You should know, up front, that I am a big fan of Anna Quindlen’s writing style. I broke one of my cardinal rules by reading a New York Times review, before finishing this memoir; accidentally, that is. I was looking for online cover pics and could’t resist.
The reviewer, Judith Newman, also likes Anna Quindlen, but takes SOME issue with her latest…..”therein lies the problem for those of us who have loved Quindlen but at this point are a bit exasperated: her verities, while deeply soothing, aren’t always entirely believable. The underlying premise of “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake” is that we change profoundly as we get older, and in all sorts of wonderful ways. We worry less about what others think of us. We’re kinder, more thoughtful, wiser, easier on ourselves, more willing to stop and smell the roses. (Or, as I imagine Quindlen’s house, the freshly baked cookies.)
And of course there’s some truth to this. Some. Five percent? Maybe 10? But in fact most of us (and by “us,” I mean me) are more or less the same idiots we were when we were 25, with perhaps a few more useful limitations. After all, the average 80-year-old, if he wants to hit 81, might be well served by dialing it back with the hookers and blow. But, anyway, please don’t try to convince me that the march toward the hereafter is like a skip down the Yellow Brick Road.”
Now, my personality is such (a little jaded, a little (okay a lot) snarky) that I became prematurely worried that I would feel the same way. Only I didn’t. I mean, I really LOVED this memoir. Uh oh….does this mean I’m getting older and (this is more worrisome),somehow, susceptible to TRITE-ness, as I’m getting older?
Maybe so, my mother is Quindlen’s age, and, for one thing, I felt like Quindlen’s latest offering gave me some insight into how my mom might be feeling as she ages, and a sneak peak at how I might be feeling sooner than later. I’m allergic to quaint sayings and aphorisms and felt like Quindlen really didn’t use or abuse them. There was nothing trite or saccharine sweet about her observations, to my mind.
Her most insightful chapters reflect on women in the workplace — specifically journalism, but she touched on other fields as well. Her own experiences juxtaposed against those of her mother’s generation and her daughter’s are very revealing. Historically, it’s not something that hasn’t been said before, but I thought her personal viewpoint was fascinating.
I highly recommend this memoir to anyone who, um, writes, reads, is aging (aren’t we all?), is a mother, daughter, or friend……you get the picture!