Review – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

There are books I feel I never adequately describe and think it would be best if I just wrote in ginormous font:

READ THIS BOOK! NOW! GO!

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is going to be one of those books so keep staring at those big letters.

Among my friends, The Bloggess is a bit of a hero, mostly because she brought home a giant metal chicken to ring the doorbell. If you don’t know about Beyonce, go here. You see, we have an ongoing joke about chickens which I’m going to decline to talk about because it’s only funny to my friends. Needless to say, we all read her blog and to me, she’s one of the funniest, and honest, writers out there.

This book, which I have been looking forward to for a very long time, was just as funny as I hoped it would be, and in some ways even crazier than I thought. I laughed out loud, giggled, and then cried because I was giggling so hard. I was also slightly grossed out — deer sweaters and vomit. (ick) The chapter on infertility was heartbreaking and real. It’s not something people want to talk about but it’s a part of life and the road to parenthood and she acknowledged it as that.

Being able to laugh at ourselves and the strange lives we all lead is a big part of the book. We all enter adulthood in a convoluted manner and even, and especially, the embarrassing parts that shape us in our struggle to become the people we are. You have to embrace it all.

What are some of the funniest parts?

Well, obviously, Beyonce. The chapter – And That’s Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles. What starts as an argument over towels with her husband ends up in the purchase of a giant metal chicken.

The chapter where she describes numerous ways to photocopy body parts and how not to hide those photocopies and or websites you shouldn’t be looking at from human resources – The Dark and Disturbing Secrets HR Doesn’t Want You to Know. Needless to say, any hopes and dreams I ever had of working in HR are now gone. Gone I tell you!

So what do you do when your dog dies? Please don’t answer that it’s only a segue into the chapter – Honestly, I Don’t Even Know Where I Got That Machete: A Comic Tragedy in Three Parts Days. Let me just say we all need a friend to help fend off vultures and help put a beloved dead dog to rest. And the vultures are not metaphorical in this instance, I mean real vultures. This also means I will never be leaving my urban digs for rural Texas.

There’s a chapter called Making Friends With Girls that really made me smile. I’m fortunate in that I have some really wonderful women in my life, even the ones that are clear across the country and in places I don’t get to visit often. But, on the whole, I’m not the type of person that makes friends easily. I’m a nice person and all, I’m just shy. Reading another person talk about making friends was a shining spot in my day that meant I wasn’t the only one that found it hard to talk to people. Even when you know you aren’t the only one, it’s nice to hear it.

I could go on but I prefer not to give the whole book away because you should read it. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in such a long time. And of course, that doesn’t adequately describe the book at all (see above).

Also, The Bloggess is a person you should be reading here too. I want to keep talking but I feel I’ve already gone overboard on the mushy, gushy review part so, carry on. Oh, and read the book!

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

By Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Amy Einhorn Books

ISBN: 9780399159015

4.75 stars

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Review – MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

Up front warning, this review will be a gusher. Yes, dear readers, I adored this book. Bertsche is funny, pragmatic (she does research on how to make a friend), encouraging, and in her own way, makes you feel like you too can go out and find a new best friend. Her ups and downs are more than just amusing, they’re painfully real and it’s refreshing to hear — and be reminded — that friendships are not easy. It’s not always friendship at first sight.

When Rachel Bertsche moved to Chicago to be with her long-distance boyfriend, she reveled in the fact they would be together in the same city. While it was wonderful to be with the man who would become her husband, she missed her friends. The ones she could call for a manicure, for brunch, and to complain about nothing simply because she felt like it and it had been that kind of day. Acquaintances didn’t cut it. She wanted a best friend that would listen, comfort, and laugh with her. She went on the hunt — 52 girl dates in a year.

I won’t tell you whether or not she found the one. You must read it for yourself. And I mean that, you must read this book.

The 52 girl dates are a stark reminder we all want something as simple as a friend and that it’s not always so simple to find a friend. It doesn’t happen overnight and requires work to connect with people. Facebook makes it seems as though we’re all friends but it’s not true. Friends are the ones that listen, encourage, and see you for who you are — they aren’t the like button.

This book also made me think about my friends. I don’t have a huge circle, I never have I prefer small, but they’re wonderful people. I have one who will be leaving for the west coast soon, I’ll miss her dearly, but she’s marrying a fantastic man and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. I have others that live in far off states that remind me distance really is just a word some days. I’m incredibly thankful for the ones that find me funny and not crazy when I write an email to them laying out all the things that can happen to us while traveling in Ecuador. I’m thankful these people still boarded a plane with me and am so very thankful when I look back at all those photos and remember the time we had. There’s the one that gets me out of my house to swim and drink coffee and talk about nothing and everything. Above all, there’s my sister who will always, always be my favorite girl.

