Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Assorted Nuts by Sandy Bax

Book: Assorted Nuts

Author: Sandy Bax

Release Date: November 2009 (Tate Publishing)

Genre: Memoir narrative

Pages: 352

Review Date:1/20/2010

Book Synopsis (Back Matter)

In the bucolic state of Vermont, a mother-daughter relationship is about to change forever. The daughter, Sara is getting married. And with two out of three husbands in attendance, Sandy feels herself on the brink of madness as she stumbles against long-ago forgotten faces, both friend and foe, each evoking a vivid memory. The recollections in Assorted Nuts: A Family Album will take you on a candid and unforgettable journey from the depths of an anxious childhood to the heights of emotional freedom, and will have you laughing, crying, and laughing again all the way. Sandy Bax frankly and cleverly relates how she battled cancer, alcoholism, the pain of divorce, and the serendipitous assignment of becoming caretaker for an aging mother slipping rapidly into dementia. Assorted Nuts is a survivor's tale and is delivered in the languages of hope and courage. A must read for every woman, as surely she will find herself in at least one of these intimate family snapshots.

Review: I loved this book. Really. I cannot tell you enough how wonderful it was to read. Memoir narrative is a dying, underappreciated set of literary product in today’s increasingly academic, garbage self-help, and endlessly storied market. Bax is an undiscovered, but shamelessly exposed writer who is genuinely expert at her craft. A tragedy in being a largely unreviewed novel at the time of this writing, without fluff I concretely state that Nuts was one of the best books I have had the pleasure of reviewing or reading in the past months.

What makes it so compelling for me is the blending of genuine and sentimental humor, and unbridled intimacy the reader feels as he reads the narrative. From the table of contents to the last paragraphs, humor is a subtlety of coping the author shares with the voyeur reading in a private room the tragedies and triumphs of a human being that leaves nothing hidden under a bushel.

Instantly I was sad for this woman. Although she appears to triumph out of the chards of life that so brutally yet lovingly are strewn across the pages, the psychologist in me cannot help but to notice a gentle remorse or perhaps sadness that is distilled throughout the insights—as if to say to the reader “I am sorry for taking so long to discover me, don’t make the same mistake.”

As you progress through the early life, marriages, and vices one cannot help but to feel the genuine spectrum of human pathos associated with the vagaries of lie, and without feeling the unending sadness and isolation to which we all at times must feel. However, masterfully Bax spins humor and subtle insight throughout without the hubris of calling herself the Socrates of the new millennium. 100% recommended.

On the writing style: Excellent writing and editing. Straight forward and unapologetic. You will probably not like this novel if you enjoy a barrier between reality and perception—this book is life full speed ahead.

On the Target Audience: sober minded who enjoy humor. Those who can relate to a checkered life, or those who appreciate those who have had a checkered life. I especially think women in their middle to later ages would find the read quite enjoyable. Unfortunately while it is probably aimed at the younger generation it may be lost on them as they may be in the same mode of narrowed thinking Bax exposes was her early life.

On the best parts: the biting humor brilliantly juxtaposed with human tragedy. From the beginning scenes describing being freaked to sleep in the morgue, to the unusual descriptions of “pet flies”, to the closing description of daughter Sara’s inconvenient memories, Bax’s humor is a rarity to treasure.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: The only negative I have to say about this novel is that I fear its brilliance sand honesty will be lost on too many people. This is a novel about true mental health disorders in a world that like to pretend that maybe five people suffer from them. For the rest of us, a wonderful, rich read of the ugliness and triumphs of life.

Heath Sommer