From Publishers Weekly
NPR personality Winik (The Lunch-Box Chronicles) mines the intertwined humor and poignancy of life's exigencies in this earthy essay collection, taking stock of moments from childhood to motherhood and reliving them with relish. By turns heartfelt and cutting, playful and contemplative, Winik's chatty narration and musings emerge as vivid brushstrokes on a crowded canvas, jottings of her thoughts at both pivotal moments and more introspective times. With chewable, digestible essays divided among five sections (on her upbringing, growing older, her early adulthood, motherhood and modern life), Winik explores her metamorphoses with bracing frankness and clever turns of phrase, beaming her hard-won enlightenment into a darker past that involved abetting her dying husband's suicide. As she traces her path from New Jersey to Austin, Tex., to rural Pennsylvania, she brings her forthrightness and wit to bear on topics from blended family life to her religious ambivalence (reflected in the collection's title), with a heritage of "diluted, distilled" Judaism. Raising two teenage boys and a toddler in her 40s, she considers the disconnect between the two ages in memorably wry style: "Toppled from my pedestal like a statue of Saddam Hussein, I will be rejected as powerfully as I was once embraced." (Oct.)
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Though often compared to Erma Bombeck and Anna Quindlen, with perhaps a dash of Garrison Keillor or Bill Maher thrown in, intrepid NPR commentator Winik's voice is as unique as her observations and as recognizable as her experiences. By turns pithy and poignant, outraged and outrageous, Winik's latest collection of essays once again mines the rich veins of her personal life as she muses on themes both familiar (marriage and motherhood) and fresh (post-9/11 America), doing so with the unapologetic frankness and unbridled humor fans have come to expect. And while the laughs are still there, there's also a tempered maturity that nicely balances Winik's self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek approach. Middle age is upon her, a perfect time for reflection and prediction, appreciation and apprehension, making amends and making a difference. Equally comfortable commenting on the Taliban as on tattoos, blended families and borrowed fame, the always entertaining Winik is at her most eloquent, however, when examining her own life through a precisely calibrated personal microscope. Carol Haggas
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