A Round-Helled Woman Summary
by Jane Juska

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A Round-Helled Woman

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Jane Juska, a retired high school English teacher, placed the following personal ad in the New York Review of Books: “Before I turn 67—next March—I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” Her reference, of course, is to her favorite author, Victorian-era Anthony Trollope.

Although Juska’s story may be attractive to talk show hosts, the reading of it will be less appealing to many people. Her tales of sexual desire for the boys she taught, her language telling everything she was doing or planned to do while having sex, and her lewd public behavior put a damper on the joy one might otherwise feel for this woman who was tired of celibacy and was doing something about it. Juska admits to drug use, marijuana smoking, inappropriate thoughts toward her father, ignoring her husband’s needs, and being an incompetent mother to her son, who left home at age fourteen to live on the streets. Yet, while one may not like the woman, Juska is undeniably well read, well educated, and capable of remarkable writing. Her descriptions of some aspects of her life are wonderful, such as when she talks about learning Latin in her mother’s kitchen as her mother danced and declined verbs, or when she relates her experiences teaching storytelling in San Quentin prison, where the men loved her for the language power she brought them, not for her body.