An actress and singer struggles through her father’s illness and the aftermath of his death.
Silber (After Anatevka, 2017), who has performed on Broadway and London’s West End, was a young child when she became aware that her father had cancer. Quickly, her life was organized around her father’s imminent passing, with systematic chemotherapy treatments, medical trials, and the threat of abandonment. “I rigorously took on the task of providing my parents with a perfect child: a singular source of hope and joy and promise,” writes the author. “It was in this internal atmosphere that I smothered myself, believing in my bones that any problem, mistake, even the tiniest of transgressions, was my contribution to not curing cancer.” The narrative moves among sections that explore what happened before, during, and after the death of her father, focusing especially on the funeral. “Funerals are a social mystery,” she writes, “a formulaic social mystery, but mysterious nonetheless….You just muddle through each funeral, hoping you’re doing the right thing, and then you largely forget about it until you have to muddle through it again the next time.” Of course, her father’s funeral was far from forgettable. Rather, it was full of memorable interactions with family members that left the author numb, shaken, and, ultimately, scarred for life. Though the subject matter of the memoir is heavy, Silber’s tone is full of optimism and irreverence, effectively keeping readers engaged as they travel through their darkest thoughts. Throughout, the author includes original haiku, frequent discussions of her favorite movie, What About Bob?, bits of scripted conversations between her and her family members, lovers, and friends, and a host of funny diagrams. “You know what’s awesome? Irony,” she writes. “People my age learned what it means from Alanis Morissette, so our grasp is tenuous at best, but when it plays out over life and death situations it can get pretty trippy.”
A sardonic memoir full of unexpected anxieties—and familial love.