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Disaster Preparedness: A memoir Hardcover – December 30, 2010
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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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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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My own son, born four years earlier than Heather, would come home from school and seem to tell us he felt out of it socially because most of the other cool kids' parents were divorced!
I had already found Heather's reviews of TV soaps on Salon.com hilarious -- which amazed me since she managed to make fascinating the very type of sitcom I would never, ever waste time watching.
Heather is a genius. One of the many funny/poignant scenes in the book is her description of walking out of a store after talking with the wide-shouldered and clueless classmate who had taken her virginity the night before. As she scans the horizon she begins to describe the visible world of the mall, the sky, the stupid stores, using the F-word as the descriptive adjective for everything she sees.
This young lady is brilliant. Those who want to nitpick about this little book can do so but I put it right up there with writings by Thurber, Twain and other great chroniclers of the American experience.
I think that as her first book, it is very good. I read it all the way through in one night, and while I found many parts of it funny, I also found many more parts which were touching and caused me consider my own past and present. As a humorous and reflective book - I think she nailed it.
I didn't have to try to like this book at all.
The book describes a childhood in an energetic, imaginative, spiky family. Then it moves through life looking at school, romance, and work. And coming to terms with parents as one gets older.
Some of it is very funny - I hope Harrison Ford gets given a copy. But the humour is secondary to a quest for a truth of self acceptance without self indulgence. Some of that Havrilesky family habit of "say it like it is no matter how unpleasant" is retained but it finds some kindness, and is hammered out into wisdom.
I grew up on a different country and in an earlier age, but the time and place of the book were no barrier to embracing the writing and respecting the striving.