Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.   Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

The publisher's blurb (above) is pretty spot-on.  This book actually delivers what is advertised  - funny, moving, insightful, revealing - a
great book for women of a certain age.  I'm not sure what that age is, exactly, just that I don't think it would be as interesting to younger women as it is to those who have experienced at least some of what Anna is writing about.

The book is divided into four sections, corresponding with the stages and topics of life.  The final section, dealing with faith and mortality, wasn't my favorite - perhaps because our views on faith differ, or perhaps because I don't want to dwell on mortality - but I loved the first three sections.  I'll let Ms. Quindlen tell you in her own words:

On Aging:  

We build our lives bit by bit of small bricks, until by the end there's a long stretch of masonry . . . [and] we become aware of how random the construction is, how many times it could have gone a different way, the mistakes that you averted, not because you were wise, perhaps, but because you were lucky.

On Baby Boomers and Women's Rights: 

But sometimes I think that my entire genera
tion of women adopted, for a time, that childlike point of view, that the women who raised us did things that were tedious and beneath notice.  You had only to listen to us to know that this was true . . . We invented natural childbirth. Also toilet training and time-outs . . . We invented balancing work and family and spousal divisions of labor and sexual harrassment and equal pay for equal work.  Or at least we behaved as though we had.  Occasionally someone would call us on all this...a mother of six who had taught high school Spanish for fifty years wrote me...suggesting that baby boomer women were not the first humans ever to have both a job and children.

I wonder now how we dared to criticize and condescend to a generation of women who soldiered on through the Depression, a world war and a world without much in the way of family planning or job opportunities.

On Memory: 

One of the great things about being the age I am now and having a reliably unreliable memory is that I can reread mystery novels.  I either don't remember whodunit or, when I do figure it out, I convince myself that it's because I'm canny and wise.

On the trend of "Micro-Managing" Parenting:

Keeping up with the Joneses turned into keeping up with the Joneses' kids.  Whose mothers, by the way, all lied.

You can't learn from mistakes and disappointments if your childhood is engineered so there aren't any.


  1. I haven't heard of it, but its definitely on my list; she is one of my favorite authors!


  2. I love all of the quotes you've included. I need to keep reminding myself of the last one ;) This was already on my wich list :)

  3. This book seems to be well-loved. I want to think I'm not quite at that "age" yet … but I'm getting there!