Esme Pie's Reviews > Cakewalk: A Memoir

Cakewalk by Kate Moses
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's review
Mar 09, 11

bookshelves: memoir
Read in March, 2011

So did not want to finish this book because it just kind of unraveled 2/3rds of the way through, but as I told several good friends (after throwing the book across the room) I have to finish because I have to warn the others.

I've noted before that I'll read just about any memoir, but I believe it's actually very difficult to write a good memoir. This one started out so well. Crazy/crappy childhood with eccentric and/or inattentive parents interspersed with recipes for baked goods--i.e. the stress of bad parenting sweetened by sugar. A perfect memoir "recipe" if you will.

To illustrate why this book failed I am going to use a book by Vivian Gornick--'The Situation and the Story.' Gornick writes that in all our life stories, there is the situation, our circumstances, and it is the writer's job to turn this situation into a story. That is decide what is the overall theme of one's life and use one's various situations to illustrate, bringing some stories into sharper focus and tamping others down. Let's face it: everything that happens to us is not important. The book the best illustrates this concept for me is 'The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls. Walls' situation: horrifying and haphazard parenting. But what's the story? Even the worst parents still bestow incredible gifts. Reading Walls' book, I never believed until the end that she would redeem her parents and I was so incensed at them throughout the book. But, at the end, she turned it around and had the reader viewing them with the same love and compassion as the author.

'Cakewalk' is all situation; Moses has not found her story. Her mother goes from eccentric provider of a somewhat magical childhood to monster as the young adult's parent. The father is either completely absent or unspeakably cruel, but is suddenly reconciled with the author when she leaves for college. How these tremendous arcs are accomplished is never explained. The author goes from fat to thin with no explanation. She finds herself married and divorced in her mid-twenties, again with no story. In short, she essentially writes down everything that happened to her, threw in some awesome (hence the two stars) recipes and called it a day. She makes no sense of her life for the reader. Also, just a side note, but writers should not use who they know to make themselves more interesting. Moses was friends with both Kay Boyle and MFK Fisher (yes, I will admit to jealousy) but they do not add to her story.
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message 1: by KB (new) - rated it 2 stars

KB Wayne Well, you wrote my review for me. Whilst reading I was confused, waiting for explanations of these events. Just struck me as narcissistic but not interesting / accessible enough for others to enjoy (or aspire to).

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