Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

4.1 82
by Anna Quindlen

ISBN-10: 1400069343

ISBN-13: 2901400069346

Pub. Date: 04/24/2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.
As she did in her beloved New York Times

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In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.
As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about
Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”
Girlfriends: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Sometimes I will see a photo of an actress in an unflattering dress or a blouse too young for her or with a heavy-handed makeup job, and I mutter, ‘She must not have any girlfriends.’ ”
Stuff: “Here’s what it comes down to, really: there is now so much stuff in my head, so many years, so many memories, that it’s taken the place of primacy away from the things in the bedrooms, on the porch. My doctor says that, contrary to conventional wisdom, she doesn’t believe our memories flag because of a drop in estrogen but because of how crowded it is in the drawers of our minds. Between the stuff at work and the stuff at home, the appointments and the news and the gossip and the rest, the past and the present and the plans for the future, the filing cabinets in our heads are not only full, they’re overflowing.”
Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come. It’s like a car, and while I like a red convertible or even a Bentley as well as the next person, what I really need are four tires and an engine.”
Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”
From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, Quindlen uses the events of her own life to illuminate our own. Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Life in the Fifties ix

Part I The Laboratory of Life 1

Stuff 5

Next of Kin 16

Girlfriends 27

Part II The Wisdom of Why 39

Generations 43

Near Miss 56

Mirror, Mirror 65

Solitude 74

Part III The Element of Surprise 85

The Little Stories We Tell Ourselves 89

Older 100

Push 112

Expectations 125

Part IV The Be-All and End-All 137

Faith 141

Step Aside 151

Mortality 161

To Be Continued 172

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 81 reviews.
SincerelyStacie More than 1 year ago
This is a delightful memoir that had me crying, laughing, reflecting on my own life, and nodding my head along with Quindlen's experiences. I sadly have to admit, this is my first book I've read by Quindlen, but you can bet I will be reading more of her novels. If she can write so eloquently about her own life, I can't imagine how well she can create lives for others. I had so many pages marked up from this book; things I want to remember with my children, quotes I want to write down, perspectives I want to rethink. I usually pass on my books to the local library after I am done reading them, but this one I will be keeping. I think my favorite part of the book was the very beginning where Quindlen talks about the things she would tell her 22-year old self about life. I thought for a bit about that myself. What would I tell my 20 year old self as I am turning 40? What do I wish I had known then? That may be a post for later, but it would definitely include taking risks, savoring relationships, and having hope. My second favorite part of the book includes Quindlen's take on conquering a headstand. How she physically didn't think it was possible, but was determined to build up her strength and finally, flipping her body into a complete headstand. It made me wonder, what is my "headstand"? What am I afraid to accomplish, do, conquer? If you haven't figured out, I truly enjoyed this memoir, even not being familiar with the author. The book will encourage you to reflect on your own life, whether you are 22, 42, 62, 82, or somewhere in between. I guarantee you will leave with life lessons, wisdom and full-blown honesty. If you are looking for a quick, enjoyable read, check out this book.
RowenaHS More than 1 year ago
Becoming Ourselves Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, reflections on the first six decades of her life, is especially appealing to me as an older woman. Like the author, I raised a family while working outside our home. Other older women can relate to her joys and struggles to fulfill the traditional roles of a woman (wife, mother, and daughter) while advancing in a career. Written with optimism and gratitude for all that life offers, the author’s positive perspective on aging is evident when she writes “The older we get, the better we get at being ourselves.” I highly recommend this book.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
When I used to get my Newsweek magazine in the mail, I would immediately turn to the back page to see if this was the week for Anna Quindlen's column. She and her husband had children about the same age as our sons, and her politics were very similar to mine. It sometimes seemed that she was writing the same things I was feeling at that same moment. Her fiction books are very emotional, from Oprah Book Club selection Black and Blue to the heartbreaking Every Last One, her most recent one that tore me up. But I was thrilled to see that she had a new non-fiction book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, sharing what it's like to be a woman over 50. As I just hit that mark, I couldn't wait to read it. I read it on my Kindle while on the treadmill, and I knew that I would be adding many highlighted passages for review later, and I was right. Quindlen has been a big reader since she was child, just like me, and what she had to say about reading touched a chord with me. "That's what's so wonderful about reading, that books and poetry and essays make us feel as though we're connected, as though thoughts and feelings we believe are singular and nutty are sometimes shared by others, that we are all more alike than different." Qunidlen