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The Nearly Departed: Or, My Family & Other Foreigners Hardcover – May 2, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (May 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316162531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316162531
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Advertising slogan writer Cullerton tells the unexpectedly funny story of her "nearly departed," "brilliantly impaired" family. Picture her mom wearing "three pairs of glasses, one on top of the other," gardening in her Connecticut yard in her underwear. Or her formerly globe-trotting playboy dad, now bedridden, hurling curses worthy of a Tourette's sufferer, demanding his soda. As Cullerton meditates on her dotty family's eccentricities, she realizes there's a method to their madnesses. From her 71-year-old pot-smoking Uncle Larry, who "could be Hunter Thompson's version of a gonzo Santa Claus," to her ditsy Aunt Janet, who can't understand why the chickens in the butcher shop only have two legs, there's a desperate drive in all of them to escape the mediocrity of sameness, refusing to celebrate holidays and anniversaries ("commercial events invented by `Hellmark' ") or to live in the houses they actually own (more than one sleeps in the car with one hand on the wheel). While the anecdotes are amusing-e.g., her mother believes Barney is black, not purple; she parks in handicapped spaces, telling her daughter to limp as they leave-there's no mistaking it was often painful being raised by such people. Cullerton's mom enjoyed being difficult, seeing herself like sand irritating an oyster's membrane. But as this memoir shows, from such grit come pearls. By the time both parents are finally "departed," Cullerton begins to realize they haven't quite gone; they're with her, in her, still. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"I did not come from a place that even remotely resembled a model home," Cullerton observes toward the end of her memoir. At first glance, her parents seem to be polar opposites of each other. Her agoraphobic mother rarely wanted to leave home, while her father jetted around the world on business trips. Now facing the impending deaths of both parents, Cullerton returns home, to the run-down house her mother inhabits, her brother's tarpaper shack, and the small house--just 50 feet from her mother's--where her father lives. Her parents' eccentricities have only increased with age, and caring for them causes Cullerton to examine both their younger years and her own. Cullerton traveled the world as a young woman (partially to escape her family), but she discovers her family to be as foreign as any of the people she met in those faraway lands. Nonetheless, she concludes with admiration, "But, my God, how unbearably alive and hugely human they were!" Both admiration and frustration shine through in Cullerton's straightforward, nakedly honest memoir. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elise L. Cagan on May 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Make sure you pick up this book when you are able to cut a large swath of time from your busy day, because once you start to read Ms. Cullerton's tome, good luck putting it down. Her incisive revelations of her family in specific and familial relationships in general will make you both howl with laughter and send you back into therapy.Yikes, talk about your double-edged sword. Well, how does the saying go: Nobody will ever love you like your mother; thank God. So, go, buy it, enjoy. I'll just sit here in the dark.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on May 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Uh-uh. Brenda Cullerton's family makes everyone else's look like The Cleavers in the 50s. Always strange, eccentric, and downright dippy, the eclectic blend of people she calls 'family' descends to purely outrageous behavior as they age. Cullerton, who escaped the craziness early on to try to build her own life, finds it necessary to return to help care for them as they dwindle in death's inevitable direction. What she finds defies belief and has the neighborhood association in full battle stance.
Both hilarious and heartbreaking (sometimes we're not sure if we're laughing AT her or WITH her), Nearly Departed is an offering of love and a measure of belated understanding to her parents, however strange they may be.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a review of "The Nearly Departed" in the Ridgefield Press, which I still have delivered to my new address in another state. The review had me laughing so hard, I decided that I simply had to get this book. Having spent 23 years in Ridgefield, CT was a plus as I could picture so many scenes as described and these are NOT things one would see in Ridgefield! Perhaps one would see people going down a Main Street in pink foam curlers elsewhere, but certainly not there. Now that that is in perspective, Brenda Cullerton has a wit that will get you laughing out loud, but the book is so much deeper than one might first think. I realize that the average family is dysfunctional to a degree. Unfortunately for Brenda, her family seemed to encompass every dysfunctional element known to man! Hopefully in writing this book, she was able to come to terms with issues in her life; I know that in reading it, she helped me to both understand and come to terms with some things in mine. Thank you Brenda, for both a terrific laugh and a learning experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bookyeti on September 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Far from prosaic and most definitely diverting, Brenda Cullerton's unabashedly candid memoir "The Nearly Departed: Or, My Family & Other Foreigners" is a refreshing departure from the autobiographical norm. Dancing between dark humour, stinging wit and poignant life realities, the author's recollections of her wildly outlandish family are often more bitter than sweet. To be sure, the collective confessions from the `Cullerton Family Crypt' will have you sobbing, guffawing, sighing, and feeling strangely schizophrenic - all in one chapter.
The truth is, Brenda Cullerton's family would raise anyone's eyebrow. At the forefront of these eccentric anecdotes are her parents - a social misfit mother who gardened in baggy black undies, lavish jewelry coupled with pop-it beads, and her hair bedecked in curlers; and an alcoholic father who was usually found anywhere but home, and amassed a hidden fortune as traveling businessman in the shoe trade (only to later hide his cash in their dilapidated barn, stuffed in the toes of moldy footwear).
Now in their winter years, Brenda Cullerton's parents - suffering from ill health - evoke her return to this alien landscape called "home". As the author painstakingly sifts through piles of family memories encountered along the way, not only does she learn more about these virtual "foreigners" who are family, but ultimately discovers herself and the all reasons for her insatiable desire to escape the past.
Artfully and intelligently captured on paper, it is Cullerton's ingenuous journey through introspection which makes "The Nearly Departed" quite nearly flawless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Saritareads on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Nothing about my parents' lives or their deaths was neat or tidy. Everything was extreme, blown way out of proportion. But, my God, how unbearably alive and hugely human they were!"

I finished "The Nearly Departed," last night.

In her beautiful rendering of the story of her family, Brenda Cullerton writes with painful precision of the collisions at different junctures throughout their full and untold lives. The hidden is rediscovered in her passionate recounting of her own coming of age. She reflects upon her early flight, and eventual return, and then, her parents' final days. We follow them as they travel from youth to old age; worlds disappearing. The house and her mother, its mistress, as eccentric hostess, then recluse, lost in memories of her privileged and desolate childhood. Her husband abandoning her, and she him, and her children, yet in the end, both returning to inhabit parallel existences, yards from each other. The old homestead in Connecticut, sliced up like a piece of pie, eccentric relatives, friends, neighbors, and wanderers, all orbiting around this couple, Ms. Cullerton's "unbearably alive" parents. I was absorbed, achingly at times, in her search for home, and relief when she eventually finds it in her own world travels, and then her own little family where she dwells in lavish and welcoming splendor in her Village loft, a blend of the bunks of the ships she frequented, and grand old world castles. Returning to the wreckage, the old Ridgefield house, which in the frontispiece, is rendered in a child's stick-figure style map, the compound, elaborate, ramshackle, decaying, Ms. Cullerton steps in and preserves it on the page, for herself and for us. A backhoe levels the land, forever erasing the geography of home.
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