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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Buddy Read #2 this year: Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault

Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault by Cathy Guisewite

Genre: Nonfiction

Published 2019, 317 pages

Terrie's Thoughts

I think I was the one that came across this title and suggested it for one of our reads this year. Written by Cathy Guisewite, the cartoonist for the long running strip Cathy, it seemed way out of our usual lane. Well, we certainly found that to be true!

Though I'm not a reader of comic strips or the Sunday funnies, I'm vaguely aware of the Cathy strip. I think the few times I read it, I didn't find anything to connect with so never became a fan. Well, this book is more of the same. If you liked the strip, you'll probably enjoy the book. She continues with her usual themes of body image, shopping, and eating. All presented very negatively. As Donna mentions below, it's just too much negativity for me!

This book is a collection of essays, reflections on her current stage of life with a teenage daughter and aging parents. The essays about her parents were mostly entertaining and less negative than the other topics. The ones focusing on her daughter and their relationship as she heads off to college were mildly interesting, partly because I could identify with the feelings of having the kids gone from home.

I did notice a couple of quotable lines in the book that actually did "speak" to me. But for the most part, it was a totally skimmable, unimpressive book.

"Women assemble the pieces of life!" I forged on, determined to get credit for my part in sustaining the universe. "That's why there are pretty flowerpots in front windows, framed pictures on mantels, and children eating heart-shaped waffles at breakfast tables! We turn houses into homes, people into families, clothes into outfits ... We make things whole."
"Women have always been the sentimental historians, saving little pieces of this and that, recreating and preserving events with the pictures we frame on the walls, the scrapbooks we give to loved ones, the stories that can be told and handed down through the albums we make. We're the glue guns of the family. Providing the comfort and security of seeing an order to the past. We do it for ourselves, to make sense of things. We do it for our children, to help them know who they are. We do it for friends, to show them how much we care. We do it for the people who will come after us so they'll know we existed, so we can inspire them from the other side about the importance of family, the need to stay connected to each other."

Donna's Thoughts

I can remember many, many years ago occasionally reading the Cathy comic strip. I found it somewhat amusing. That’s about how I feel about this book – it was somewhat amusing. However, the first chapter irritated me a great deal and I almost stopped reading the book. (Terrie: me too!!)

Some essays were more interesting than others. I didn’t care for the ones that centered on food and eating, or the ones about fitting into jean and bathing suits - they were too negative and repetitious. And while there might be some truth to these chapters there was also the theme of lack of self-esteem that I didn’t care for.

More interesting for me were the chapters about her family, especially her parents – how close she was with them, how loving they were, how they drove her crazy. Cathy seemed to be sending two messages about her teenage daughter - their loving, close relationship and then all the mean things Cathy said or did to her. I also found the stories about writing the strip and the insight that was given into her work to be interesting.

However, overall this is not a book I would recommend. Maybe if you read one or two chapters every few days it would be more palatable, but the whole book in just a day or two just got boring. (Terrie: my sentiments exactly)

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