THE NEARLY DEPARTED: Or, My Family and Other Foreigners

Brenda Cullerton, Author . Little, Brown $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-16253-1

Advertising slogan writer Cullerton tells the unexpectedly funny story of her "nearly departed," "brilliantly impaired" family. Picture her mom wearing "three pairs of glasses, one on top of the other," gardening in her Connecticut yard in her underwear. Or her formerly globe-trotting playboy dad, now bedridden, hurling curses worthy of a Tourette's sufferer, demanding his soda. As Cullerton meditates on her dotty family's eccentricities, she realizes there's a method to their madnesses. From her 71-year-old pot-smoking Uncle Larry, who "could be Hunter Thompson's version of a gonzo Santa Claus," to her ditsy Aunt Janet, who can't understand why the chickens in the butcher shop only have two legs, there's a desperate drive in all of them to escape the mediocrity of sameness, refusing to celebrate holidays and anniversaries ("commercial events invented by 'Hellmark' ") or to live in the houses they actually own (more than one sleeps in the car with one hand on the wheel). While the anecdotes are amusing—e.g., her mother believes Barney is black, not purple; she parks in handicapped spaces, telling her daughter to limp as they leave—there's no mistaking it was often painful being raised by such people. Cullerton's mom enjoyed being difficult, seeing herself like sand irritating an oyster's membrane. But as this memoir shows, from such grit come pearls. By the time both parents are finally "departed," Cullerton begins to realize they haven't quite gone; they're with her, in her, still. Photos. (May 2)

Forecast:Early attention, including a luncheon for the New York–based media, should get this book moving. Cullerton has connections to magazines, which should help, along with the cartoony jacket art.

Reviewed on: 02/24/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-316-83210-6
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-08459-8
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