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Disaster Preparedness: A memoir Hardcover – December 30, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1ST edition (December 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487685
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487682
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A product of growing up in the destabilizing 1970s in Durham, N.C., journalist Havrilesky (Salon.com) has fashioned a series of funny, offbeat, girl-friendly essays that treat some of the iconoclasm of that era, namely the rupture of divorce, the failure of religion, and the supremacy of consumerism. The youngest of three, the author became aware early on that her parents did not get along, yet she also learned from seemingly normal (but suicidal) friends that life wasn't greener on the other side. Her mother evolved from being a faculty wife to getting a full-time job, while her father, a professor, enjoyed "a rotating cast of younger girlfriends" in his condo across town. The divorce of her parents (her mother first moved out for a spell to live in a rented apartment by herself)--made the siblings realize that nothing that adults told them from then on could be trusted. Moreover, Havrilesky's father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 56, leaving her wondering whether she had ever really known him. Havrilesky's winning essays venture into the perils of socialization and dating, always keeping a light, self-deprecating tone that attains at moments a wonderfully humane sagacity. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

As a kid of the 1970s, Havrilesky drafted plans and mapped escape routes in case any of the catastrophes depicted in the era’s popular disaster flicks happened in real life. Everything from alien invasions to house fires were covered. But what about growing up? There aren’t enough tin-foil hats in the world to prepare for the myriad everyday farces and small disasters that scar us emotionally in the course of coming of age. Disclosing her family history with both intimacy and sarcastic wit, Havrilesky focuses on her relationship with her parents, the aftershocks of their divorce, and her active pursuit of self—in cheerleading, boxing, New Age therapy, and some awkward romantic entanglements. While this memoir is dedicated to her fiercely independent mother, she creates a pensive, loving, and honest eulogy for her late father, the spontaneous adventurer. The end, refreshingly free of spite and full of hard-won optimism, is the true accomplishment of her work. --Courtney Jones

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Customer Reviews

I wanted the book to make me laugh, but it just never did.
Amy Button
In some ways this almost seems like listening into someone else's confessions - you feel a little guilty for doing it, but can't stop yourself.
John F. Sullivan
I really enjoyed the author's style of writing, and I found the stories funny and engaging and I could relate to them to a certain extent.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ah, the 1970s! That glorious time before seat belt laws and bicycle helmets. In the 1970s we stayed out, unsupervised in our neighborhoods, past dark and ate sugary cereals every day for breakfast. We wore knee socks and rainbow shirts. And then came the boom of the '80s. America was rich and powerful, and we all felt the same way. The music was happy and the television decadent. But of course, growing up in the '70s and '80s wasn't always so wonderful. Even as the country prospered and we partied at discos, families were struggling in ways they always have: with anxiety, frustration and misunderstandings threatening to bury the love.

In her new memoir, DISASTER PREPAREDNESS, Heather Havrilesky examines family life against the cultural backdrop of the late '70s and the '80s in suburban America. There is both the self-created, internal disasters of a young woman coming of age and the painful disasters of a family breaking apart. All of it is written in a compelling and provocative way.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS is more precisely a collection of 15 autobiographical essays than a chronological memoir. Each stands alone just fine, though altogether they paint an interesting and personal family portrait. In the first chapter, "Cousins," Havrilesky begins by recalling how she and her siblings made up an "alternative version" of the board game "Clue," where instead of trying to solve a murder they are trying to commit one. It is an odd but endearing picture of the children as they use pieces from the game "Sorry!" to act as witnesses to their crimes, creating a new set of rules for the macabre but funny version of the classic game.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Konrad Baumeister VINE VOICE on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Heather Havrilesky's memoir of growing up in the 70s and 80s is a delight. Is it screamingly funny? Not, not really. But it is poignant, witty, real, topical, touching, reflective, insolent, feisty, and utterly like life.

Each chapter, arranged quasi-chronologically, could stand alone as a general look at one phase of life: childhood, dealing with intra-family squabbles, the tension and divorce of her parents, trying out for cheerleading, who you pick and who picks you as friends, losing one's virginity, the death of a parent, finding love at last, and just discarding fairy tales and coming to terms with what real life is - everything is here. It's told against a soundtrack of 80s music, high school rivalries, a rotating cast of ever younger girlfriends entertained by her father, etc.

Havrilensky's writing style brings all of these inherently tense and anxiety-fraught situations home with honesty, clear vision, a knack for the ironic and the sardonic, and something of a gimlet eye towards life. The funny and the weird, bad jobs, loser boyfriends, vignettes of childhood - she remembers it all, and the reader will recognize his or her own stories in the mix as well.

It's good stuff.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lois Lain VINE VOICE on February 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Heather Havrilesky is a typical child of the 70s, worried about the Shah in Iran, World War III, and her parents' rocky marriage. The only problem is, she doesn't have any adults around to help her gain a sense of equilibrium and safety. In fact, most of the grownups in her life -- including her Catholic teachers and her parents -- seem to enjoy making dire predictions of their own. As a result, Havrilesky grows up with a feeling of impending doom awaiting her around every corner. Whether it's a crazed hippie river guide or a house fire, Havrilesky spends her days coming up with ways to deal with the inevitable disaster awaiting her.

This book is a collection of essays, starting with her early days and coming forward into adulthood. Her earlier memories are humorous, yes, but blackly so, with an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty. But as she matures, she seems to grow stronger, and her essays about her adult years are threaded with an inner strength and confidence that gives me hope that she will, indeed be able to survive, despite the inevitable challenges we all face.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pamela V VINE VOICE on May 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I agree with the other reviewer who said Disaster Preparedness doesn't offer enough story to make a good memoir. It starts off slow for the first few chapters, picks up in the middle, and the last few chapters fail completely.

Heather Havrilesky grew up in the 70's - 80's and led a safe, average life. She had typical low self-esteem and changed friendships throughout school. Some of the better chapters, in my opinion, focused on the junior high/high school period of her growth. Some parts were quite amusing.

The book focuses on many things, and nothing in particular. We learn about her parents and their eventual divorce, and the author devotes an entire chapter near the end to losing her dad, and how painful it was to lose him at the young age of 54. She has siblings, but we don't hear much about them. Havrilesky devoted portions of the book to friendships she had while in junior high, and people she dated in college, and some of those passages were funny. But near the end of the book, when she is married and has two daughters, there's very little meat. It's obvious she is trying to finish the book and has no plan; the last several chapters ramble on about this and that, and the final chapter is just one long unconvincing rant.

I read the book, beginning to end, one or two chapters at a time, each night at bedtime and it was enjoyable enough. Funny in places, but overall, not very memorable.
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