Monday July 25, 2016

Review: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

By Jillian Sandy

Roz Chast’s aging parents are in serious need of help around the house, medical care, and estate planning--but don’t mention it to them.  In her graphic novel memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Chast provides an unflinching look into the last years of her parents’ lives with more humor than you might expect from a book about aging, dying, and fraught family relationships.

Chast doesn’t gloss over her often frustrating relationship with her parents.  Her mother, Elizabeth, is tough and opinionated, leading all who encounter her to fear a “blast from Chast.”  Chast shares more in common with her father George, a very anxious, sensitive, and overly analytical man.

As her parents age, Chast must contend with their hoarding, inability to care for their apartment, and denial about their physical decline.  When Elizabeth suffers a fall and George displays increasingly clear symptoms of dementia, Chast realizes her parents must move to a care home.  To say the least, Elizabeth and George are extremely resistant to this suggestion.

Chast honestly portrays the battle of wills between herself and her parents, never shying away from their strained relationship or glossing over the difficulties and the expense of aging.  She highlights problems that are essential to discuss (however unpleasant) without lecturing readers or blaming her parents for being part of a generation that did not talk about dying.  Her illustrations are lively and expressive, contributing to Chast’s storytelling as much as her words.

Recommended for fans of Chast’s New Yorker work and readers of memoirs.  I also recommend Bettyville by George Hodgman (disadvantage: not in Roesch collection; advantage: requestable through OhioLINK/SearchOhio) for a similarly humorous approach to the care of an aging parent.

See if Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is available at Roesch Library. 5/5 stars.

- Jillian Sandy, Research Services Assistant

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