Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Anna Quindlen's memoir is less the story of her life and more a series of essays reflecting on her own life and how the lives of women in general have changed over the last century. From marriage, friendships, parenthood, careers, loss (and the familial expectations placed on women during those times), to facing our own aging and mortality, Quindlen's reflections have a universal feel for American women even several generations after the baby boomers. I wasn't sure whether to laugh in solidarity or cry in...exhaustion, maybe?...over Quindlen's views on how the expectations of motherhood changed from when she was a child to when she was raising children. The activities, constant supervision, and the need to entertain and enrich every moment. This, from a woman who was a parent when I was a child, at a time that, compared to now, seemed filled with childhood freedoms and less parental oversight in every aspect of life. Or maybe this is the perspective of most children, once they become parents and hold the awesome responsibility. This is the part that stands out, since it is the stage of life that I'm in, but so much of what she says rings of truth, regardless of generation.
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From the publisher’s description:
In this irresistible memoir, the #1 New York Times bestselling author writes about her life and the lives of women today, looking back and ahead – and celebrating it all – as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all that stuff in our closets, and more.
It’s odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was. Then I didn’t know who I was. Then I invented someone, and became her. Then I began to like what I’d invented. And finally I was what I was again.
It turned out I wasn’t alone in that particular progression.
As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about
Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”
Girlfriends: “Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest.”
Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is, a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come. It’s like a car, and while I like a red convertible or even a Bentley as well as the next person, what I really need are four tires and an engine.”
Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward: We are good parents, not so they will be loving enough to stay with us, but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”
From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, Quindlen uses the events of her own life to illuminate our own. Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it both satisfying and even joyful. So here’s to lots of candles, plenty of cake.