Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pharmacist's Mate” as Want to Read:
The Pharmacist's Mate
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pharmacist's Mate

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  531 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Fusselman's first book weaves surprising beauty out of diverse strands: death and sea shanties, guns and artifical insemination, World War II and AC/DC. Highly personal but always engaging, this book reveals the humor and beauty throughout Fusselman's grief following her father's death. Original cover art by Marcel Dzama.
Hardcover, 86 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by McSweeney's (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pharmacist's Mate, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pharmacist's Mate

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Elyse
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
......... *NON FICTION* GREAT DISCOVERY .......reads like a fiction!!!

This is a story about Amy Fusselman. She tells us - in detail like I've never read before - her struggles to get pregnant.....in the months before and after the death of her dad.

The narrative is sparse- ( can't 'not' notice how eye-catching it is)......its marvelous..... weird ... funny ....sad....poetic...., and SHORT! ( less than 100 pages)

"The Pharmacist's Mate", juxtaposes Amy Fusselman's story of death, insemination, an
...more
David
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
the marcel dzama cover on nice paper aside. this is the quietest book on the shelf. and the most powerful. the tiniest little book of beauty and sadness and goodness. it fills your heart up with handclaps and tambourines and perfect harmonies. i read this wrapped up in an afghan that my grandmother had made before she died. wrapped up against the winter coming in through the cracks of the windowsills. through the 1950s thin paned windows themselves. it came right through the window and walls. to ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I grabbed this in a bookstore thinking it might be a chess book. It isn't. It's a memoir. Amy Fusselman is trying to get pregnant while mourning--and terribly missing--her father who has just died of complications brought by his emphysema(after being comatose for a while). He started smoking very young (at age 12), stopped when he was already 50 years old but, despite quitting, he still had emphysema. This could have been written by my sister. She is also childless, our father had emphysema, sta ...more
Meghan
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in my early twenties and one particular anecdote stuck with me, a paragraph about the author and a moment when she is exercising on the elliptical machine a few weeks after her father died, and she feels his presence there in the air all of a sudden.

Anyway, this is a memoir written in the style of disconnected paragraphs similar to Dept. of Speculation, and it's about the death of the author's father and her attempts to get pregnant, interspersed with snippets from her father's WWII
...more
Joanna
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is like an exceptional piece of jewelry: small, exquisite, gorgeously rendered, and valuable. The title refers to Fusselman's father's time working on a ship, as opposed to 'mate' as we tend to consider it in terms of partnership. It is just this kind of seamlessly logical but emotionally unexpected divergence that is given full range through the brief 86 pages of this story.

The author is telling the story of her struggle to get pregnant in the months before and after the death of her
...more
Chazzbot
May 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
This 86-page mini-memoir comes with a cover price of $16 and a lot of random, seemingly unedited blurbs (rare is the paragraph in this volume that is longer than five lines) as the author muddles through various attempts at impregnation and the death of her father. There is little coherence or logic here, and the volume reads like a last-minute collection of diary entries cobbled together by an MFA student facing a deadline. I am informed by the back cover flap that the author, from 1993-98, "pu ...more
CDB
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to CDB by: Dave Eggers
Shelves: adult-fiction
"And this is how I come face to face with my selfishness, because I don't know if I can enjoy this goldfish without knowing that he loves me, or if not loves me, then at least depends on me, i.e., swims up to my fingers greedily when I fill them with salty-smelling rainbow-colored flakes, and wiggle them over his head.

And this is disturbing to realize, that I have such difficulty enjoying anything that doesn't know I exist. Especially when I stop and think how big the world is, the world that is
...more
Rand
Read this a long long time ago, but probably did not finish it. The only thing I can recall about it is that it was very ery sad adn somber and subdued. At the time of my reading, it prefigured a few important life events that I was perhaps not prepared for when they ended up happening (however remotely) and I know that I did not pay attention to this book's demands very well at the time, though it certainly did seem "right" for me to ignore this book while I was pretending to be reading it, as ...more
Nate D
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
The previous generation dies, the following generation tries to get born, the generation in between mediates. This is Universal Experience. Which makes it literarily convenient if these things line up in your life, though not necessarily thrilling for others to read about. Even if you convey them with a certain spare grace and poetry.

