Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

  • can't we talk about something more pleasant?Title:  Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?:  A Memoir
  • Author:  Roz Chast
  • Genre:  Memoir; Graphic
  • Published:  May 2014 – Bloomsbury USA
  • Source:  Library

Synopsis:  #1 New York Times Bestseller; 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST FOR NONFICTION

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.  (publisher)

My take:  Roz Chast’s memoir is a candid look into her life, her relationship with her parents, and their final days. An only child, the enormous lifelong responsibility was all hers. You may be familiar with Chast’s New Yorker cartoons which I’ve always found notable for portraying the human condition. Her illustrations in this memoir are equally remarkable.

At times uncomfortable, at times relatable I found Can’t We talk about Something More Pleasant? a compelling read and recommend it to fans of graphic memoirs, the author, and anyone who finds themselves in the position of caretaker of an elderly parent.

Rescue by Anita Shreve

Title:  Rescue

Author: Anita Shreve

Narrator:  Dennis Holland

Genre:  Fiction

Peter Webster rescues people for a living. One night he helps to save a woman involved in a car crash. Later he can’t stop thinking about her so,despite all obvious signs that she is trouble, he pursues a relationship with her. When Sheila tells him she’s pregnant with his baby he marries her. For a while it seems he really has saved her but then Sheila starts to fall back to old habits and becomes a danger to herself and their child. Flash forward several years: Rowan is seventeen and acting out. History seems to be repeating itself. Webster is afraid his daughter is becoming just like her mother. Will he be able to rescue Rowan?

Rescue would make a good book club selection because of  the discussion possibilities: Can people who don’t ask for help be saved when it seems they desperately need it? What might the ramifications be? Shreve works through those questions with her characters. While it’s not my favorite by the author I found it thought-provoking. I listened to the audiobook ably narrated by Dennis Holland.

Source:  My local library

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

Title: The Last Time I Saw You

Author: Elizabeth Berg

Genre: Fiction

About: (from the book flap):  From the beloved bestselling author of Home Safe and The Year of Pleasures, comes a wonderful new novel about women and men reconnecting with one another—and themselves—at their fortieth high school reunion.

My thoughts: Imagine getting ready for your 40th and final class reunion.  That’s what the characters in Elizabeth Berg’s latest novel are doing.  Everyone is a little nervous but since it’s the last one they make the effort to attend.  We meet the popular jock, the beautiful cheerleader, the nerds, and a host of others.  It was easy to fill in with my own high school classmate version of each character.  The event finally arrives and it was interesting to watch it unfold.  Berg made me laugh out loud one minute and feel the ache of sadness the next.

Since there are several characters some of them are not as developed as I’m used to finding in Berg’s novels – probably due to the fact that the book is only 244 pages. There are comic moments as well as bittersweet but, as with most Berg novels, the end is hopeful – not wrapped up with a pretty bow – but hopeful nonetheless. I liked that.

Recommend? Yes, for Elizabeth Berg fans and anyone who has contemplated going to a high school class reunion.

Source: Library

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

Title: Goodnight Tweetheart

Author: Teresa Medeiros

Genre: Fiction

About: (Back of the book) Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the f…more

My thoughts: At first glance, Goodnight Tweetheart is a light-hearted novel.  The tweets are witty and clever and filled with of-the-moment social references (songs, movies, tv shows, etc). Little by little Medeiros revealed details about Abby and Mark that drew me in and made me care about them.  I went into the book thinking this could never happen in real life. Though I’m still a skeptic, what surprised me was how much I wanted to see a happily-ever-after for the two characters.  I enjoyed their story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommend? Yes.  Perfect for the beach, a cross-country flight or a cold winter night.

Source: Library

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Fiction

My thoughts: I listened to this holiday romance. It’s a sweet and enjoyable novel about Mark Nolan who seems quite willing to settle for a relationship with the wrong woman and Maggie Conroy, a young widow, who thinks she’s had her one chance at love so she’s not interested in anything more than friendship.

Mark became his young niece Holly’s guardian after the tragic death of his sister. The woman he’s been dating seems to think Holly shouldn’t be considered Mark’s child because he’s not her father. Mark starts to feel not so willing to settle with that woman. He’s becoming more attracted to Maggie anyway but she isn’t interested in dating – ever.

Surprisingly this is the first Lisa Kleypas novel I’ve ever read. I like her easy style as she takes the reader through a not-so-unusual plot but makes it seem fresh, just the same. This is a light, feel-good read that is perfect for the season. It combines Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Why I chose: I read it for the Holiday Reading Challenge.

Recommend? Yes, to fans of holiday romance fiction and Lisa Kleypas.  I listened to the unabridged audiobook performed by Tanya Eby.  I enjoyed her presentation.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Stay by Allie Larkin

Author: Allie Larkin

Genre: Fiction

About: It’s the funny yet poignant story of Savannah (Van) who has experienced some great loss in her life.  She grew up without a father, her mother died a few years ago, and her best friend just married the guy Van loved. Distraught after the wedding she has a pity party for one that involves Kool-Aid and vodka, a Rin Tin Tin marathon and her computer – resulting in a purchase she barely remembers.

Thoughts: I liked most of the characters in Allie Larkin’s charming debut novel but especially Joe, the pity party purchase (and star of the book cover).  Because of Joe, Van meets Alex, a veterinarian who is also a nice guy with a great smile.  Van starts to see new possibilities in her life (thanks in part to Joe and Alex).  She begins to more clearly understand some of the events in her past.  The end result is a satisfying story that had me smiling as I turned the last page.

Source: Library

Why I Chose: Bloggers I trust gave it good reviews.

Recommend? Yes, especially if you’re in the mood for some entertaining chick lit.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story by Patti Callahan Henry

Title: The Perfect Love Song

Author: Patti Callahan Henry

Genre: Fiction

About: (book blurb) Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again —their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina —he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington. With his soul now filled with hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the ““Perfect Love Song,” so much so that Jimmy finds himself going on tour with famous country music stars, catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme. All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss Jack’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties to Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly slipping away. Alone in New York City on Christmas Eve, Jimmy finally sees —with the help of a Christmas miracle or two —that his material gains are nothing compared to love, that he is losing all that really matters in his life. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?

Descriptive Words: A sweet and magical tale of love and forgiveness.

Thoughts: Grab a cup of tea and curl up with this love story.  If you read the author’s novel When Light Breaks you’ll be pleased to know that characters from that book are in The Perfect Love Song. Brothers Jimmy and Jack Sullivan are musicians on the rise to fame.  They also happen to love Charlotte and Kara who are best friends.  One Christmas Jimmy’s gift to Charlotte is a song that he wrote.  That song eventually attracts attention from a concert producer which changes things for the brothers, their band, and most importantly, Jimmy and Charlotte.

This is a light tale of love and forgiveness and the chance that is taken by being open to both.  I enjoyed the magical, almost mythical, tone of the novel. I wasn’t sure who the narrator was until the end but it made sense and made me smile.  I wish the main characters had been a bit more developed.  I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t read When Light Breaks, the fact that it’s a short book (224 pages), or if it’s just me,  but I didn’t connect with them.  That said, if you’re looking for a bit of an escape during the busy holidays, this could be the book for you.

Source: Library

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Why I Chose: I’ve enjoyed other books by the author;  it’s on the Okra Picks challenge list.

Recommend? Maybe, to fans of Patti Callahan Henry and a sweet love story.