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They May Not Mean To, But They Do
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They May Not Mean To, But They Do

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  4,473 ratings  ·  775 reviews
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love

The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Sarah Crichton Books
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Mary I was a little disappointed in the ending. Being in that situation and being happy with that was almost an antithesis of everything she was throughout…moreI was a little disappointed in the ending. Being in that situation and being happy with that was almost an antithesis of everything she was throughout the story. (less)
Donna Zeff
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  4,473 ratings  ·  775 reviews

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Larry H
Jun 18, 2016 rated it liked it
The challenges, frustrations, and fears associated with aging parents and how to care for them (even when they're not interested in being cared for) are issues that many have dealt with or will struggle with in their lifetime. Is our way always the right way? Do we heed our parents' wishes even if we don't think they're in their best interests, or that they even understand their wishes? How can we balance our feelings with what they're feeling?

In Cathleen Schine's new novel, They May Not Mean
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I LOVED this book! I was a fan of 'Fin & Lady' written by Cathleen Schine… the story had a marvelous bohemian feel. 'They May Not Mean To, But they Do' was a story I could very much relate to. It seems that many novels I have been reading in the past few years have centered around characters who are typically in their 30s. I find it difficult to relate to challenges facing 30-something women as I am a couple of decades past that stage in my life. In this story, I oddly found myself (oddly for ME ...more
Pam Gary
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Let me begin my thanking Cathleen Schine for writing a novel about an older woman. I don't know about other readers, but I find there is a definite publishing gap in fiction--ignoring the mature woman.
The life of Schine's character, Joy, is reflective of the lives of numerous aging women. Joy is 86, caring for an ill husband with no help and still working part-time in a museum (she has a Ph.D.) because they need the money. Her two grown children, a son and daughter, think they know what is bes
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a little bemused by the blurbs calling this book hilarious. It was for me rather a series of punches in the gut, calling out little ways I'd deceived myself, lies I told, hurts I husbanded. We read a lot of stories about how it feels to have to deal with one's aging parents, and very few stories that even pretend to give us the parents' viewpoints on same. I thrust this book away with vehemence multiple times, gasping for breath. I always picked it back up again. Well done, but be warned.
Diane Barnes
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Schine did a good job portraying both sides of aging parent issues faced by both the elderly and their well-meaning children. At my age though, a little too close for comfort and slightly depressing, despite the humor.
While there were moments of humor, this book was not "hilarious", as described. The story though, is poignant and a portrait of the issues faced by our elderly population.
Joy and Aaron live in a rent controlled apartment in NYC. Joy is the primary caretaker for Aaron. Aaron is suffering from dementia, and has a colostomy bag from a bout with cancer. She is still working part time and most of their meals come from the diner down the block. Their daughter Molly lives in California, and their son
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Schine’s telling of this classic intergenerational story has its share of conflict, regret, nostalgia, devotion, and humor. We see 86-year-old Joy in her role as caregiver for Aaron, her husband with many ailments, including Alzheimer’s, and we see her as a lonely widow, struggling to maintain her independence while desperately wishing for the constant company of her children, Molly and Daniel, yet uncomfortable when she has it. Molly and Daniel have their own struggles; they fear Joy should no ...more
Melissa Rochelle
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, read-2016
I was very much looking forward to this one. I LOVED Fin & Lady so I had very high hopes, but about halfway I stalled out.

I think I prefer my dysfunctional families with more dysfunction. More than anything I think this is a look at aging over dysfunction and growing up when you should already be grown. The children are fiftyish (so not children) yet when it comes to parents I guess you are always a child even when you're 50?

So 3 stars because it was a good start, but no more than that because
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know how Schine did it, but she did. They May Not Mean To, But They Do manages to be light-hearted without trivializing the hardships of aging. In fact, I can't think of another novel that exposes the challenges of day to day life for an aging person, living alone, so clearly. And Schine does this, amazingly, with touches of humor. I became very attached to 86 year old Joy, and her children, who struggle to find a balance between neglect and interfering too much. An unexpectedly moving n ...more
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Halfway through the book, I still don't know, like, or care about any of the characters. With no plot to speak of and a very slow writing style, there's really nothing to recommend about this book. Unfinished.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book about aging parents and their adult children. Filled with challenges and heartache, as they navigate the changes that occur when the father passes. Loved the insight from the widowed mother paralleled with the childrens' perspectives.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"They May Not Mean To, But They Do."

It is true, you know, especially if you are raised in a Jewish or Catholic family. Your parents are going to, shall we say, " mess" up your head. The good news is you are going to do the same to theirs when they get old. It's just how it is, and the best of families just deal with it with love and a shrug of the shoulders. Because they're family.
They don't mean to.
I love Cathleen Schine. Her characters are realistic. I feel as if they could step out of the
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It made me laugh out loud more than once. Schine has a great ear for dialogue and her portrayals of the various generations ring true. Schine knows how and why family members get on each other's nerves, how they love, and how they mourn. Highly recommend.
Dee Dee G
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was not hilarious as described, but the story was good. It made me think about my parents getting older and the challenges they may face.
D.j. Lang
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I give 5 stars to any book I have liked and have bought (or intend to buy) -- this is one of those books. No more caveats at the beginning -- you can find your own reasons for not liking the book (modern family, maybe?), but, first, from a literary standpoint, author Cathleen Schine knows how to write the "old-fashioned" way: seamless transitions in her use of omniscient point-of-view. None of this separate chapters for separate characters: Abner, Buffy, Caitlyn, Abener, Caitlyn, Buffy...ugh. An ...more
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-dl, 2016, contemporary
Waffle, waffle, waffle…

• Joy is lonely, but when people are around her she finds them to be too loud.
• Her Upstate home is her “real” home, but suddenly she feels like she doesn’t belong there.
• She is too weak to lift a toothbrush, yet she can make it to work (and is insulted when she is let go).

