Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

A Memoir

Chast, Roz

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through a mixture of cartoons, family photos, documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents. When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the "crazy closet"--with predictable results--the tools that had served Roz well through her parents' seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed. While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies--an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades--the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
Publisher: New York :, Bloomsbury,, 2014.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2014
ISBN: 9781608198061
Characteristics: 228 pages :,illustrations (some color), portraits ;,25 cm


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Feb 28, 2015
  • zenandnow rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Like many other reviewers, graphic novels aren't something I would pick up to read on my own, but once I started reading this I didn't want to stop. It is wonderful to find an honest, compassionate account of what many of us face (or will face) as our parents age.

I had no idea who Roz Chast is before reading this book and the only reason I know about it was from the New York Times Bestsellers List (that has an awesome section for graphic novels). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a great read.

I don’t know about you, but personally when I hear the word “memoir”, I tend to think that I’m going to hear about someone’s life story, but that was not the case with Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Instead, we delve into the experience of her relationship with her ageing parents and the inevitable fact that she will have to deal with their passing. There are many parts of the book that made me literally laugh out loud (something I oddly don’t often do with books) and that alone makes it a great read.

Jan 10, 2015
  • Cas22 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It was wonderfully reassuring to realise that the issues, battles and frustrations I’d faced trying to care for elderly, Anglosaxon relatives in suburban Adelaide and Melbourne were almost exactly the same as those faced by Roz Chast in caring for her Russian Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York. Such a relief to learn it wasn’t “just me”. And, the comic-strip format of much of the book doesn’t detract, in any way, from the gravity and poignancy of Roz Chast’s experience although it does inject a welcomed dose of humour.

Dec 31, 2014
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Graphic storytelling like you haven't experienced before. Roz Chast's memoir is told in her trademark New Yorker "cartoon" style, along with photographs and handwritten text. The mix gives an immediacy to the narrative that wouldn't be available in a straight-up, conventional memoir. Chast is really frank about the mixed emotions experienced as she takes on an ever-greater care-taking role vis-a-vis her aged parents. The book is a kind of road-map for those of us facing these circumstances, and more than that, it is engaging and absorbing, and cringeworthy, and amusing, and anxious, and.... I'm recommending this book to anyone.

Dec 30, 2014
  • smc01 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Let me begin by saying I do not generally read graphica. I made an exception after hearing a compelling radio interview with the author. This book is astonishing in its honesty in telling the story of Chast's aging parents and the challenges she faced in placing them in extended care. Her illustrations add so much to her story - a picture really does paint a thousand words. The photos are great, too - especially the ones of her parents' apartment and all the "stuff" they left behind for Chast to deal with. Anyone who has helped to clear out their parents' possessions will relate to Chast's concern about how to cope with all the choices to be made. She's right that you never look at your own things in quite the same way afterwards. As her parents' health deteriorates, Chast is so torn in what she can do for her parents while looking after her own family. She is brutally honest in describing their decline and much of it is heartbreaking - both her words and drawings. Her relationship with her parents was very complicated, and nothing is sugar coated. A must-read for anyone with aging parents and a great book club pick.

Dec 15, 2014
  • lbriverside rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Love Roz Chast and can't wait to dig into this graphic novel that documents her relationship to her parents as they age.

Dec 01, 2014
  • Lucky_Luke rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Funny and devastating at the same time. If you can laugh at aging, it lightens the burden of caring for elderly parents. Most of us commonly experience denial, guilt and feelings of inadequacy when dealing with end of life issues.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her unique brand of cynical humor to this unflinchingly honest graphic memoir recalling the years she spent caring for her aging parents. Her father’s anxiety and increasing dementia were challenging enough, but when her mother’s health began to rapidly decline it became painfully clear to Chast she could no longer be their sole caregiver. Struggling with the guilt of placing her parents in assisted living and the unrelenting worries about expenses related to their care, she does her best to keep everything afloat. As the title suggests, aging and dying are subjects few people wish to discuss but Chast does a commendable job of tempering the difficulties faced by both elderly parents and their caregivers with plenty of absurd, laugh out loud moments. Chast uses a variety of formats to tell her story; sequential cartoon panels are interspersed with a more traditional narrative punctuated by larger illustrations, photographs, and poems written by Chast’s mother. Together, they tell a complex story about a family that, while far from perfect, cared deeply for each other. A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award for Nonfiction -

Sep 05, 2014
  • xaipe rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I am a big fan of Roz Chast's New Yorker cartoons and this book was a real feast for me. Funny, sad, ruefully loving and the drawings were hilarious. Aging parents and their problems isn't exactly a subject one would expect to be so funny, but I loved it and laughed all the way through.

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