All these people make my life better in some way. I can see why Bertsche took on the task. We all need someone to laugh with, cry with, and travel with. Life is better with friends.

Go read this book. Not only will you be entertained but you’ll be left with a warm feeling about who we are as people. We’re all very much alike even when we don’t want to admit it. We all want and need friends.

If you want to know more about Bertsche, visit her blog MWF Seeking BFF. This is actually how I found out about the book many months ago. I’ve kept reading simply because she really is an entertaining writer. I’m looking forward to her next adventure.

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

By Rachel Bertsche

Random House

ISBN: 9780345524959

4.75 stars

My Favorite Reads – Angela’s Ashes

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

From Amazon.com: Frank McCourt’s haunting memoir takes on new life when the author reads from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Recounting scenes from his childhood in New York City and Limerick, Ireland, McCourt paints a brutal yet poignant picture of his early days when there was rarely enough food on the table, and boots and coats were a luxury. In a melodic Irish voice that often lends a gentle humor to the unimaginable, the author remembers his wayward yet adoring father who was forever drinking what little money the family had. He recounts the painful loss of his siblings to avoidable sickness and hunger, a proud mother reduced to begging for charity, and the stench of the sewage-strewn streets that ran outside the front door. As McCourt approaches adolescence, he discovers the shame of poverty and the beauty of Shakespeare, the mystery of sex and the unforgiving power of the Irish Catholic Church. This powerful and heart-rending testament to the resiliency and determination of youth is populated with memorable characters and moments, and McCourt’s interpretation of the narrative and the voices it contains will leave listeners laughing through their tears.

My thoughts: I don’t read memoirs.  To be honest, this is probably the only one I have ever read.  They aren’t part of my regular reading fare and I somehow don’t think that will change.  This particular book was recommended to me by a former co-worker about nine years ago and she actually lent me her book so I would read it.  She kept telling me how funny and sad the story was and I kept saying, “That’s great except I don’t read memoirs.”  Finally, I gave in and loved the book so much I bought my own copy.

It is funny, it’s also so sad that it did make me cry in places.  The poverty he experiences growing up, the hunger, the death, and the shame he feels for his family’s position are heart wrenching.  McCourt writes in such a way that even though you feel so hurt by his situation you also want to laugh because he found humor is so many little things in life.

If you don’t like memoirs, this would be an excellent starting point.  I can’t say it made me go out and buy another memoir but I found an appreciation for this genre in Frank McCourt’s story.

My Favorite Reads – My Life in France

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.

From the inside cover: In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found her “true calling.”

From the moment the ship docked in Le Havre in the fall of 1948 and Julia watched the well-muscled stevedores unloading the cargo to the first perfectly soigné meal that and her husband, Paul, savored in Rouen en route to Paris, where he was to work for the USIS, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn’t speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu.

After managing to get her degree despite the machinations of the disagreeable directrice of the school, Julia started teaching cooking classes herself, then teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book they were trying to write on French cooking for Americans. Throwing herself heart and soul into making it a unique and thorough teaching book, only to suffer several rounds of painful rejection, is part of the behind-the-scenes drama that Julia reveals with in inimitable gusto and disarming honesty.

Filled with the beautiful black-and-white photographs that Paul loved to take when he was not battling bureaucrats, as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Above all, she reveals the kind of spirit and determination, the sheer love of cooking, and the drive to share that with her fellow Americans that made her the extraordinary success she became.

My thoughts: I have always wanted to be able to cook like Julia Child. Her love of food is contagious in this book and the frank almost off-hand way she tells the story is wonderful. It’s as if she’s sitting next to you telling the story. It’s more than just food but the way food becomes such a large and totally encompassing part of her, and her husband’s, life during their years in France and how a woman, who didn’t know how to cook at all, found herself the icon of French cooking.

I have one of her small cookbooks in my kitchen that is ratty, food stained, and dog earned. I reference it often when I’m trying to cook something I bought and realized had no idea what to do with when I got home. It’s called Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom and is by far one of the best cookbooks I ever bought. She has a way of breaking down a recipe so easily and making it sounds as if you can make the most complicated of dishes with ease.

Memoirs are not a genre I frequent but having watched Julia on PBS for years I had to read this book. It’s just as funny as she is on the show and the stories she tells about learning French, learning to cook, and finding her way in a country and culture very foreign to her is unforgettable. Not only a good cook, she’s a great story-teller as well.

This book was finished after Julia died in 2004 by her grandnephew Alex Prud’homme but none of her voice is lost. The photographs are absolutely fabulous as well.

I don’t have copies of The Art of French Cooking but if you were to ask me what two books I covet most in the world, it would be The Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2. I should admit that I don’t cook a lot of French food and rarely follow a recipe, I mostly look at recipes for ideas, but these are two books I know I would find use for.