A memoir about a free-spirited young woman who, together with her quirky family, prepares for her grandmother’s death.
Debut author Neal tells the story of her large, unique and oft-reconstituted family that suffered through “three generations of failed marriages.” Shortly after the book begins, Buffi is called to the bedside of her grandmother Mopsie, a woman considered by her offspring to be both an uber-matriarch and dark mystery. Buffi’s unnamed mother assures her that unlike the many other near-death moments Mopsie has endured during her time in hospice, this time, Mopsie is really dying. But she’s not: After an overnight scare, Mopsie miraculously recovers yet again. The closer-than-usual brush with death reminds all of Mopsie’s grandchildren that they ought to be visiting her in hospice more frequently. As a result, readers see Buffi spending time with her siblings, especially her excommunicated brother, David, and even her persistently antagonizing mother. Buffi and her family pass many hours reminiscing and sorting through Mopsie’s belongings, and Neal’s straightforward, richly detailed prose offers a cornucopia of family memories painting a vibrant picture of Buffi’s childhood. With both insight and humor, Neal describes many of her family’s offbeat experiences, such as living with their Christian mother on an Israeli kibbutz, her mother’s affair with a married man and her sister’s kidnapping by Mopsie. Buffi concludes that Mopsie’s stubborn refusal to die must be a sign of unfinished business on this Earth. Although at moments the book reads more like a personal tribute to her family and less like a factual work meant for the public, Neal’s affection for her family is so palpable it nearly jumps off the page. Readers will find themselves hoping Buffi will finally discover her distinctive place in this family she so clearly adores.
An enjoyable, moving read about the pleasure of being just a little bit different.