A disparate assortment of sharp and funny pieces revealing the private anguishes, quirks and passions of a woman on the brink of senior citizenhood.
Ephron, whose screenwriting credits include Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and Silkwood, has brought together 15 essays, most of them previously published in the New York Times, the New Yorker or assorted women’s/fashion magazines. She explores the woes of aging with honesty—hair-coloring and Botox are standard treatments, as is getting a mustache wax—but maintaining a 60-plus body is only her starting point. Ephron includes breezy accounts of her culinary misadventures, her search for the perfect cabbage strudel and her dissatisfaction with women’s purses. An essay on her love affair and eventual disenchantment with the Apthorp apartment building on Manhattan’s West Side deftly captures both the changes in New York City and in her own life. There’s an unusual pairing of presidential pieces: A lighthearted piece on her non-encounter with Kennedy when she was a White House intern in the 1960s is followed by a fiercely astringent one on the failings of Bill Clinton. Some of the pieces, such as her essay on parenting, seem tentative, and two, “The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less” and “What I Wish I’d Known,” read like works in progress, suggesting that they may have been rushed into print to fill the pages of a too-small book.
One doesn’t need to be a post-menopausal New Yorker with a liberal outlook and comfortable income to enjoy Ephron’s take on life, but those who fit the profile will surely relish it most.