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.
"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 HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved