Margin Notes: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant
by Roz Chast
#1 New York Times Bestseller
2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the "crazy closet"--with predictable results--the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.
While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies--an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades--the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book took me by surprise. I've never been a comics kind of girl, but something about this book really spoke to me. Maybe, it's that because I'm 32 and my parents have retired, I think about their mortality more frequently. My dad is a life-long smoker and so has recently started encountering health issues. My friends parents are having similar issues--we had a whole group text about cancer a couple weeks ago--lots of our dads are facing it.
I appreciated Roz Chast's story--and her writing style. There was candor, wit, moments of clarity, and moments of hilarity. I can relate to that. This book was so honest in an unassuming way. Chast doesn't portray herself as the perfect daughter, just as someone struggling with how to navigate life as the only daughter of aging parents who she loves but are sometimes infuriating. She muddled through and didn't prescribe a solution, just told her story. I appreciated that.
Most people aren't saints; this memoir is down to earth and honest and Chast's story made me laugh, cry, and think. Highly recommended.
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