This was a book group pick, and I read it eagerly because I like the author's "Ask Amy" column and enjoy her appearances on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."
And the book is reasonably well-written and readable. The problem is that it doesn't tell a compelliThis was a book group pick, and I read it eagerly because I like the author's "Ask Amy" column and enjoy her appearances on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."
And the book is reasonably well-written and readable. The problem is that it doesn't tell a compelling or particularly sympathetic story, and I ended up liking the author far less after reading it. Her story recounts her parents' divorce when she was young, an early failed marriage, a difficult relationship with her father, a second marriage that created a blended family, and the death of her beloved, long-suffering single mother. These are the things of which life is made, and while the author recounts all the events in more or less entertaining detail, her tale is hardly unique. It lacks the power and the life lessons I was hoping for.
And she has a mean streak that comes out in the unwarranted disparaging comments that pepper the narrative. She calls Ithaca College, where her mother taught writing for her entire career, a "lesser-known, local school." As a parent of an IC student, I'm vaguely insulted. IC is not Cornell, as the author points out, but it's a well-known school with excellent academics and draws a student body from around the globe (and did so even when the author's mother was teaching there). Similarly, she says the problem with the Ithaca, New York farmers' market is not the market itself, but the "adjunct professors" who frequent it, all of whom are allegedly insufferable and spoiled. I'm an adjunct professor myself. You can see why I found this problematic. I just don't identify with her snarky asides. "I can lay down a line of snark when it's warranted," the author says, interestingly, toward the end of the book, "but that's not who I want to be."
Finally, toward the end of the book, she complains that random strangers tend to approach her in public with their "petty problems" and she wishes she could tell them to "shut up." (This is the idea underlying the title of the book.) But when you're an advice columnist, that's going to happen. Ask any doctor or lawyer whether someone has ever approached them with their personal problems in a nonprofessional setting. It goes with the occupational territory. As for people feeling sorry for her kids because of the pressure they must feel to be perfect, that complaint just didn't resonate with this preacher's kid. People make assumptions. It isn't unique or compelling to complain about them.
When I read a memoir, I want to learn something, to hear a tale of an interesting or unusual life, and to take some nugget of hard-earned wisdom away from it. I was entertained by this book, but not compelled by it....more