Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Anna Quindlen. Random, $26 (190p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6934-7
Weary, battle-hardened reflections on growing older infuse this latest collection of essays by novelist and former New York Times columnist Quindlen (Every Last One). Having chimed in copiously in previous memoirs on now familiar talking points such as raising children, finding life’s balance as a working mother, achieving marital harmony and doling out feminist lessons to three grown children, Quindlen has found one nut to polish in a gratifying sense of survival on her own terms. Now in her late 50s, having lived much longer than her mother, who died when Quindlen was 19, the author finds herself shocked to hear herself referred to as elderly, and no longer troubled by the realization that her sense of control over events is illusory. In essays such as “Generations” and “Expectations,” she is careful to pay homage to the women like her mother who grew up before the women’s movement and thus had fewer choices. Yet Quindlen sees much work still to be done, especially in breaking glass ceilings and in assumptions about women’s looks—including her own. Cocooned in her comfortable lifestyle between a New York City apartment and her country house, surrounded by accumulated “stuff” that is beginning to feel stifling, certain of her marriage-until-death and support of her BFFs, Quindlen holds for the most part a blithe, benign view of growing older. Yet in moments when she dares to peer deeper, such as at her Catholic faith or within the chasm of solitude left by children having left home, she bats away her platitudinous reassurances and approaches a near-searing honesty. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2012
Release date: 04/24/2012
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