Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
Genre: Memoir, Graphic Novel
Synopsis: In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the "crazy closet"—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.
While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
Review: I went into this book being a little dubious about graphic novels as they are not my normal cup of tea. My library was challenging patrons to read books in a format that they don't normally read for the summer reading program. This book was recommended to me by one of the librarians saying that it is appealing to everyone and bittersweet. I'm a big fan of memoirs and I think that helped me like this book even though it is in a format that is quite different for me. I did have trouble connecting with the main character as she did not seem to have a close relationship with her parents and that she had a hard time taking charge of the situation. I also wonder if I'm not the right target audience for this book as, knock on wood, I'm a ways away from dealing with this situation. Chast is pretty brutally honest in this memoir but she does so with humor but also we feel her sadness for having to acknowledge that her parents have become elderly. I think this is a well written graphic novel memoir and that readers in the right phase of their life would really appreciate this book.
Rating: 3 stars