But I think I spent only one dollar on this, and read it entirely on my ride home from work, so I can't really complain.
Paul
Apr 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I'm going to call this book the little wonder from now on. Because it is so little, and so wonderful. And on page 52, just below the word shimmering, there is a small thread shaped like a sperm. And that is very appropriate for this book. Maybe other copies have this too. I certainly hope that they do.
Emma Bolden
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the perfect mix of funny, tender, sad, and awkward. It made me want to hug everyone. But not in a creepy way, in a "Hey, this thing we are all experiencing called life? It's tremendously difficult and strange but also often wonderful, right?" kind of way.
Alana
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it.
Edith
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
C'était un candidat à l'élagage à la biblio où je travaille. Finalement ça avait l'air trop intéressant pour l’élaguer alors je l'ai emprunté. Et j'ai bien aimé ma lecture. :)
W.B.
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to W.B. by: chance
It's a good read so far, but very sad.

I bought this book by almost complete chance and it turns out it's about her father dying at the same time she's trying to get pregnant.

This is weird, because her father and my father died in almost identical circumstances and I just realized (while reading this last night) that the previous day was the anniversary of my father's death. Strange how we miss these things for a moment when life gets so messed up with demands and details of the present.

But I en
...more
Diane
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Diane by: my literature professor
Oh, chocolate fudge sundae! I don't know how to write a paper on this! What will I write??? PANICKING!!! :O

This book probably has the most memorable first line I've ever read: "Don't have sex on a boat unless you want to be pregnant." It doesn't really sum up what the story is about unlike other books, but the opening line was important. And it doesn't hurt to say that when my friends read the line, they all exclaimed 'Uy! mukhang maganda to ah!'.

The humor did not dwindle or stayed in the first
...more
Lana.
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lana. by: Adam
3.5 / Intriguing writing. Grief and longing are so real and intertwined in the writer's life that it is overwhelming for someone like me who's not experienced it to that degree. So, while I was caught in it, I wasn't sure I would like the book. I didn't feel hopeful or that it was necessarily "fun" as the notes indicated. Rather, only when I read the Afterward (which wasn't even part of the original publication) with the more standard, linear narrative, that I find things I can relate to - expre ...more
Scott Woody
8/The Pharmacist's Mate is an exploration of a woman's residual trauma from a childhood molestation. The book has a unique style with lots of random textual insertions: poems, diary entries, shopping lists, etc but doesn't have a ton to recommend for it. Additionally, the book uses a tried and true McSweeney-ism wherein the second half the of the book is printed such that it starts on the last page and works it way to the middle. This kind of thing was cool the first time I saw it, but does not ...more
Tara
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Oh, how I loved you little book. And I mean, really really loved. Others do not seem to share my penchant for adoring and carrying around this book, but it doesn't matter to me, I will re-read--and love again--this book. Not that much really happens. But the voice of the narrator, and the little journal entries from the seaman father, were light, funny, conversational engaging. It skips and beats, goes in long rushes, then gently reveals the sadness underneath the story (don't worry, though, it ...more
Jennifer
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short quirky read about infertility and grief. Is it innovative and beautifully structured? I don't know about that. Short chunks of prose poem interconnect--sometimes profound, maybe not groundbreaking. At one point, the author is asked to be a sound designer of a play and falls into a world where people discuss metaphors about time, and I've met people in the arts who remind me of her. I have a sneaking suspicion that if the book had been longer it would be impossibly twee. The discussion of ...more
Stacy
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eighty-nine pages. Short passages. This novella packs a punch. The narrator's attempts to get pregnant using increasingly sophisticated medical interventions; intertwined with the narrator's attempts to come to terms with her father's death; both of these interspersed with excerpts from her father's diary from WWII when he was a "pharmacist's mate" in the merchant marines. Yes, it all adds up. It's funny without trying too hard. It's poignant and poetic and feels real, even when the author is de ...more
gingerkitty
okay, so I didn't read the last 10 pages because I spilled tea all over the book and the pages are stuck together, so if I may have missed a critical part. Let me say though, for such a short book, it took me along time to get through it. I found the author's stream of consciousness writing style kind of off putting, and was more interested in her dads journal entries. I guess I just didn't really relate to the main character very well, so didn't really care about her plight. This book does have ...more
Amy
Jul 07, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who want to start and finish a book in one sitting
I hate the star scoring system. This book was delightful: candid, moving, funny, excitingly structured, if not ruthlessly edited. Slender: 102 pages including the afterword. I liked holding it in my hand, so light! Dave Eggers called it "a brief miracle of a book." The Village Voice review said it was, ultimately, more like a stack of post-it notes by the phone than it was a book. Both are kind of right.
Beth
Dec 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hesitate to say anything too critical about this book, since it does seem like it comes from a very honest place; Amy Fusselman isn't a bad writer, and she is clearly searching for something profound in her period of difficulty (the death of her father, her struggle to conceive, her participation in what sounds like an atrociously bad play). I guess I'm glad that she wrote it all down in ~100 pages, not 500. And I'm glad I got it for free from the give-away pile at my local bookstore.
Kate
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
It only takes about an hour or two (with plenty of interruptions) to read the author's thoughts on time and space, living and dying and making babies.

