cover image Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years

Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years

Cathy Guisewite. Putnam, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1842-0

Struggling with the indignities of aging and the stress of caring for both a teenage daughter and elderly parents, Cathy cartoonist Guisewite finds an outlet for her frustrations in this amusing debut essay collection. Fans of the author’s long-running comic strip about an insecure career woman will recognize the themes, especially that of the contradictions in the mother-daughter bond. In “Mother’s Day Text Message,” just after Guisewite shares her sadness at her daughter’s departure for college, she reveals the less sentimental flipside by quoting her daughter’s communication at the end of that college year: “can u book me a flite and put $900 in my account so I can ship all my stuff?” Another theme, in “In Loving Memory of the Legs I Used to Hate” and many other essays, is the perennial body-image demon faced by women at all life stages. There is also the loving but fraught relationship of adult children with stubborn, independent parents, as seen in Guisewite’s dealings with her own mother (“In spite of how cheerfully I’ve reassured her what a great driver she is, she knows she’s being assessed”). Some will find Guisewite’s discussions of shoes and makeup shallow, but women who can relate to her experiences and concerns will enjoy her girlfriendish voice and appreciate the more substantive material. (Apr.)