Girls Only: Sleepovers, Squabbles, Tuna Fish, and Other Facts of Family Life

Girls Only: Sleepovers, Squabbles, Tuna Fish, and Other Facts of Family Life

4.0 2
by Alex Witchel
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

"What I learned from my father was the boys' lesson of dealing in the world -- trust no one and win the first time. What I learned from my mother was the girls' lesson -- trust no one and win the first time, but just in case you don't, come home, eat something, talk about it, have a drink, cry a little, then go back out there and try again."

See more details below

Overview

"What I learned from my father was the boys' lesson of dealing in the world -- trust no one and win the first time. What I learned from my mother was the girls' lesson -- trust no one and win the first time, but just in case you don't, come home, eat something, talk about it, have a drink, cry a little, then go back out there and try again."

Armed with these family tenets, Alex Witchel goes soul-searching and shopping with the ever-present help of her mother, Barbara, the "human Swiss Army knife who can do it all," and her sister, Phoebe, Alex's perpetual rival and best friend. These three form a family within a family, and with a passionate unity they offer each other sharp, witty, and (occasionally exasperating) insights on everything from men, pedicures, and careers to sibling rivalry, the challenges of stepparenting, and the pains of aging and loss.

Insightful, poignant, and hilarious by turns, Girls Only is a memoir that celebrates the one thing that remains "for women only"...mother/daughter/sister love.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
New York Times reporter Witchel's aptly titled book is based on a series of previously published Times articles exploring relationships between and among the women in her family (her mother, her younger sister and herself), their extended family and New York City. With an urbane and sardonic eye, she dissects the personalities, customs, Judaism and history of her family from the perspective of an about-to-be-40-year-old who still wants to believe, deep down, that Mommy knows best. Aspiring with only partial success to a Nora Ephron-like barbed matter-of-factness in this combination of memoir and reportage, Witchel occasionally leaves the reader feeling claustrophobic, desperate to throw open a window for air beyond Manhattan hotel weekends, restaurants and department stores. Still, her candor can be affecting, particularly in the final chapter, about the deaths of her grandmothers. And she occasionally shows a flair for genuine comedy, as in the hilarious chapter about sex: she brings her mother-a longtime Star Trek fan-to an interview with William Shatner; her mother and "Captain Kirk" hit it off, and he dazzles both women by kissing Witchel's mother three times on the mouth. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In this breezily written, modern-day coming-of-age autobiography, Witchel, a style reporter for the New York Times, describes her life growing up in New York City. She charts her relationship with her mother and younger sister and her maturation from child to thirtysomething young married. Her affectionate portrayal of a loving, nurturing family is reminiscent of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Marjorie Morningstar. Her relaxed moral message may disappoint some readers; still, they will appreciate the strong emotional ties of the three women and how they give each other space to grow and go beneath the surface. Witchel's book is a refreshing change from the many works portraying destructive families, patterned after Nancy Friday's My Mother/Myself; here Witchel shows how she has grown and blossomed because of her family. Recommended for young adults and beyond. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/96.]-Susan Dearstyne, Hudson Valley Community Coll., Albany, N.Y.
Katherine Whittemore
Alex Witchel is an epigrammatic writer, arch, chummy, and Nora Ephronesque, which means she is both fun to read and tiresome, too. Like someone showing how clever they are. Every second. You wince sometimes over such quips as "smoking has become the cooties of the Nineties," or this clunker on the interior of the Guggenheim museum: "If you started at the top, it was like going down a toilet in slow motion."

Still, if you get past these forced bits, Girls Only is oddly affecting. Based on a clutch of pieces Witchel did for the New York Times (she's been a style and culture reporter there for six years), the book chronicles the relationship between Witchel, her mother Barbara and her younger sister Phoebe as the three embark on various metropolitan-area adventures � a sleepover at the Stanhope Hotel, Witchel's own wedding (to Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich) or a picnic with actress June Havoc, the younger sister of Gypsy Rose Lee.

This last is the best piece of all, in which Witchel becomes friends with the tough, aging Havoc, whom she has idolized since childhood. Havoc was the quintessential trouper. Abandoned at age 13, she acted in vaudeville while her sister stripped, the two of them eating and sleeping sporadically. Conversely, Witchel was raised in a posh New York suburb by her Ph.D-holding Mom and Wall-Street-dealing Dad "in the Scarsdale life of maids and Mom's credit cards to buffer the blows," she writes. As Havoc tells Witchel: "Your life is such a pillow."

Which is true enough, although Witchel finds common ground between them. "Maybe what (Havoc and I) had in common was the urge to please," she writes. It's this quality which gives the book its poignance. Witchel is powerfully intertwined with her mother, who's as central to her prose sensibility as Alice to Calvin Trillin. Barbara Witchel triumphed over childhood polio, blatantly eats pork outside the house (the family keeps Kosher), loves "Star Trek," smells like "Joy perfume and soap and cigarettes and just a touch of Adorn spray," and used to "wrap a kitchen knife in a yellow paper napkin and tuck it in her evening bag when we went to the theater at night."

Her daughters adore her, and Alex tries mightily to be like her. "Isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?" she writes. "With mothers it goes even further. It's the sincerest form of justification. Of their lives." That's no epigram, that's insight, and Witchel at her best. --Salon

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416553762
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
01/08/2008
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
0 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >