The Center of the Universe: A Memoir

Nancy Bachrach, Author
Nancy Bachrach, Author . Knopf $24.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-307-27090-0
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-20246-7
Open Ebook - 158 pages - 978-0-307-27197-6
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-307-45541-3
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Piquant and ribald, Bachrach's debut memoir about her dotty mother from Providence, R.I., revolves around the accidental gassing accident aboard her parents' boat in 1983 that left her father dead of exhaust asphyxiation and her mother with severe brain damage. The author was then a 33-year-old advertising executive working in Paris on a new (ultimately doomed) campaign to introduce antiperspirant to the French, when she rushed back to the U.S. at the behest of her two professional siblings, expecting a double funeral but finding her tenacious, irrepressible 56-year-old mother, Lola, emerging from a coma. Widowed, confused and mis-medicated, Lola was not expected to recover from her carbon-monoxide poisoning, but her long-suffering children knew better, having endured a long history of Lola's erratic, flamboyant, bipolar yo-yoing requiring years of psychiatry, shock treatment and hospitalization. Over time her aphasia, echolalia, catatonia and incontinence amazingly do turn around, but Lola is ever a force to be reckoned with, the granddaughter of a prominent Rhode Island rabbi, molested in her youth, lustily married to so-called Mr. Fix It (also the name of the boat, which he incorrectly rewired, causing the release of gas vapors that killed him) and gamely re-marriageable (“Men are like buses,” she maintained, lining up another husband: “Miss one, hop on another”). Bachrach's prose is wry, risky, and feels like she has found her moment at last. (May)

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