Friday, October 26, 2012

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake - Anna Quindlen (Audio)

There are a gazillion people out there that are Anna Quindlen apostles, but I have only discovered her recently.  No doubt, one of my top books (listens actually) of 2012 will be "Every Last One".  It only took this one book to make me realize that Ms. Quindlen GETS family dynamics.  (She also knows how to freaking pull the rug out from under a girl.)  After a little poking around, I found out that Quindlen did have two sons and a daughter (like the book) who have all grown up and become contributing citizens.  AND SHE IS ALIVE TO TELL ABOUT IT!  These days, I have a great deal of admiration for a parents who makes it through the teenage stage sane.  Well, most of them do, but it is nice to see.

So when Quindlen came out with this memoir, from the perspective of a woman who has basically seen it all, and is sitting in the second half of her life, I figured I've got stuff to learn from her.

Synopsis:  Anna Quindlen has opinions and nuggets of wisdom on a variety of topics, and in a musing, humorous, and slightly snarky voice, she imparts.  She talks about spending decades with the same man, the importance of sticking out the tough times, of being a team.  She talks of the accumulation of stuff, of raising children and then watching them leave.  Of the aging body, the attempt to keep it from falling apart, but making peace with what you've got.  Of lightening up.  Of religion.  Of the beauty of having alone-time.  And most of all, the importance of girlfriends.  

She doesn't claim to have all the answers, but she throws out thoughts to ponder and observations of life, with the astute eye and a turn of a phrase that makes her such an exceptional author.  

My thoughts:  Quindlen is 10 to 15 years older than I am, so she has gone through phases in life that I am currently dragging my way through.  For this reason, I loved reading this memoir.  It gave me hope!  My marriage may make it through these years!  My kids may actually emerge from high school and college and be respectable!  Some day I might actually learn to relax!  I shouldn't feel compelled to inject my face or lips or suck the fat out of my butt, just because everything is a little droopy!  

I found Quindlen to be very grounded and wise, kind of like a mentor.  She allows the reader to see what is in her heart, what and who has motivated her or defeated her, and some of her own life lessons.  With a dose of piss and vinegar I might add...sister has some moxie.  The part I loved the most, though, I admit freely, is her bit on girlfriends.  There was a perfect paragraph where she talks about the definition of a true friend, but of course this book was on audio, I didn't write it down, and now I've deleted it from the iPod.  So I will share another quote that I found on Amazon:

“Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Sometimes I will see a photo of an actress in an unflattering dress or a blouse too young for her or with a heavy-handed makeup job, and I mutter, ‘She must not have any girlfriends.’ ”

I know, right?  Throughout the entire portion of this chapter, my eyes kinda went dewy and I kept smiling, feeling blessed to have my girlfriends.  Here is another jewel about old friends:

“The thing about old friends is not that they love you, but that they know you. They remember that disastrous New Year's Eve when you mixed White Russians and champagne, and how you wore that red maternity dress until everyone was sick of seeing the blaze of it in the office, and the uncomfortable couch in your first apartment and the smoky stove in your beach rental. They look at you and don't really think you look older because they've grown old along with you, and, like the faded paint in a beloved room, they're used to the look. And then one of them is gone, and you've lost a chunk of yourself. The stories of the terrorist attacks of 2001, the tsunami, the Japanese earthquake always used numbers, the deaths of thousands a measure of how great the disaster. Catastrophe is numerical. Loss is singular, one beloved at a time.”

I wouldn't say the memoir is life-altering, but it was a wonderful, warm, hilarious diversion, and so beautifully written.  And I don't believe you have to be in the middle of your life to appreciate it.  In fact, some of the pearls of wisdom in here might just help those in their 20's and 30's avoid a pitfall or two.

A few words about the audio production:  I was delighted to see that Anna narrates this book herself.  I'm not sure I'd want to hear her narrate, let's say, a Jo Nesbo book, but in this case, she knows the material and delivers it in the spirit in which it was written.  She has a dry sense of humor, and this completely comes through in her spoken word.  She was a pleasure to listen to.

4 out of 5 stars

     

15 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like my kind of memoir.

JoAnn said...

This will be one of my favorites of 2012, too. I started listening to the audio on my way to pick up Twin A at college. Before I arrived, I stopped off at a B&N along the way and purchased a hardcover copy! I'll want to return to many sections of this book.

annieb said...

I just finished this book myself and loved it. Actually, I am slowly reading through all of Quindlen's work, fiction and nonfiction. She is amazing. She has said before, as she does in this book, that she doesn't want any more friends, but I wish she would reconsider and take me. I would settle for a lunch, actually. Nora Ephron had that same quality--you just want them as girlfriends.

Jackie Bailey said...

I'm good at accumulating stuff, but not sure I'll be as good at seeing them leave. She sounds like the sort of friend I'd like to have too!

Beth F said...

I have loved Quindlen since we both in out 30s -- which was just last week, I think. Anyway, yeah. So glad you've discovered her.

Anita said...

I loved this book. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

Alyce said...

I loved Every Last One too, and have been pondering which of her books to next read. I think I will probably stick with fiction though. Maybe I'll pick this one up in a few years when my son is in high school. :)

The Novel Sphere (Melissa) said...

I like these kinds of stories because they always remind me to call my parents and say I love them. Nothing like acknowledging the people in your life that have put up with all your crap haha!

Stephanie said...

This sounds like a book I'd really like. I've enjoyed Anna Quindlen's newspaper columns and novels.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I've really enjoyed all of her books that I've read, but I haven't gotten to this one yet. It sounds good!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I found Quindlen when Blessings was published...and love her. I've also got Good Dog. Stay. (on audio) in my review backlog right now...I totally agree with what you said about how Quindlen characterizes family dynamics.
I finished The Chaperone today and miss Cora already :( LOVED it!

Marie said...

Memoirs can be great when read by the author- it feels more intimate. This sounds like a winner!

Julie P. said...

I am a huge fan of hers and I'm dying to read this one!!!

Kathleen said...

This one is on my shelf already and I am really looking forward to reading it. At 49 years of age I know I will relate to many things in the book!

Jenners said...

Perhaps this will be my next audio listen. Sounds like a good one and I'm curious to hear her voice and delivery.