I like the author's brain. I also very much like her dad's writing as well.

Just like her book "8", this is probably not a book I will actively recommend to very many but will enjoy privately and will recognize wonder and awesome in anyone that likes it too.
Julie Franki
Jul 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slim volume, this is one of those perfect little books I'm glad I own, because having read it it is now my good friend. Its protagonist narrates this tale in first person; she wants a baby, and is having trouble conceiving. She resorts to an ancient Chinese herbal regimen, which tastes terrible. This book isn't so much about the plot as the voice of the narrator, and her inner life, and, well...I just really like her. I think you will too.
James Specht
I was a little hesitant to read this book; it has the dubious honor of having recommendations from both Dave Eggers and Rosie O'Donnell on the back of the book. It was an interesting read, curiously devoid of too much emotion but not in an nihilistic way. Each chapter is almost like a haiku. It's beautifully matter of fact about the author's father dying while she is trying to conceive.
Traci
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a really beautiful, small book about a woman whose father is dying at the same time she is having a difficult time trying to conceive a child. The heartbreaking-ness is interspersed with excerpts from her father's WWII Navy diary. It is a really pretty and sweet book, from the usually pretty great McSweeney's.

Shannon
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I randomly picked this one off my shelf and I'm not really sure why it was even on my shelf. I have no clue what this story was about...thank goodness it was a super short read...I kept reading hoping I'd get that ah'ha moment but it never came. I usually am pretty happy with the books I read but not this one...sorry!
Rebecca
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-not-ya
I bought this book on a whim and carried it around for 14 years before I got around to reading it, and I'm glad I waited because I think it was more relevant to me in my 40's than it would have been a decade before. An uplifting, humorous, thought-provoking, irreverent yet respectful and sensitive account of growing up, letting go of one's parents and embracing motherhood.
Lori
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It only took me an hour and 20 mins...but I loved it. I think the front cover describes it well.."A Story of Birth, Death, Guitars and Goldfish" I really like when she talks abou the golfish in the end and how it made her think about her selfishness...it's an amazing, cute little book!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • McSweeney's #17
  • The Smoking Diaries
  • I.
  • Lemon
  • The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend
  • If You Knew Then What I Know Now
  • Vacation
  • Misadventure
  • Here They Come
  • McSweeney's #13
  • Wide Eyed

Share This Book

“And this is how I come face to face with my selfishness, because I don't know if I can enjoy this goldfish without knowing that he loves me, or if not loves me, then at least depends on me, i.e., swims up to my fingers greedily when I fill them with salty-smelling rainbow-colored flakes, and wiggle them over his head.

And this is disturbing to realize, that I have such difficulty enjoying anything that doesn't know I exist. Especially when I stop and think how big the world is, the world that is not even Japan or India, the world that is the room next door.”
0 likes
More quotes…