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Dale Loves Sophie to Death

By Robb Forman Dew

Original Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Current Publisher: Back Bay Books (Hachette Book Group)

Harold Augenbraum writes:

Of all the books I read as part of my National Book Awards Fiction reading, Dale Loves Sophie to Death was the most startling. I thought the title was ridiculous, so ‘70s (even though it was published in the ‘80s), so cutesy, and even after I read the book I think it’s too precious by half (think about the meanings of the names “Dale” and “Sophie”). But the book, well, this is a small masterpiece, a portrait of marriage, of small town life, of family, of quiet expectations learning to scream despite themselves. I had never heard of Robb Forman Dew and so had never read any of her books (there are several later ones). Can’t wait to read more now. The woman writes as good paragraphs as anyone in America, both unassuming and assuming, beginning with sentences like “Whenever Martin was in transit, he was more or less a man absolutely free.” The underlying, constant fiddling of the libido and the psyche, wanting to be free, knowing that freedom can be stultifying, looking at marriage as a tether, in both the positive and negative senses of that word. Forman’s heroines and heroes are not like Updike’s: Her cast is ensemble, its virtuosity broad in its humility. Red herrings arrive in various hues, from coral to mauve, but each light she shines on them re-colors the experience. In the end, this small book, only 217 pages in my Penguin paperback, maybe 60,000 words, captures the multi-generational, middle-class, family saga as good, or better, than anything I have ever read, “domestic” fiction as good as it gets.

Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.


ISBN: 9780316890663

Fiction (First Novel) Finalists that Year:

  • Celia Gittelson for Saving Grace
  • Bette Bao Lord for Spring Moon
  • Leonard Michaels for The Men's Club
  • Ted Mooney for Easy Travel to Other Planets

Fiction Judges that Year: Not available

The Year in Literature:  

  • Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Gabriel García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

  • Robb Forman was born in 1946 in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and she married Charles Burgess Dew in 1968. They had two sons, one of whom is the focus of her memoir, The Family Heart.
  • Dale Loves Sophie to Death was her first novel, and she has since written three others.

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