting, deals with a woman trying to come to terms with being abandoned by her mother as a young girl. Claire's quest is spurred by the relationship between a man and his blind daughter, guests at Claire's inn. While a critic for Kirkus Reviews deemed the book "mawkish," Nancy Pearl, writing in the Library Journal, pointed out Gertler's "talent for creating sympathetic, well-realized characters." Similarly, Roberta Johnson, writing in Booklist, commented on the "rich emotional tone and the durable themes [which] are definitely rewarding."
The past also intrudes on present relationships in Gertler's The Windmill. When her husband, Carl, disappears for a time, Olivia is forced to deal with painful memories from her past, including the death of her first husband. Reunited, Olivia and Carl must deal with past lives and decide how much of such history to include in their relationship as it moves forward. Writing in Booklist, Kaite Mediatore found this novel "both gripping and melodramatic." However, a critic for Publishers Weekly had reservations about the book. Noting that it was "a pleasant enough read," this contributor also found the work "sentimental" and "hollow at the center." Nevertheless, Geraldine S. Pearson, writing in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, felt The Windmill "immerses the reader into poignant emotions while taking you into the lives of Carl Larkin and his wife, Olivia." Pearson also went on to call the work "one of the finest novels I have ever read."
Gertler, collaborating with Adrienne Lopez, took a break from fiction with the 2005 title, To Love, Honor, and Betray: The Secret Lives of Suburban Wives, a collection of first-person confessionals from wives who, for one reason or another, have been unfaithful in marriage.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2000, Ellie Barta-Moran, review of Jimmy's Girl, p. 618; May 15, 2002, Carolyn Kubisz, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree, p. 1574; August, 2003, Roberta Johnson, review of Drifting, p. 1952; October 1, 2004, Kaite Mediatore, review of The Windmill, p. 310.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2000, review of Jimmy's Girl, p. 68; April 1, 2002, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree, p. 441; July 15, 2003, review of Drifting, p. 926.
Library Journal, October 15, 2000, Joanna Burkhardt, review of Jimmy's Girl, p. 101; August, 2003, Nancy Pearl, review of Drifting, p. 130.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, April-June, 2005, Geraldine S. Pearson, review of The Windmill, p. 94.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000, review of Jimmy's Girl, p. 46; May 20, 2002, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree, p. 48; October 11, 2004, review of The Windmill, p. 55; January 17, 2005, review of To Love, Honor, and Betray: The Secret Lives of Suburban Wives, p. 46.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, November, 2005, Melissa Brown Levine, review of Drifting.
About Women Writers, http://www.aboutwomenwriters.com/ (November 17, 2005), Paula Kiman, "Interview with Stephanie Gertler."
Best Reviews, http://thebestreviews.com/ (January 6, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Jimmy's Girl; (March 2, 2002) Marilyn Heyman, review of Jimmy's Girl.
Book Loons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (November 17, 2005), Harry Williamson, reviews of The Puzzle Bark Tree, Drifting, and The Windmill.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (July 12, 2002), "Interview with Stephanie Gertler"; (February 19, 2003), "Author Profile: Stephanie Gertler", and Roberta O'Hara, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree.
GirlPosse, http://www.girlposse.com/ (February 19, 2003), "The Fifteen-Question E-Mail Interview with Stephanie Gertler."
Heartstrings, http://romanticfiction.tripod.com/ (February 19, 2003), interview with Gertler, and C.L. Jeffries, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree.
Penguin Putnam Web site, http://www.pengiunputnam.com/ (October 7, 2001).
Romance Reader's Connection, http://www.theromancereadersconnection.com/ (February 19, 2003) Tracy Farnsworth, reviews of The Puzzle Bark Tree and Jimmy's Girl; Tangela Williams, review of The Windmill.
Romantic Times, http://www.romantictimes.com/ (November 17, 2005), Sheri Melnick, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree, Drifting, and The Windmill.
Roundtable Reviews, http://www.roundtablereviews.com/ (November 17, 2005), Tracy Farnsworth, "Interview with Stephanie Gertler."
Stephanie Gertler Web site, http://www.stephaniegertler.com (November 17, 2005).
Women Writers, http://www.womenwriters.net/ (May 1, 2002), Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay, review of Jimmy's Girl.
Word Weaving, http://www.wordweaving.com/(February 19, 2003), Cindy Penn, review of The Puzzle Bark Tree.
Written Voices, http://www.writtenvoices.com/ (February 19, 2003), "Featured Author: Stephanie Gertler."