Tragedy Plus Time: A Tragi-Comic Memoir

Adam Cayton-Holland. Touchstone, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7016-4
Self-mockery and true pathos make for a powerful mixture in this nuanced memoir about a comedian’s alternately blessed and crushingly tragic family history. At first, it seems like there’s little about Cayton-Holland’s life that would evoke sympathy: raised in Denver by a pair of idealistic parents, the author and his two sisters (whom he refers to as the “Magnificent Cayton-Hollands”) come off as a family that makes others envious, overflowing as they are with well-nurtured talent and densely layered inside jokes. Cayton-Holland is a costar and cocreator of the sitcom Those Who Can’t, and the book opens with a scene of his L.A. showbiz success that feels almost scripted. But while he and one of his sisters found professional success (the sister is a lawyer), their younger sister Lydia struggled with mental illness. Visiting home after a work trip to Montreal, Cayton-Holland checked on Lydia; when she didn’t answer her phone the next morning, he drove to her house and discovered that she had killed herself. Cayton-Holland’s wry and wiry voice here elegantly transitions from half-cynical stand-up pose to thoughtful interpretation of the contradictions of grief (“I like to remember her constantly; I try not to think of her at all”) without losing a beat. This is a vivid and heartbreaking account of two bright lives, one blessed with hard-fought success and one cut painfully short. Agent: Yishai Seidman, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 08/21/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-5011-7017-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-5750-9
Downloadable Audio - 288 pages - 978-1-5082-5749-3
Downloadable Audio - 288 pages - 978-1-5082-7690-6
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