Friday, 28 June 2013

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Oh, how grateful I am for Anna Quindlen! She is a few years older than me, but not so many that our cultural references are dissimilar. I first discovered her in college when she was already an established writer and columnist at The New York Times. She was just that little bit ahead of me, that little bit more experienced and wiser, like an older version of myself sending me advice from the future. She has continued to crop up in my life from time to time as I hit each new stage of life and she has just popped up again with Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, which I started to gobble up with indecent haste.

When I realized how fast I was getting through it, I slowed up and eeked out the second half of the book, savouring one essay at a time, not wanting my time with her to end. As I was reading the very last essay, it occurred to me why I like her so much: she is extremely thoughtful. Not as in "kind" (although she very well may be!), but as in "full of thought". She has really churned things over in her mind, lots of things on lots of levels, and she has come to lots of conclusions, but it never feels like she is forcing her opinion on you, just sharing it, giving you something to mull over...and it has. I think more deeply about my own life, my own choices, when I have been reading her words. What matters to me? What happens next?

There's a line in the book where she's talking about how she used to complain about how much time her mother spent on her (Anna's) hair, but how, deep-down, she loved the attention. "It was single-minded attention from a person who was frequently pulled in so many directions that she was psychologically drawn and quartered." Isn't that a perfect description of what it feels like to be a mother? There are too many instances to name where she voices my feelings and thoughts precisely. Suffice to say, I was sad to finish this book and am now recommending it to all my girlfriends so they, too, can devour it and feel loved and understood and comforted by it.

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