Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review: Cheap Cabernet by Cathie Beck

This is billed as a memoir about a friendship, the one of a kind friendship that so few people ever find in their lives but I'd argue that this is not what this is ultimately. Instead, it is a memoir about Cathie Beck, who overcame poverty and loneliness to raise her children, keep her self-respect, and ultimately came through to start a new life. Two narrative lines run through the memoir: that of Beck as a scared 21 year old mother of two whose husband has taken all their money and their car and taken off, permanently, and of Beck in her thirties after her children are launched into their own adult lives, looking for friendship and experiencing the rites of passage she missed on her trip through her twenties.

As a memoir about Beck, I think this was successful. As a memoir about friendship, I think it was less so. I didn't feel like we ever got a great sense of Cathie and Denise's friendship, jumping from them making a connection on the phone before the WOW (Women on the Way) meeting that Beck instituted in order to meet people to all of a sudden being so close they cut out the other women. Perhaps it is tough to verbalize the alchemy that makes a dear friendship but I just didn't feel as privy to what I had expected as I wanted to be. Denise was sort of a shadow throughout the book with her most salient feature being that she had MS. Being as unknowable to the reader as Denise was, that made it hard to believe that Cathie and Denise's was an enchanted, once in a lifetime friendship and certainly their eventual estrangement argues more for a friendship of a time and place, necessary for all that but not the thing that forever is made of.

Some of the transitions from Beck's life as a broke single mother to Beck as a woman wanting the friendship of other women are a bit choppy. But then again, life isn't seamless either. Those interested in the nature of friendship, starting over as an adult, and the demands of terminal illness will enjoy this book, even if these issues oftentimes are skated over a tad superficially.

Thanks to Hyperion Books for sending me a review copy of this book.

1 comment:

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