Title: Making Toast
Author: Roger Rosenblatt
Release Date: February 16, 2010
Publisher: Ecco Publishing
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Summary: When his daughter, Amy—gifted doctor, mother, and wife—collapses and dies from an asymptomatic heart condition, Roger Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, leave their home on the South Shore of Long Island to move in with their son-in-law, Harris, and their three young grandchildren: six-year-old Jessica, four-year-old Sammy, and one-year-old James, known as Bubbies. Long past the years of diapers, homework, and recitals, Roger and Ginny—Boppo and Mimi to the kids—quickly re-accustom themselves to the world of small children: bedtime stories, talking toys, play-dates, nonstop questions, and non-sequential thought. Though reeling from Amy's death they carry on, reconstructing a family, sustaining one another, and guiding three lively, alert, and tender-hearted children through the pains and confusions of grief. As he marvels at the strength of his son-in-law, a surgeon, and the tenacity and skill of his wife, a former kindergarten teacher, Roger attends each day to "the one household duty I have mastered"—preparing the morning toast perfectly to each child's liking.
With the wit, heart, precision, and depth of understanding that has characterized his work, Roger Rosenblatt peels back the layers on this most personal of losses to create both a tribute to his late daughter and a testament to familial love. The day Amy died, Harris told Ginny and Roger, "It's impossible." Roger's story tells how a family makes the possible of the impossible
My Thoughts: Roger Rosenblatt has written an inspiring story of love, grief, devotion, and sadness. Making Toast is about a family who comes together while figuring out how to make things work and continue functioning well after the death of the woman who was their daughter, wife, mother and sister. In addition to grieving Rosenblatt's memoir also reminds us of how even the smallest things we do have an impact on another person, be they a stranger, an acquaintance, a beloved family member or a dear friend.
I thought this was a wonderful book as Rosenblatt's writing makes getting to know his daughter Amy an enjoyable experience and something I didn't expect in a memoir about death and grief. He celebrates her life and the person she was by relaying numerous anecdotes and stories about Amy, the things she said and did and how she interacted with family members, her husband, children, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Rosenblatt's stories about Amy emphasize specific aspects of her personality that he felt were particularly unique to her and made her special. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Amy, a beautiful, intelligent, kind, loving and witty woman with whom I would have liked to have been friends. Rosenblatt's stories about Amy's interaction with people throughout her life also made me realize how much our behavior can have an impact on every person we come in contact with. Our smallest word or just a smile can change someone's day. Not only did I become more cognizant of my behavior and attitude towards others but since I've read this book I'v tried to be careful to smile and greet other people, even strangers. It's actually made my days better!
I consider Rosenblatt's writing this memoir so soon after his daughter's death an amazing act of courage. Hopefully it was cathartic for him. It couldn't have been easy. Amy died December 2, 2007 and by June 2008 Rosenblatt is writing his memoir. At the same time he's grieving his daughter's death, he is living in his daughter's family's house, helping care for his grandchildren, Jessie, Sammy and James (Bubbie) and driving from Virginia to Long Island, New York once a week to teach. That sounds exhausting and could drive somebody nuts!
Rosenblatt frequently mentions that he's very angry but he never explodes. He finds the 5-hour drive to New York and back good for relieving tension, although he notes that road rage was a possibility in the weeks right after his daughter died. Rosenblatt is somewhat comforted, or at least relieved, by talking to many different people about grieving and the death of a family member or a child. But no one is perfect and shortly after Amy died, Rosenblatt was only able to control his anger so much. He uncharacteristically lost his temper with some students and other people and picked fights with store clerks.
Rosenblatt invites us in on some very poignant moments that clearly show how painful the loss of Amy is for everybody in the family. He shares how “Carl, John and I stood together on the deck in Bethesda the day after Amy died, and wept. Arms around one another, we formed a circle, like skydivers, our garments flapping in the wind.” describing a moment so raw it made me pause in my reading to wipe the copious tears from my eyes. Rosenblatt also writes in relation to Amy's husband, Harris, "As with us all, sorrow frames his every activity...." showing us that the family's pain and sadness is so pervasive it exists in everything they do. And in a very touching scene, Rosenblatt explains his feelings and his belief that Amy is always in the minds and hearts of him and his family when 5 year-old Sammy says he has no mom and Rosenblatt tells him "Mommy is still with us." "She's always with us, everywhere. We can't see her, but we can feel her spirit."
I found Rosenblatt's memoir to be extremely emotional. I cried, I laughed, I shuddered and more while reading about this family and how they continued on after losing Amy. I think it's an amzing book and a reminder, in one respect, that we have no idea what a person is dealing with when we encounter them in the course of our day. It seems like life and the activities of living should stop for a week or so when someone we love dearly and depend upon dies. But that doesn't happen. Life goes on and we are expected to move forward with it. It's not easy but we all try to manage to do so when it's our turn to face loss and grief. Thank you to Roger Rosenblatt for sharing yours and your family's experience and struggle with life after the death of your daughter and reminding us how human we all are.
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, Ecco through Shelf Awareness.