“I did not take to this book right away. In fact, when another book came in the mail to be reviewed, I put this one aside to read the new book--something I don't do if I am truly engaged. Then this book fell behind the bed and I totally forgot about it. BUT I am incredibly grateful that I eventually found it and started reading it again...and that I stayed with it this time...because it is a real gem of a book.
Part memoir, part collection of essays, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake" is a searingly honest look at many topics that impact most of us, especially those of us who are women: marriage and family, friends, mortality, faith & religion, looks, aging, caretaking and many more elements of life. The book is set up in four parts:
Part I The Laboratory of Life
Part II The Wisdom of Why
Part III The Element of Surprise
Part IV The Be-All and End-All
While it was perhaps the darkest and most sobering, I think Part IV was my favorite, where she discusses faith & religion, the older generation stepping aside for the younger (in work) and facing our mortality. I enjoyed the other parts, but moreso in pieces than in toto, like Girlfriends in Part I, Mirror Mirror and Solitude in Part II, The Little Stories We Tell Ourselves and Older in Part III. The book is full of wisdom and truth and written very well.
The version I am reviewing is an advance reader's edition, and we're told not to quote from these as the exact wording may not be the same in the final version, but this book is just too damned quotable not to give it a shot! Some of my favorites, which I tape-tagged as I read:
On friends: "We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don't need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it's sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest."
On the illusion of being in control of her life: "I thought I had a handle on my future. But the future, it turns out, is not a tote bag."
On solitude: "When I was young I was loath to admit that I liked being alone, but not any more. By the time you've lived for fifty or sixty years, you are better armored to embrace the things about yourself that are true, even if you might think the world sees them as odd, eccentric."
On being alone after the death of a spouse: "She's on her own. It is a terrifying thought, not dinner for one but life for one, too."
On facing adversity: "...we are amazed, not by our own strength, but by that indomitable ability to slog through adversity that looks like strength from the outside and just feels like everyday when it's happening to you."
On the death of her mother: "My sister was nine years old when our mother died, and she remembers nothing. Nothing. Sometimes I mention something [about her mother] and Theresa says, 'Really?' and it breaks my heart."
So, okay, the beginning may not be as engaging as the rest of the book (at least it wasn't for me, YMMV). But take my advice...slog through it and keep reading. You'll be rewarded in the end. ”