From Publishers Weekly
Karbo achieves the near-impossible with this memoir: she wrangles the potentially depressing subjects of death and a dysfunctional family into a funny, uplifting page-turner. When her kindhearted but curmudgeonly father is diagnosed with lung cancer, Karbo begins the exhausting leapfrog between her husband and three children in Portland, Ore. and his triple-wide in the Nevada desert. Her attempts to discuss the rapidly spreading disease with the world's most uncommunicative patient are indeed valiant, but Karbo's honesty about her partial regression into adolescence is what will distinguish her story from the rest of the cancer caretaker genre. After all, what normal human beings in Karbo's position haven't found themselves "running on the fumes of maturity... still and always the long-suffering sixteen-year-old?" It's refreshing that our tour guide in this country of illness doesn't pretend to be a natural-born Florence Nightingale. Instead, she freely admits, "I have little patience with the necessary routines of caregiving. I trust doctors about as much as I trust mechanics or the retail associate at Nordstrom who tells me I look fabulous in a pair of $1,200 Calvin Klein capri pants, and am a barf-o-phone to boot." Karbo may occasionally hide out in the bathroom-reduced to reading the fake newsprint wallpaper during her father's hour-long coughing jags-but, as the end approaches, no one can argue she isn't a devoted, well-intentioned daughter. She may apologize for being a "blinking, flinching, grief-stricken fool," but this sense of fallibility and honesty could inspire an alternate subtitle for her book: a survival manual for the living.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
As in her popular Generation Ex: Tales from the Second Wives Club
(2000), Karbo's latest finds wisdom and wild humor in "heart-crackingly sad" family stories. When Karbo's father is diagnosed with lung cancer, Karbo becomes his primary caretaker, shuttling between her family in Portland, Oregon, and his triple-wide trailer in the Nevada desert. A stoic, Clint Eastwood type, Karbo's father is a horrible patient, and Karbo, whose mother died of cancer when she was a teenager, doubts her own nursing instincts: "We're not a well-matched patient-nurse couple." In a narrative that loops back through family history, Karbo talks about her complicated relationship with both parents, her struggle to balance motherhood and her writing career, and what she learns about her dad as he moves closer to death. With generous honesty, Karbo describes nuanced moments of nearly excruciating tenderness, embarrassment, frustration, and love, balanced with passages of often side-splitting humor. A compulsively readable memoir about family and the writing life that will appeal to Anne Lamott fans. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved