God Said, "Ha!"

Overview

1995 was, for Julia Sweeney, a truly horrible year. She got a divorce (amicable), bought a small bungalow in Hollywood, and looked forward to a life that said, "Here dwells a happily single young woman!" But then the ax fell. Her younger brother Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and moved in with her. Her parents came to be with Mike—and moved in with her. Suddenly her tiny bungalow for one was filled to the rafters with Sweeneys. Here she was sleeping on her pull-out sofa bed while her father walked ...
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Overview

1995 was, for Julia Sweeney, a truly horrible year. She got a divorce (amicable), bought a small bungalow in Hollywood, and looked forward to a life that said, "Here dwells a happily single young woman!" But then the ax fell. Her younger brother Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and moved in with her. Her parents came to be with Mike—and moved in with her. Suddenly her tiny bungalow for one was filled to the rafters with Sweeneys. Here she was sleeping on her pull-out sofa bed while her father walked around, his Walkman on all day and her mother marveled at Julia's lack of such staples as stroganoff mixes. Every day was spent bringing Mike to and from chemotherapy, every evening watching "Chicago Hope" or "E.R." Julia was now on seriously intimate terms with the people she had spent half a lifetime growing up away from.Just weeks before Mike died, Julia was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer—what Mike called her "sympathy cancer"—and within days of burying her brother, she underwent a radical hysterectomy, beginning her own journey through "the International House of Cancer."  From these Job-like travails, Julia has written a remarkably funny and touching memoir about a family in extremis that manages to persevere with humor, grace, and love.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Known for her characterization of the androgynous "Pat" on Saturday Night Live, Sweeney reached a deeper, more profound mix of pain and humor in her much-praised one-woman show, God Said "Ha." This book presents a slightly amended version of that show, and because it is unlike the theatrical memoir truly fleshed out for print (e.g., Evan Handler's Time on Fire), it helps if readers can conjure up Sweeney's bemused voice in the face of horror. Her story is indeed tragicomic. In 1995, fresh from an amicable divorce, she looked forward to a happy solo life in Hollywood when her beloved younger brother, Mike, was diagnosed with cancer and moved in with her. Then her parents decided to relocate from Spokane, Wash., chez Julia. Her parents are quirky, lovable, insufferable: Mom still can't cope with elevators; Dad is addicted to National Public Radio. As Julia struggles to find hope for her brother, she falls in love and has to "sneak around" for privacy. Finally, she herself is diagnosed with cervical cancer-"sympathy cancer," she quips. She survives but Mike doesn't. With wisdom and wit, she emerges with a sense of acceptance for her future childlessness, and, yes, love for her parents. Photos.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Known for her characterization of the androgynous "Pat" on Saturday Night Live, Sweeney reached a deeper, more profound mix of pain and humor in her much-praised one-woman show, God Said "Ha." This book presents a slightly amended version of that show, and because it is unlike the theatrical memoir truly fleshed out for print (e.g., Evan Handler's Time on Fire), it helps if readers can conjure up Sweeney's bemused voice in the face of horror. Her story is indeed tragicomic. In 1995, fresh from an amicable divorce, she looked forward to a happy solo life in Hollywood when her beloved younger brother, Mike, was diagnosed with cancer and moved in with her. Then her parents decided to relocate from Spokane, Wash., chez Julia. Her parents are quirky, lovable, insufferable: Mom still can't cope with elevators; Dad is addicted to National Public Radio. As Julia struggles to find hope for her brother, she falls in love and has to "sneak around" for privacy. Finally, she herself is diagnosed with cervical cancer"sympathy cancer," she quips. She survives but Mike doesn't. With wisdom and wit, she emerges with a sense of acceptance for her future childlessness, and, yes, love for her parents. Photos. (June)
Library Journal
Comedy and cancer work together in this memoir from Saturday Night Live alum Sweeney ("Pat"). Based on her one-woman show with little new material added, the book covers the year immediately after her leaving SNL, when Sweeney, recently divorced, moved to California. Before she settled in to bachelorhood and her "new, perfect little home," her brother Mike was diagnosed with lymph cancer. After Mike moved in with Sweeney, along came her Seattle-based parents to live out the ordeal with herand the "perfect little home" became Grand Central Station. The stories of Mike's chemotherapy and relapses and of Sweeney's living again with her parents are poignant and witty, but the printed page is no match for the well-lit stage, as seeing the material performed, with Sweeney's timing and facial expressions, is what makes the tears of sadness and laughter flow. Before Mike died, Sweeney was diagnosed with cervical cancer or, as Mike called it, her "sympathy cancer." You wouldn't wish Sweeney's ordeal on anyone except a professional comedian. Similar to Gilda Radner's It's Always Something (LJ 6/15/89), Sweeney's book will make readers smile with understanding and empathy. For biography collections.Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal"
School Library Journal
YASweeney, formerly Pat of Saturday Night Live, relates her experiences in coming to terms with her younger brother Mike's death from lymphatic cancer, and her own brush with cervical cancer. Building on her one-person autobiographical show in Los Angeles and on Broadway, the author has put her spoken words into print and created a sad but never depressing account of one disastrous year in her life. Fresh from a recent divorce and in her early 30s, she planned on moving into a small bungalow in L.A. and creating a haven all her own. Suddenly, instead of a sanctuary she found herself sharing the space with her parents and assorted friends and relatives as they nursed Michael through his last months of life. In 34 short chapters, each headed by a small photograph, Sweeney talks about the "worst year" in her life by concentrating on funny episodes that gave her the strength to deal with these events. She first looks at her parents' flaws and eventually values their strengths. YAs will find her courage at handling adversity a model to follow in their own lives when sometimes laughter and tears are so closely related they seem inseparable.Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553106473
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/2/1997
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Read an Excerpt

