18 December 2021


  • Bloomsbury Publishing 2021
  • ISBN 978-1-63557-762-4
  • 179 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)
The uncannily relevant, deliciously clear-eyed collected stories of a critically acclaimed, award-winning “American literary treasure” (Boston Globe), ripe for rediscovery―with a foreword by Elizabeth Strout.

From her many well-loved novels, Hilma Wolitzer―now ninety-one years old and at the top of her game―has gained a reputation as one of our best fiction writers, who “raises ordinary people and everyday occurrences to a new height.” (Washington Post) These collected short stories―most of them originally published in magazines including Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post, in the 1960s and 1970s, along with a new story that brings her early characters into the present―are evocative of an era that still resonates deeply today.

In the title story, a bystander tries to soothe a woman who seems to have cracked under the pressures of her life. And in several linked stories throughout, the relationship between the narrator and her husband unfolds in telling and often hilarious vignettes. Of their time and yet timeless, Wolitzer’s stories zero in on the domestic sphere with wit, candor, grace, and an acutely observant eye. Brilliantly capturing the tensions and contradictions of daily life, Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket is full of heart and insight, providing a lens into a world that was often unseen at the time, and often overlooked now―reintroducing a beloved writer to be embraced by a whole new generation of readers. 

My Take

The majority, but not all, of these collected short stories are related to a "loosely autobiographical couple", Paulie and Howard. I began reading them, expecting, for some reason, them to be humerous, but in reality they are not. For readers of this blog, I should point out, nor are they crime fiction. They spring rather from the ordinary events of life, of things that have happened, or nearly happened to us.

Events capture the characters, entrap them, and then sometimes there is humour and quirkiness, as they struggle to release themselves.

These stories were written and published over a period of five decades, and in themselves reflect what was important in American society in that time.

For me the most memorable is the last, the author writing in and about the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The stories:
Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket,1966
Waiting for Daddy,1971
Mrs X,1969
The Sex Maniac,1970
The Great Escape, 2020

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Hilma Wolitzer is a recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and a Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. She has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, New York University, Columbia University, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her first published story appeared when she was thirty-six, and her first novel eight years later. Her many stories and novels have drawn critical praise for illuminating the dark interiors of the American home. She lives in New York City.

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