and her husband have three children, and I found her advice to them really hit the mark; she "believes the single most important decision they make is not where they live or what to do for a living, it's who they will marry." She says that "the span of their years will be so marked by the life they build, day by day, in tandem with each other." Twenty-five years of marriage to my wonderful husband bears out her wise words. She writes of her husband, "He is focused, diligent, and funny; I am distractible, perapatic, sometimes overly earnest. He is the first to criticize me privately and the first to defend me publicly. He has my back and he always has. That's not romantic, and it's not lyrical and it's not at all what I expected when I thought I would never want to spend a night without him." She talks about the importance of girlfriends, and the irony of the women's movement teaching us that we can be more than caregivers, and yet today many of us are now caring for not only young children but aging parents as well. Quindlen was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school (as I did), and I found her thoughts on religion intriguing and relevant in today's society. As we age, our health becomes a big topic of concern for us, and Quindlen addresses the changes we all go through. She lost her mother when she was barely out of her teens and that loss colored the rest of her life. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a book that I will return to again and again, just to remind myself that there are others out there who are thinking the same things and walking the same path, and thank goodness Anna Quindlen is there to take us through it.
LWNILY More than 1 year ago
I’d classify this as “delightful”. I’d classify this as “delightful”. Anna Quindlen, 60 yrs old, shares insights she’s developed over the many years of experience in marriage, motherhood, career, friendships and all of the surrounding paths. She, as in most of us “baby boomers”, feels gratitude and relief at the acquired wisdom in this most savored time in her life. The experience of age makes us kind of connoisseurs of life and as time continues to move on, seemingly much faster now, we women develop a special feeling of camaraderie because we did it together and succeeded. We’ve all made choices, not always the right ones but even the wrong ones were learning experiences. This book is great validation of the time and the sacrifices and all the work to get to this point in our lives. We should cherish it. I highly recommend to young and old alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I can not believe Anna writes exactly what I am thinking but just can not put in words. I am a caregiver for my parents and have alot on my "plate". I love how forgetfulness is just that our file cabinets are too full. Why she married her husband is exactly how I felt about mine but she put it in words so that I could finally explain it to my daughter who had asked just like her daughter had. This book is not for the nineteen year old but any woman of that "certain" age who have older children, parents that act like children and look in the mirror and see themselves as 40 when that is how long they have been married. Completely enjoyed it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a woman of a certain age, I found that this book was so on-target that it was almost as if the author had read my mind and then articulated my thoughts much more eloquently than I ever could have! Almost every sentence is a pearl of wisdom that could be stitched on a sampler, and yet it is not at all preachy, but more like a talk with your best friend. One of the best books I've ever read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read for those of the baby boomer set. The author is frank and honest in revealing the pain stemming from her mother's early passing. Her love for and devotion to her family comes through loud and clear as she recounts past days as a newly married young wife raising three children while also working in the journalism field, and later, as an author. For those with children and husband, this may be the common thread that would warrant rating the book 4 stars. For those without either, well, it may just turn you off or bore you. Later in the book, she acknowledges the divide between women in her mother's generation, her own and her daughter's generation, how women's opportunities for career, family, etc. have changed. We, as women don't typically think on our opportunities or lack thereof in either arena. The author allows us to do that which is a good thing. It makes one think, and be thankful. When it comes to her thoughts on aging, sadly always a hot topic for aging women, I think those of us middle-aged or older appreciated hearing her thoughts and connected with her feelings on the subject. Her views on religion, having been raised as a Catholic, were surprising, and I appreciated her straightforward, "like it or not, this is how I feel now", declaration. The last few chapters seemed to take on a much more serious, bordering on depressed cast. And, towards the end, I was trying to read as fast as I could; the melancholia and focus on death was difficult to read about, and the author, at only 60, seemed overly focused on it.
beyondseniorhood More than 1 year ago
I found myself in this phenomenal well-written memoir several times and I've already reached seniorhood! Very relatable and a good read. I am recommending this to all my "women friends" and "girl friends." Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Usually read fiction, but this book makes me want to read Quemdlen's other books. Am 70 and it really hit home!
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
