Full disclosure: I read most of this book while drinking wine in the bathtub. Some of my memories are kind of hazy. From what I can remember though…
This is not a memoir full of funny anecdotes. A common complaint on Goodreads (and one that I agree with, although I don’t necessarily consider it a drawback), is that nothing happens in this book. And that’s true–while the author is divorced with a child, and in a new relationship with a common-law husband and a dog–you don’t really get stories about these events like in some other memoirs I’ve read (Nora Ephron and Jancee Dunn most recently). Joseph hints at a past issue with depression (the chapter where she mentions plopping her kid in front of the TV all day and barely remembering to feed him almost made me put it down) but no stories of redemption or breakthroughs.
I loved Joseph’s writing style so much that she could have described ANYTHING for two hundred pages and I would have read it all. She has a way of describing people as a list of characteristics that I cannot describe to YOU but I really loved it. Here’s an example:
“The puppy didn’t like to be left alone. He didn’t like to be ignored. There were days when it seemed like he could never get enough attention to satisfy his need for attention. The puppy would get depressed. He’d sigh. He’d stare at the wall or at his feet in an impassive way. He’d burp like a human burps. Or he’d shred something. He’d take a book, a sweater, a twenty dollar bill under the dining room table, and he’d shred it.
I understood him completely.”
The tone of the book is very dry and seems very honest. Joseph is trying her best to raise her son even though she doesn’t understand him at all. When he refers to a girl in his eighth grade class as a slut because she’s with “a lot”
of guys, she writes:
“I could ask him if he think “a lot” means the same as “too many”…I could tell him that he shouldn’t call a girl a slut because someday she might be somebody’s mother…maybe she’s a slut because she’s lonely, she’s sad, she’s hoping someone or something will make the lonely and sad go away.”
Her memoir is simply a deep look into someone else’s life and perspective, and even if nothing “happens”, isn’t that what writing is for? To see how other people view the world?