>Insert the sound of my teeth gnashing.

And it would have been nice if there had been some type of plot… ANY type of plot. It was all pretty random - and then just ends.

However, the author knows how to
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
The story of Joy and Aaron, aging parents in New York City was an apt read for me. Their children, Molly and Daniel are juggling their own lives with jobs, spouses and households, but are worried about their parents aging. Joy is 86 and most of the story is told from her point of view. She is still working, but realizes that she will soon have to stop. Her husband Aaron is suffering from dementia and she realizes that she is going to need help soon. She is very proud and extremely reluctant to l ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
After reading The Three Weissmanns of Westport, I was expecting something light and fun. Instead I found a more serious novel, full of insight into the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. Obviously Schine has been there and she understands the vastly different needs, desires, and expectations of all concerned. An unexpectedly beautiful and poignant novel.

My full review:
All happy families, all unhappy families, etc. I thought this would be a comic look at an unhappy period in a mostly happy family, but it careened in different and uncomfortable directions that were ultimately sad in a way that I wasn't expecting (or wanting).
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joy and Aaron Bergman have been the matriarch and patriarch of the family for years. A family that includes son Daniel and daughter Molly, now grown and living their own lives.

Daniel is married to Coco and has two daughters, Ruby and Cora.

Molly married and divorced Doug Harkavy, and the two have a grown son, Ben. Molly now lives in California with her female partner, Freddie.

Like most families, there are issues. But the primary one at the beginning of They May Not Mean To, But They Do, is that
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Are you, or have you ever been, an adult child?
Are you, or have you ever been, an aging parent?
Have you ever loved or been loved?
Can you laugh with recognition when you see yourself, or your loved ones, in print?
Can you weep with recognition when you see yourself, or your loved ones, in print?

In summation, Dear Humans, this book, Schine's best by far, is for you. I exclude no one in my exhortation to get thee to a bookstore.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Joy is 86 years old, still working part-time because she needs the money, yet also caring for her ill husband. Her two grown children think they know how she should be managing her life and can’t understand her need to follow her own wishes. They, of course, feel without a doubt that they know what’s best for her.

I think the author did a wonderful job of showing how families deal with aging parents, illness, and death. Adult children often forget that their parents need to retain some of their i
Laura Jean
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, library
This is such a beautiful book. It's a glimpse into the life of Joy, an 86 year old New Yorker. It's full of loss, but full of poignantly beautiful moments too. Joy's life is also full of humor. I enjoyed it as a view into a family dealing with aging and deteriorating parents, who are still trying remain independent and relevant. The children are loving but have their own jobs, spouses....lives. There are the clashes of personalities, differences in ways of grieving, but lots of love. And it's fu ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
She may not mean to write a depressing book, but she did.
Chris Witkowski
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful, entertaining, funny and quite poignant novel about aging parents, their concerned children and the difficulties each party faces trying to deal with the inevitable processes of growing old and fading away.

Aaron and Joy Bergman have been together for over 50 years and when Aaron starts to show signs of dementia their children, Daniel and Molly, become worried about just how their mother will be able to take care of their father and manage their NYC apartment. They take on the mantl
Canadian Reader
Schine's novel is about a worthy topic: the decline of aging parents when an adult child lives across the country. Molly, an archeologist, lives in Los Angeles with her partner, Freddie. Her parents, Joy and Aaron, live in New York. Aaron has dementia, and, because of this, he is confused by his colostomy bag and has taken to regularly disassembling it. He has also begun making night-time forays, minimally dressed, out of the apartment and down the elevator. Luckily the doorman has caught him. E ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was strongly reminiscent of Haruf's Our Souls at Night. I would say this had a more developed storyline, but Haruf's touched me more. This was a fine book, but so sad going through the death of a spouse. The sections where Joy's husband lay dead and Joy said goodbye was heart wrenching and strongly reminiscent of my own experience with aging parents.

Oh shit!!!!!! I just read the blurb on Amazon and this book is described as a comic novel, I must have missed the boat on this one, beca
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes a book finds you when you need it. There was something about the story... About family, about aging parents, about sibling relationships, about relationships in general! It just fit for me right now and was so adept at telling that intricate story that I never feel really gets told. The title so perfectly fits family because they never mean to, but they do, and it is each individuals responsibility to determine how they handle it. The aging parent perspective is something that I think ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book about aging parents in NYC and their adult children struggling to take care of them (one local and one in California). There's got to be a name for this genre of fiction as I am seeing more and more of these books about people of my generation facing not only their parents' decrepitude and mortality but their own at the same time. Maybe there were always books on this subject and it's just starting to become pertinent to me so I am noticing them.

I have read other books
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I was looking for a lighter read, so I picked this book since so many of the reviews use the word "hilarious." This book is SO NOT HILARIOUS. While I appreciate the unique viewpoint of the story (that of the 84-year-old matriarch), it is very emotional and very sad. Read at your own risk.
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Cafe Libri: April: "They May Not Mean to, But They Do by Cathleen Schine 1 9 Mar 27, 2017 10:31AM  

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Cathleen Schine is the author of The New Yorkers, The Love Letter, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.

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