This title is from a poem by Theordore Roethke that goes: I knew a woman lovely in her bones... Kind of gave me chills when I thought of the book Lovely in Her Bones, and likened it to this book. Anyway...)
I got this from my daughter, who just took it out from the library. Published in 2001, it was removed the first time in Dec 2001, then July 2002, and not again until this month. Darn shame, too. Cortney Davis is a poet, and a nurse practitioner in a very busy woman's clinic here in CT. What she's done is drawn 4 women from a composite of her most memorable patients. How she did that, I can't figure, but the characters are rich, with nothing missing, and their problems real and raw. Cancer, teen pregnancy with a bit of older boyfriend abuse thrown in, severe pain with sex from a woman sexually abused by a beloved uncle when she was a child, a drug-addicted woman popping out babies only to have them whisked away by family services. And somehow, Davis manages to stitch in pieces of her own struggles in this colorful quilt of female issues. She does this unabashedly, even when it had to be embarrassing for her to write such things.
All my life I've heard critics talk about 'truth' in writing, and for the longest time, didn't quite get it. Just tell me a good story...never mind this truth business. But after writing for years, I started to get it, understand what they meant by that. Didn't necessarily agree with it, but understood. This book is a clear example of that truth-telling. And that is what makes it so raw: Don't you tell me about who I should pick to go to bed with. My mother put me on the streets at ten years old...where were you at ten years old? Taking a precious family heirloom and pawning it for $25, yes for rent or food, but had she gone to her family the treasure the pawn broker would have sold back to her for $1200 would not be lost. He rubbed me down there, and I know it was wrong, but it felt good, I liked it. How do you explain to a grown woman that a little child would not understand that that beloved man's rubbing her would have felt good...that children can't help what feels good and certainly can't always tell what is right and what is wrong. On and on.
I really recommend this book, even if just as a sort of manual on the workings of a female body, and how things look inside. Yes, inside.
From the back cover:
"Like an intricate and beautiful work of art, Dortney Davis holds up the female body for admiration, reflection, exploration and awe in this sensuous and joyful book. A poet and a nurse practitioner with 25 years' experience, Davis reveals the intimate details of her daily work at a women's clinic over the course of a year. Here are the powerful stories of 4 patients, women who struggle with the body's natural cycles and unexpected surprises, and Davis's own emotions and thoughts as she treats them. 'I Knew a Woman' is a celebration of the reality of the female body..it's glorious beginnings and its subtle endings."