One of the things I love about books is their unexpectedness. When I started reading Elizabeth Kelly's book, "Apologize, Apologize!", I was enthralled with the sharp tongue and wit that she wielded in describing a dysfunctional, extended Irish family. About 40 pages in I began to decide that I wasn't quite sure I could read the entire book...the family was getting to be a bit much in their antics...(Picture, say, Augusten Burrough's family from "Running with Scissors", on crack cocaine and you might begin to picture the Flanagans.)
I stuck with the book with the fascination of those who go to destruction derbies and cage fights...full of morbid fascination for where the author was heading.
Sure enough, I became enthralled with what might and did come next...The story of a wonderfully compelling alcoholic family whom everyone would love to visit from an invisible perch high above the fray. And that is what Ms. Kelly provides us with; our own perch from which to view the damage and compare it to our own.
The Flanagan's have many, many rules which govern their family dysfunction. One such rule involves never letting real feelings surface to the point where we might actually have to feel or analyze them.
Collie, (yes, he was named after a dog), mutters to himself while someone is asking a question that might seem like a normal kind of cocktail banter.
I was smiling in an agreeable sort of way but not responding. Pop had a horror of people who asked personal questions, which he's transferred to me. Hell, I don't even ask myself personal questions.
Collie Flanagan's introspection is often projected to be more of an outwardspection, but it is in that very denial of introspection that Ms. Kelly is at her best as she goes about doing the "Big Reveal".
When Collie's Mother dies unexpectedly his Father is quick to let him know that any lack of mourning for Anais will be paid in full later.
"Don't worry Collie, your mother will extract her period of mourning from you. Some people just get buried more deeply than others. You'll find out that sorrow takes different forms, but in the end true grief in an honorific conferred on those people, however unlikely they may be, who bring us some measure of joy. Your mother was many things, but a joyful presence she was not. Unfortunately, Anais's grave is not a shallow one."
And of such is the wisdom of the Flanagan family and it's extensions. The cover says it is hilarious and crushingly sad...these are equally true and equally enjoyable.
One of my favorite moments in the book was in the Author's interview in the back of the book where a perky young interviewer asks her if there is ever an interview question she WISHES she would be asked? Her answer: Has anyone ever told you how much you look like Annette Bening? (Hidden in the Reader's guide, this was the first time I thought there was something in a Reader's guide that was good for something more than starting a campfire...It was good for one last laugh.)