Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

     I have enjoyed several of author Anna Quindlen's novels.  She wrote  One True Thing which is  one of my all time favorite books.  She also wrote another very compelling novel entitled Black and Blue.  She was a columnist for the NY Times and has written several collections of essays, all of which I have read.  I was delighted to discover that she was coming out with a memoir and was on the pre-order list for Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

      My copy arrived last Wednesday and I dove right into it.  In some ways it resonated with me.  This is a woman about my age with whom I share a cultural history.  We came of age when the second feminist movement was being born and we have lived with the confusions of that time.  As she so nicely put it, "We were the heiresses to a woman's movement that had broken the world wide open.  But we were completely making it up as we went along, at work, at home, in our own minds, trying to be both our mothers and our fathers simultaneously.  That wasn't easy."  From where I sit now in life, I know that struggle.  I am happy, however,  to have had the benefit of a changing culture and it all seems so normal now.

     The book is really a collection of essays, each of which could stand on its own, about what it means to be in the second half of life.  Quindlen tackles many of the expected issues:  marriage, girlfriends, acquisition of stuff, bodies, parenting, changing perspectives, and more.  Although I admire her writing style, I found the book somewhat disappointing.  For one thing, it seemed repetitious.  It dragged at places and it seemed as if she was putting words on the page just to add to the page number.  The second criticism is my own bias but Quindlen is a woman of privilege.  She was raised in a wealthy family and she is a woman of personal wealth now.  I have a tough time relating to her life of relative ease.  Additionally, Quindlen is a reporter and her book reads like a newspaper article.  It lacks humanity and warmth and that actually surprised me.  So, I got this just released book on Wednesday, finished it by today, and sold it back on Amazon already.  Off in the mail it goes tomorrow.  It will be leaving me with a few things about which to think and write but without much misgiving.

One word review:  Meh


  1. That's the way to do it - buy it, read it, sell it!!

  2. I always feel so guilty when I read book reviews, because I so rarely read. Now, when I am not reading this book, I will know that I am not missing anything.

    What's "Meh?"

  3. Aw, man. I've always been a Quindlen fan--especially her Newsweek columns, but I loved some of her fiction as well. I was really looking forward to this book. It's still on my to-read list, but I'm moving it down a few notches. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Oh now, don't take my word for it - in the words of Levar Burton - Reading Rainbow - love that show..... I am cynical and critical of wealthy people. Jealous maybe? Go figure.

  4. Nice post JT. I too enjoy her work......a while back I read "Blessings", and then "Black and Blue", and just recently something called "Rise and Shine". Of all of them, Blessings was my favorite. She's a good writer; I doubt I'll be reading "Lots of Candles and Plenty of Cake" any time soon.....especially after your review. Thanks!