Sunday, September 23, 2018

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Anyone who scoffs at the notion of reading a graphic novel simply hasn't read one. They are just as powerful and impactful as a book that's full of words, page after page. Roz Chast had me reliving some painful parental moments in her graphic novel, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

We all hope our parents live long lives, and that we have time to get to know them as people when we grow up and become adults ourselves. But as our parents age, and live longer than their parents and grandparents did, we're faced with increasing angst as parents who always were strong, independent, sharp, and ruled the household become frail and forgetful. 

Roz Chast outlines that very situation. For her, it's even more difficult, as she's an only child who doesn't live near her parents. And her parents are a handful. Elizabeth and George have been married for decades; her mother is a force, while her father is quiet. They do everything together. They've lived in the same apartment in Brooklyn since Roz was a baby. And neither of them want to talk about death, wills, money, or future care. Their routine is set in stone and they don't like change. 

There were times when I felt like I was reliving some of the same conversations I had with my Mom when I was reading this memoir. And it's always one significant medical issue that is the start of the end, and you know it when it happens. The end can be years away, but you're aware of that one specific moment when you realize it's the beginning of the end. Roz's memoir is full of that tug of war between parent and child as their mental acuity declines, and is replaced with anger and bewilderment. Faced with cleaning out her parents' apartment, Roz is just overwhelmed, and realizes that most of it is just junk. What her parents refused to throw away, and what they thought valuable, was only valuable to them, and now they don't need it or even remember they have it. I can say going through your parent's lifetime (and your family's lifetime) of things is both frustrating and heartbreaking. It adds a permanent bit of sadness to your soul. 

Roz's relationship with her mother is a strained one, and there is one moment where she says:

I left her room. Walked through the tasteful lobby of the Place as if everything was fine. Walked to my car. When I got in, I cried. The bellowing quality of the sobbing and the depth of the sadness I felt surprised me. I was angry, too. Why hadn't she tried harder to know me? 
But I knew: if there had ever been a time in my relationship with my mother for us to get to know one another--and that's a very big "if"--that time had long passed.

**Cue the ugly cry**

I found this graphic novel to be powerful and poignant. Roz mixes in photos of her parents, along with some of her mother's poems. I'd recommend it to anyone who has aging parents, or has already gone through this process and feels they were all alone and feeling the frustrations and sadness that no one else would understand. There are plenty out there who do understand. 

Rating: 5/6 for an accurate portrayal of caring for aging parents, and the struggles both emotionally and financially that adult children face--without the guidance of those we look to the most-our parents. Don't be put off because it's a graphic novel. That's what makes it a powerful memoir. Read it. 

Available in hardcover and paperback. This was a National Book Award Finalist. That's a pretty amazing accomplishment. 

1 comment :

  1. I never heared about the novel. But thanks to you for sharing the novel My friend will love to read this novel. I will get download eBook copy for me to read the novel story.