During my third year on Saturday Night Live, my husband and I split up. It was an amicable breakup. In fact, we used to joke that it was a divorce made in heaven.

We were good friends and decided to honor that friendship by continuing it outside of the messy context of a marriage. It took us a long time to decide to break up and it was sad and painful.

But there was one thing I really looked forward to, and that was the chance to live alone again. I saved my money diligently while I was working, and I finally had enough for a down payment on a little bungalow in Hollywood. I made it my symbol of independence. For the first year that I had this house, I was still living in New York City and I scrimped and saved and sent my money back home so that I could decorate it. I wanted to make sure that it was really girlie, and strongly feminine. And I wanted to make sure that it said to anyone who walked in: "A woman lives here. Alone. And happy about it!"

I developed this elaborate fantasy for my Shangri-la. I believed that I would spend a lot of time alone there and I would give a lot of petite soirees and fabulous gourmet dinner parties. And there'd be lots of witty talk.

Maybe someone would drink a little bit too much. And I would insist that they spend the night in the guest room, a perfectly charming place to crash after an evening of rousing conversation. We'd be up late into the night talking about oh, say, the latest Coen Brothers movie, or maybe the problems in Bosnia with that horrible Slobodan Milosevic. Or we could all play a fun game where we name all the Justices on the Supreme Court. And everyone would just love the dessertI'd made, and someone would inevitably say, "This pie is fabulous, and aren't blueberries even out of season?"

I figured that I would spend long afternoons listening to Tchaikovsky and writing all those great screenplays that are just floating around in my head. Days would be spent like my vacation in Ireland, except all the time and every day. Brilliant minds would leisurely lounge around my house, laughing uproariously at someone's ingenious bon mot. We'd all hang out around the barbecue in the afternoon and at night we'd all drink sherry and smoke Cuban cigars.

I would never marry again! I would live in this house alone! Gloriously alone for the next sixty years! Well, me and my three cats: Gus, Rita, and Frank.

And after a few years, my neighbors would look down the street and they would say to their friends, "There lives Julia Sweeney. You know, she never remarried after a brief early liaison, but we've never known anyone who was happier and more full of life than that Julia Sweeney! How we envy her existence!"

I could see all of this happening as I organized my bedroom and picked out fabric for curtains and scoured antique fairs for end tables. I was finally an independent adult! I felt so mature and self-reliant. I had gone to college, I'd started my career, I'd even had the big wedding, and that BIG relationship. But nothing was more exciting to me now than having my own place.

And that's when God just said..."Ha!"
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