Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? was a National Book Award finalist, a National Book Critics Circle winner and won a host of other awards. The author, Roz Chast, is a cartoonist and this memoir is written in that format, so it’s a quick read, though not always easy. I heard her discussing the book – I think on C-SPAN – several years ago (it was published in 2014) … long before my mother announced she was moving in with me.
Roz and I have very different relationships with our mothers and different life experiences, but it comes as no surprise that there is much to learn from and appreciate in this book. Regardless of who the players are, there are certain commonalities when it comes to caring for elderly parents. We all cope, perhaps in different ways, and we all process everything that has happened in our lives. Whether it is clearing out our parent’s house or walking down memory lane via hundreds of old photographs, there is a way in which our lives are drawn into focus over hours and hours of sorting and reflecting on, well, pretty much everything.
The book is very funny and I laughed out loud in several places. I was reminded of how lucky I am that I get along with my mother and that she was proactive in sorting out her own life before I had to do it for her. Mom moved into an apartment when she retired from work – at age 75. So, although I did the manual labor, she weighed in on what she wanted to keep and what would go (I describe this more in a prior post, clearing out and letting go). Still, there is something invasive about having someone going through your stuff. I cannot imagine having to go through all of this with someone, even a parent, who is really difficult to manage. Mom can be stubborn sometimes, but at least we always work through the challenging parts … and there are lots of them!
If you are not fond of “angry” humor or have difficulty when people don’t get along, this may not be the book for you, but I really enjoyed it. While it described what awful things may come, it was a great release that made me appreciate what I have.