My review is about the audiobook, which I borrowed from the library and now intend to buy. I was a longtime fan of Ms. Quindlen's essays and fiction, BUT... I had never *listened* to her before. And at first, I found her voice so grating and New York-y that I wasn't sure I could finish listening to this work. Then I became self-conscious about how many words one of us (undoubtedly ME) is mispronouncing - dour doesn't rhyme with sour, but is more "do-er", really? But I listened on. She is so drily funny and self-deprecating and real, that this memoir became something I chose to replay over and over again. She doesn't pull any punches - she explains why she is still Catholic AND has major problems with the church. How she could take credit for much of what she did in raising her children, but some of it was plain sloth. How she enjoys her solitude, her marriage, depends upon her girlfriends, is choosing to rewrite the messages in her head that say "you can't do that," and shares honestly and poignantly about the many ways her mother's death has impacted her, something we have in common. She also takes a look at the changing roles of women over time, from the stay-at-home moms to those EXPECTED to work outside the home AND raise the kids. I think this work is relatable for most boomer women, but also for men, and for the generations that have followed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you again, Anna for nailing all the thoughts in my head as i ride the train home from NYC to Westchester County. Its every moms life out loud. Great read and rationalizes your "crazy".
nolagras More than 1 year ago
Anna Quindlen tells funny stories and evokes many powerful memories for this reader--who we intend to be and who we become; the dreams we follow and the ones we leave behind. She and I are from different classes, so some choices have been different. Still, as she told stories about her parents, I felt an intense longing for my parents that stayed with me for days. Younger women and men could benefit from reading this book, but might not "get it." I flagged about half the pages in this book as I read (because I was reading a borrowed copy), AND I mailed a copy to a friend for her 60th birthday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book on my Nook but think I should purchase a hard copy to share. The author's perspective mirrors my own on so many points. The names and the faces have been changed, but the similarities...... Although I will turn 65 in January, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!
KimRBurdick More than 1 year ago
. "Lots of Candles" is the autobiography of a woman who has worked hard, done her best, and earned a few extra perks along the way. Anna Quindlen is turning sixty. "Lots of Candles" is a memoir composed of a series of reflective essays about Quindlen's life and family. She is taking stock of where she has been and where she is going. Most traditional middle-aged wives and mothers will intuitively understand where Anna Quindlen is coming from. Anna is a baby boomer jubilantly doing a head stand, accidently discovering dog hair and lost earrings under her dresser. Yes. Life is like that. Approaching old age is a strange adventure for us all. How did we get here? What does it mean? Surely, this phase of life is not the birthday present we expected. Before opening this final package, Quindlen is tying up personal loose ends, pondering retirement and eventual death, compiling her thoughts and memories at the request of her daughter. Quindlen's real gift is one of noticing nuances, finding comfort in the mundane, happiness in predictability. She has an appreciation for the strength of character needed to provide family stability and structure. In many ways, she is our generation's answer to Peg Bracken and Erma Bombeck. As I read "Lots of Candles," I thought of this book's importance to future historians, sociologists and museum professionals. It has an accuracy that is rare--capturing the details, the changing social and cultural norms, the memories and observations of an educated middle class wife and mother living in an era book-ended by the Eisenhower and Obama administrations. Readers who want spicier, more dramatic material should look elsewhere. There is no divorce, no abuse, no shocking revelation, no cry of anguish here. Those whose lives have taken different turns will have different tales to tell. If you are younger, you may not be ready for this book. Save it to read as you approach sixty. If you have had a traumatic, tumultuous life, read 'The Glass Castle" instead. This is not a how-to book. It is an autobiography, a memoir, a motherly book, an old-fashioned book. "Lots of Candles" is a refreshing book about family life, stability and personal growth in an age of constant change. Kim Burdick Stanton, Delaware
pat72 More than 1 year ago
Anna Quindlen has used her years of writing experience to hone the subject of aging and change. Both changes from within and without, and she causes one to ponder on the goodness of life and the frailties of humans. Women will especially enjoy this book.
Linda-Marie More than 1 year ago
I have been a long time fan of Anna Quindlen, but this memoir captured what is in my head on so many levels, from the effects of aging on our facial features to being "in control" and not letting others help us when what we really need is some help. This book resonnated with my book club, but what I really wish for is a column in Time Magazine! Thanks for the meomories!
ronay55 More than 1 year ago
What more do I need to say? It's Anna Quindlen at her most insightful, about life and how we use our time in it. Not funny, but full of good humor, it is a share-fest and affirmation of our common experiences--even as we trip and bounce over our individual cobblestones along the way.
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I have been a fan of Anna Quindlen since her days of writing the Her column in the NYTimes. We grew up in the same time and her essays are very relatable.
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