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The Nearly Departed: Or, My Family and Other Foreigners
     

The Nearly Departed: Or, My Family and Other Foreigners

by Brenda Cullerton
 

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Cullerton's parents were always eccentric. Her mother gardened in curlers, pop beads, and black satin underpants, while her father hid wads of cash in shoes in the garage. This is a haunting, heartbreaking, and incredibly funny book that is a love letter to parents, family, and home--however strange they may be.

Overview

Cullerton's parents were always eccentric. Her mother gardened in curlers, pop beads, and black satin underpants, while her father hid wads of cash in shoes in the garage. This is a haunting, heartbreaking, and incredibly funny book that is a love letter to parents, family, and home--however strange they may be.

Editorial Reviews

Augusten Burroughs
Hilarious and charming and loony and quite nearly perfect.
author of RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
Alice Elliott Dark
A Triumph of compassion. . . . This is a wise and fascinating book.
author of THINK OF ENGLAND and IN THE GLOAMING
O Magazine
A wise, courageous, brutally honest and darkly hilarious memoir . . . about all the ways shame mutilates the spirit and how love can help us let it go.
The Miami Herald, 5/18/03
.. is wildly humorous, bracing, even embracing...a tone-perfect sense of anecdote, and a commodious and forgiving heart...
Publishers Weekly
Advertising slogan writer Cullerton tells the unexpectedly funny story of her "nearly departed," "brilliantly impaired" family. Picture her mom wearing "three pairs of glasses, one on top of the other," gardening in her Connecticut yard in her underwear. Or her formerly globe-trotting playboy dad, now bedridden, hurling curses worthy of a Tourette's sufferer, demanding his soda. As Cullerton meditates on her dotty family's eccentricities, she realizes there's a method to their madnesses. From her 71-year-old pot-smoking Uncle Larry, who "could be Hunter Thompson's version of a gonzo Santa Claus," to her ditsy Aunt Janet, who can't understand why the chickens in the butcher shop only have two legs, there's a desperate drive in all of them to escape the mediocrity of sameness, refusing to celebrate holidays and anniversaries ("commercial events invented by `Hellmark' ") or to live in the houses they actually own (more than one sleeps in the car with one hand on the wheel). While the anecdotes are amusing-e.g., her mother believes Barney is black, not purple; she parks in handicapped spaces, telling her daughter to limp as they leave-there's no mistaking it was often painful being raised by such people. Cullerton's mom enjoyed being difficult, seeing herself like sand irritating an oyster's membrane. But as this memoir shows, from such grit come pearls. By the time both parents are finally "departed," Cullerton begins to realize they haven't quite gone; they're with her, in her, still. Photos. (May 2) Forecast: Early attention, including a luncheon for the New York-based media, should get this book moving. Cullerton has connections to magazines, which should help, along with the cartoony jacket art. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Having an odd relative or two is part of most people's lives and is usually a source of both irritation and humor. For fashion writer Cullerton (Geoffrey Beene), it is all that and more. Although she lived in a seemingly normal home in suburban Connecticut, her family was more than a little eccentric. Her mother favored wearing three pairs of glasses, each on top of the other, and used to garden in a pair of baggy black underpants and a lace bra. Her father hid cash in pairs of old shoes, while her brother set up living quarters in a tar-paper shack in his parents' backyard. This memoir contains many amusing anecdotes about these and other characters in Cullerton's life but does not stop at mere storytelling. Cullerton writes from the perspective of an adult whose parents are now aging and becoming feeble. She asks poignant questions of herself that reveal her love for the strange people she calls her own and the heartbreak they have caused her. This is a cut above the average memoir, as it leads the reader to introspection, especially regarding the meaning of family. For larger public libraries where memoirs are popular.-Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Magazine journalist Cullerton's debut excavates the emotional rubble left in the wake of her family's passage through life. First there is a lull, when readers might mistake this memoir for a piece of comic absurdism: the final, even odder years of two already eccentric parents and a select cast of strange characters who live with them on the family property in Connecticut. Cullerton's mother, given to gardening in her black lace underwear in suburban New England, had always been a step out of the frame, with a wicked tongue that neatly cut people down to size. Today she is a caricature of herself; what was once vital is now purely intolerant when not purely unhinged. Cullerton's father had once seemed urbane, but his "stealthlike humor [and] light, deft touch" have degenerated into "a heavy-handed coarseness, a vulgarity, that made me cringe." Their daughter visits often as they dwindle toward their graves, scraping away the overburden until it bleeds, to arrive at "a place where there are no metaphors . . . the subconscious ceases to exist": her childhood. She gathers episodes, develops themes, puzzles them into an unsettling picture of fear, desertion, grief, and isolation. And it gives her dreadful pause, for she learned early the survival mechanism of flight and disappearance. "What if fear, rage, arrogance, and despair, like my genetic dispositions for alcoholism, osteoporosis, strokes, and cancer, are hardwired into my brain?" she asks. There is evidence of this, but also evidence that she's identified the enemy and taken countermeasures. Yet Cullerton's own internal wilderness is clearly far from tamed, and though it is full of hazards, she notes that "the edge is what keeps us onour toes." Yes, her parents were only human-"unbearably alive," she says-but that doesn't mean they should not have come with warning labels: Exposure to the contents herein is dangerous to your health. A history that comes alive as discomfiting flashes, then in great fearful helpings.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316084598
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
09/26/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
557 KB

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