A memoir of comedic holiday misadventure.
Memoirist Rouse (At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life, 2009, etc.) mashes up a lifetime of holiday debacles into a single book. Virtually every known celebration—from Christmas to Arbor Day—is exploited for humor's sake, and the author relies primarily on quick wit and artistic license to evoke a response from the reader. The results are mixed, particularly due to Rouse’s insistence on alienating much of his readership. To be fair, no one is spared the sharp barbs of his jokes—not rural family members, the obese, the ugly, or even Helen Keller—though some readers could interpret this oversimplification of humanity as a form of elitism or snobbery. When describing his chivalrous decision not to drink in front of his recovering-alcoholic partner, he wrote that to do otherwise would be “like those husbands who continue to bring their eight-hundred-pound wives honey buns and two-liter jugs of Mountain Dew before…their spouses are airlifted out of the trailer park.” Similarly, his pronouncement that “[i]f there is not a quality coffeehouse every one hundred feet, you're either driving in rural America or visiting a place you need to get the hell out of” is further fodder for anti-elitists. Rouse is most successful when he shows his heart alongside his humor. In “The Wonder Years,” he discusses how he and his partner opened their home for a dying dog, forcing them to glimpse their own mortality in the process, and “My Holiday Miracle” explores Rouse's attempt at comforting his mother as she nears death. Both of these essays offer rare, unrestricted access into the author’s emotional world.
An unbalanced collection of occasionally humorous essays that rarely strike an emotional chord.