Friday, June 29, 2012

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

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: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Sometimes I will see a photo of an actress in an unflattering dress or a blouse too young for her or with a heavy-handed makeup job, and I mutter, ‘She must not have any girlfriends.’ ”

Stuff: “Here’s what it comes down to, really: there is now so much stuff in my head, so many years, so many memories, that it’s taken the place of primacy away from the things in the bedrooms, on the porch. My doctor says that, contrary to conventional wisdom, she doesn’t believe our memories flag because of a drop in estrogen but because of how crowded it is in the drawers of our minds. Between the stuff at work and the stuff at home, the appointments and the news and the gossip and the rest, the past and the present and the plans for the future, the filing cabinets in our heads are not only full, they’re overflowing.”

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 endeavor: 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 satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

My thoughts:

My thoughts:

I listened to this book a month or so ago and somehow missed it on my last list of books to review. I was reminded of it when I read a review on someone else's blog last week. I really enjoy memoirs like this one, women sharing what they have learned from their past in funny and relatable ways. All of the excerpts above resonated with me, especially the one about how our minds are so full that we have trouble remembering new things. I feel like every day I am trying to keep track of so many things that I am often forgetting important deadlines.

Another chapter that made me feel better about some of my recent choices was when Quindlen talked about not enrolling her three children in too many sports activities. Instead of feeling guilty, as I sometimes do when I skip signing one or more of my children up for something like that, she states that she had three children so they could play with each other and she could get some time to herself. It can be overwhelming to drag one or more kid all over town to practice for and play a sport when they seem to get so little out of it in the long run. They enjoy it, but might have enjoyed just as much playing at the park or in the back yard or riding their bike up and down the block, I feel so much pressure to enroll my children in activities but I don't always think the time and energy I have to put into getting them there and fed beforehand and homework done is really worth it. If they find something they love and are passionate about then of course I will support them, but so far I haven’t seen that. When my daughter decided last year, after four prior years of lessons, that she did not want to take dance lessons any more I was at first sad, then I thought about the hour a week we all spent in the waiting room and the month fee and the costume and tights and recital, and I actually felt relieved.

I like no nonsense reflections that affirm life as we live it.

Product Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400069347
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Pages: 208

Meet the Author

Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear. She is the author of six novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, and Every Last One.

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