How Anna Quindlen Saved My Summer of 1999 {Book Review}

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but despite the fact that I now love to travel and don't mind living 4 hours away from my family, as a child, I hated sleepaway camp. And it wasn't because I didn't go to the "right camp" (trust me, I went to 5 different ones - near and far from home) or because I didn't make friends or didn't like the activities, it was because I got homesick. Seriously, unconsolably homesick. The daytime was always great - swim lesson and tennis matches, arts & crafts and tetherball, canoeing and (my favorite!) horseback riding, kept my mind occupied. But at nighttime, I was left alone with my thoughts and I would cry myself to sleep.

The last summer that I went away to camp as a kid I went to a horseback riding camp near Lake Placid, NY. It was certainly the most rural of the camps I had been to, and when I went to camp, my parents told me that under no circumstances - zip, nada, none - was I going to come home early.* I had signed on for 4 weeks of camp, and my parents were determined that I would make it through. For the record, I was determined too - until I got to camp. And was alone. Again. This time, 6+ hours from home sleeping in a tent and going to the bathroom in a port-a-potty in the middle of the night. I was roughing it, and homesickness didn't help. And so, I turned to one of the books I brought with me - Anna Quindlen's Black and Blue - and I put the soundtrack to "Notting Hill" in my discman (oh yes, this was the summer of 1999, we had discmen and real books - and clip-on book lights!) and I made it through the night. I couldn't tell you now what Black and Blue was about, but I can tell you how the writing pulled me into the story and allowed me into a world that was far away from the homesickness of sleepaway camp.

So, when I saw that Anna Quindlen had written a memoir, I borrowed it from the library on my kindle, and began to read Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

Amazon describes it as, "In this irresistible memoir, Anna Quindlen writes about a woman’s life, from childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, using the events of her life to illuminate ours. Considering—and celebrating—everything from marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, parenting, faith, loss, to all the stuff in our closets, and more, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen uses her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages."

And irresistible it was. Quindlen has led an incredible life - and has so much more to come. Her take on the first 60 years is smart, laugh outloud funny and impossible to put down. Her warmth and generosity breathes life into the pages and really, more than anything, by the end of the book, I found myself just wanting to sit and share an afternoon over a cup of coffee with her.

My favorite pieces of the book were those where she discussed friendship - she notes that "we trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest" (Quindlen, 32). My girlfriends are so much a part of who I am, and what holds me together, and Quindlen's take on this was beautiful.

Her love of her family - her husband and her children - runs clearly throughout this memoir, and she makes me even more excited (was that / is that possible?) for the time that I will share with Josh, and our children, in the future. This memoir is a portrait of a beautiful adventure - and I am glad that I got to tag along for a piece of the ride.

Have you read any of Quindlen's novels? Picked up her memoir? I'd love to hear your take on her, or her writing - and I'd especially love to know if you've read this one!

*Please note that despite all determinations, threats, and swears, I did leave the horseback riding camp early - at the two week mark - and was not sent to another sleepaway camp again after that.



Post a Comment

to top