Monday, August 8, 2016
They May Not Mean To , But They Do by Cathleen Schine
They May Not Mean To, But They Do
by Cathleen Schine
Sarah Crichton Books, 2016
source: borrowed from the library
Summary (from Goodreads):
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love
The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids.
If you pick up this book, as I did, looking for a fun summer romp like Schine's previous novel, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, you're going to be surprised. Instead you will find a true-to-life story (maybe too true for some) about the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. And while there are plenty of novels dealing with that subject, this one struck me as unique in that I was able to understand and sympathize with everyone - the daughter in LA making periodic trips to NYC to help her parents, the son living just downtown juggling the demands of his own family and career, and the parents trying to preserve their independence and dignity. There were no overbearing, demanding parents or selfish, uncaring children in this novel.
Obviously Schine has been there. She is able to convey, with great tenderness, the vastly different needs, desires, and expectations of all concerned. They May Not Mean To, But They Do turned out to be an unexpectedly beautiful and poignant novel.
A few quotes:
"She was a useless, selfish daughter, dragging her father out into the cold against his will so that she could get some fresh air, so that she could breathe, so that she could escape when she knew he could never escape what was happening to him, not if she made him stumble behind his red walker as far as the North Pole."
"It was hard for her [Daniel's sister], being so far away. It was hard for him [Daniel], too, being so close."
"Her children lived in some other world, one that she could see but had left behind, like the wake of a ship. Their lives foamed and splashed while she hurtled forward, away from them, but toward nothing. Well, toward something, and they all knew what that something was."
"It wasn't that Joy expected her daughter, and certainly not her son, to come live with her. They had their own lives, just as she had once had her own life. She did expect something from them, though, something they were not providing, she couldn't put her finger on it. Danny was coming once a week for dinner now, Molly planned a trip to New York in the near future, and Joy waited eagerly for their visits. But visits predicted their own end, and an end to a visit meant she would be alone again."