The latest collection of essays from the actress and author.
The ostensible connective theme for this diffuse volume is family, and Gurwitch (I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50, 2014, etc.) returns to her family of origin frequently, often lighting down just long enough to make a joke or tell an outrageous anecdote. Then she takes off on a stream-of-consciousness stroll that leads her nimbly away from dealing with stronger feelings. According to her frequently repeated stories, she grew up in a difficult environment, with a mother who often confined herself to her room and a father whose crooked business dealings made for frequent moves and even more frequent financial problems. However, rather than delving into the repercussions of this childhood, Gurwitch mostly tells jokes. A couple of the more affecting essays concern the author’s attempts to find an appropriate living situation for her sick and aging parents. She went so far as to move temporarily into the apartment next to theirs in a retirement community in Miami. More often, Gurwitch shies away from negative emotion in favor of humor at the expense of others. The formula of many of the essays is the same: the author briefly enters a new community, makes fun of it, and/or explores the political consequences of it on a superficial level. For example, she attended a weekend summer camp for adults, populated with campers with nicknames like “Huggy Bear” and “Popcorn”; unsurprisingly, she found it insufficiently ironic. She also went to a party for “a skin care company that rhymes with the words ‘far gone,’ ” and she uses this anecdote as a jumping-off point for criticizing multilevel marketing.
Though frequently amusing, Gurwitch’s essays aim at easy targets and back off from complex thought.