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She takes him home to Connecticut, where his uniquely fretful personality makes for the some of the funniest panels in the book.
He’s the opposite of handy—“he had a tendency to break things in ways you did not know they could be broken”—and a stupendously picky eater.
Would he have begun to disappear at intervals, turning up on the highway like Bruce Dern in ?
Chast never portrays herself as an angel, instead picturing the many times she loses all patience with her parents, her fantasies that they will conveniently die together at the same time, and her frustration over their eccentric behaviors, which only increase with age.
When the book opens, Roz is married and has a three-year-old child; her parents, George and Elizabeth, are 78. (And the mystery is solved of why so many of her cartoon living-room sofas and chairs are dotted with doilies: the apartment her parents lived in was the one Chast grew up in, unchanged since they’d moved there in 1959.) Although the cartoon panels themselves, are, of course, wonderfully expressive, so is Chast’s writing: “This was Brooklyn, the Brooklyn of people who have been left behind by everything and everyone.
Roz, living in Connecticut, far from their Brooklyn apartment, has no desire to go back to visit. The Brooklyn of smelly hallways and neighbors having screaming fights and where no one went into Manhattan—“the city”—unless it was for their job at Drudgery, Inc.” She finds her formerly spry parents on the decline. ”—and moving into the part of old age that was scarier, harder to talk about, and not a part of this culture.” They decline her help but submit to regular visits; in these sections, we get to know them as people, not just cartoon characters.
In a photo of Roz, age 11, she looks like a miniature version of her mother: kerchiefed, overcoated, wearing cat glasses, and already worried.
Moreover, their unusual closeness—her parents believed each other to be “soul mates,” and were unapologetically co-dependent—left little room for anyone else. If there were ever any doubt that a graphic memoir, and one by a cartoonist known chiefly for her wry, even goofy style, could be an effective vehicle for a biographical story about one’s aging parents, Chast’s trembling outlines, fairytale interiors and dazed, bewildered looking characters in puts it to rest.
For adult children now dealing with aging and ill parents, Chast’s book is both educational and cheering, half-awful and half-hilarious.