Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Publication Date: 2014
The Short Version:
Cartoonist Roz Chast relates the good, bad, funny, and sad of her parents final years in a way that will touch your heart.
Why I Read It:
Far too many of my friends were reading and recommending this graphic memoir for me to not get it from the library.
From the publisher:
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”-with predictable results-the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.
While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies-an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades-the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
Both of my parents were gone before I was 40 so I don’t have to deal with the complications of elderly parents that so many of my contemporaries are facing. For that reason I felt that in some ways I wasn’t the target audience for this book. I was wrong. This is a book that doesn’t have a limited audience.
Aging and death is (as the title of the book notes) is not something that people want to talk about. In many ways, Roz Chast has put together a love story. Even though her relationships with her parents were often troubled she tells of and shows their final years in a touching and sometimes brutally honest way.
This one hits all the emotions of this complicated time of life for the both parents and children. Love, frustration, anger, guilt, fear and just about everything else is part of the story. She also manages to find some humor. The section where she cleans out the ‘crazy closet’ in her parents apartment includes notes about photos of things she found. I found myself giggling almost as much as I was near tears.
This is a book that if the timing isn’t right could be too much for some readers but if you’re not in a place where is might hit a bit too close to your own raw emotions I highly recommend it.