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Michelle Newby is contributing editor at Lone Star Literary Life, reviewer for Foreword Reviews, freelance writer, member of the National Book Critics Circle, and blogger at www.TexasBookLover.com. Her reviews appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades Magazine, Rain Taxi, World Literature Today, South85 Journal, The Review Review, Concho River Review, Monkeybicycle, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, and The Collagist.
Melanie Shankle was in fourth grade when her teacher asked her to read a story she had written to the entire class. Even though that story now seems a little silly and simplistic, it made the students in Mrs. Rice's homeroom laugh out loud, and a little dream began in Melanie's heart—a dream to use words to make people laugh.
Over the ensuing years, Melanie wrote when she had a chance and tucked things away in notebooks and journals, rarely showing any of it to anyone. But in July 2005, on a total whim and in desperate need of a creative outlet, she began writing a blog called Big Mama. No one was more shocked than Melanie when someone other than her dad and her college roommate began to read it.
Since that time Melanie has seen her blog readership grow beyond her wildest dreams and open the doors to writing and speaking opportunities she never could have imagined. It's proof that God wasn't playing around when he inspired Paul to write Ephesians 3:20. It is "immeasurably more" than she could have asked or imagined.
In addition to her blog, Melanie writes a quarterly column for the popular online magazine Praise and Coffee, is a regular contributor to the Pioneer Woman's blog, and serves as co-administrator and writer for LifeWay Women's AllAccess blog. She also serves as emcee for LifeWay's annual DotMom event and participates in Compassion International's blogger initiative. Melanie's first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, is a New York Times Bestseller.
A graduate of Texas A&M University and a former pharmaceutical rep, Melanie loves writing, shopping at Target, looking to see what's on sale at Anthropologie, and encouraging other moms in a humorous, yet relatable way at TheBigMamaBlog.com.
Most of all, she loves being the mother of Caroline and the wife of her husband, Perry. The three of them live in San Antonio, Texas, with their two elderly dogs. She also believes she owes a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Rice for making her read that story out loud all those years ago.
Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers
Softcover, 978-1-4143-9748-1 (also available as ebook and audio)
256 pages, $15.99
April 7, 2015
Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship is San Antonio mom and blogger Melanie Shankle’s third book and third memoir. Inspired by watching her daughter navigate junior high friendships, Nobody’s Cuter considers the evolution of childhood friendships and recounts the history of the author and her best friend, Gulley. They met at Texas A&M University and have been inseparable for twenty-five years.
Shankle writes with simple prose and gentle, self-deprecating humor about college, boyfriends, first jobs, husbands and the challenges of rookie moms. Nobody’s Cuter is packed with pop culture (one chapter is titled “The Chapter with More than Its Share of 80’s References.”) spanning four decades, from The Bionic Woman to Justin Timberlake, which invokes an enjoyable nostalgia for the days when we, too, played Charlie’s Angels all over the neighborhood. Or was that just me? I digress.
Shankle wants us to engage in actually being there for each other, not settling for the “community” represented by Facebook and Twitter. She tells us that, “Real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up and laughing loud and crying hard” not merely “…liking one another’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and deluding ourselves into believing we have community.”
There are two sides to every element in Nobody’s Cuter. For each wryly funny observation (“…Caroline is our only child and if we screw this up, no one will come to visit us for Christmas when we’re old.”) there is another that’s merely silly (“We don’t have a backup plan, unless you count our dogs, and everyone knows that dogs are the worst gift givers at holidays.”) For each moment when I was truly touched (as when Gulley offers to go spend the night with a distraught Caroline who is away at camp for the first time) there was a tangent which the author freely admits has nothing to do with what she was writing about. Each hard-won bit of advice (“…while it’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy, I’ll add that it can also be a destroyer of relationships.”) is followed by a cliché (“…sometimes the best lessons are the ones that hurt the most”). Shankle’s relationship with God is a major theme of Nobody’s Cuter and this also has two sides. She credits God for breaking up one of her friendships because “…there was talk of drinking and parties on the weekends…” and she “…was in no way strong enough to stand up to peer pressure…” This begs the question of why God chose to spare Shankle but not her friend.
I’m calling Nobody’s Cuter “Chick Memoir.” If you’re looking for an original read that challenges you or prose that sparks your imagination then look elsewhere. If you’re looking for comfort in something light and sweet then Nobody’s Cuter might be for you.
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