Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Reading Lips by Claudia Sternbach

Everyone's life is made up of small moments. Sometimes we keep a torn ticket stub to commemorate a moment. Sometimes it's a corsage. Sometimes a snatch of a song on the radio sparks a memory. Or a smell brings an indelible moment back to us. In Sternbach's beautiful and honest memoir, it is the kisses, those given, received, and even those memorable in their absence, that define the moments of her life. She brings to life the anticipation of a first kiss, the kisses given by family, kisses of benediction, of grief, of possibilities, of hope, and of the future.

Told in small, self-contained chapters set at different stages in Sternbach's life and told in her own voice at the appropriate age, this memoir sparkles. Her tale isn't one of extraordinary events or outstanding accomplishments, although no doubt her life has held its share of those as well, but instead it focuses on the small moments that shaped her and made her the writer she is today. The unifying theme of kisses neatly threads together what otherwise might seem to be isolated and mostly unrelated instances from her life. What the central theme does though, is tease out the connections.

All love is equally freighted here: familial, romantic, and platonic; all equally formative. The stories that Sternbach tells about her life are charming and universal. She captures the feelings behind each of the moments very carefully and authentically and the manner in which she writes of these feelings invites the reader to relive his or her own small moments alongside the narrative. A quick and delightful read, this would be a wonderful book to read with a group of old friends, those who have known you forever and can remind you of those kisses, literal and figurative that you might have forgotten. It would also be wonderful to read with new friends with whom you could build bonds over personal but universal tales like the one Sternbach has so kindly shared with her readers.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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