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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna…

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (edition 2012)

by Anna Quindlen

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Title:Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Authors:Anna Quindlen
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

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First book to read by this author - a gift from Barbara Scott - can't wait to read her new novel that is coming out soon. Will recommend this one for book club. ( )
  MargaretdeBuhr | Jan 8, 2014 |
At age 60, Anna Quindlen has already had plenty of candles and birthday cake, but she wants more. A lot more. Her own mother died in her early 40s, when Anna was just nineteen. That early loss has made her grateful for every additional year she gets that her mother was denied.

Anna's gratitude is the common ingredient that ties together these ruminations of an aging feminist baby boomer. She seems amazed, even somewhat astonished, at how fortunate she has been. She has reached an age where she can look back and recognize the combination of ambition and serendipity that allowed her to "have it all" in terms of marriage, motherhood, career, and friendship.

These essays will of course have the most appeal for those in Quindlen's age range whose life paths have somewhat paralleled hers. But if you've read her work before, you know she always shares observations and wisdom that are universally relevant. I like her spunk. I like her honesty. Most of all, I like the way she always manages to say the things I feel but cannot put into words. I recommend the book for all connoisseurs of life. ( )
  TheJeanette | Oct 18, 2013 |
What is it like to be a Mother, a woman, a working woman, a feminist, a baby boomer...or someone who's aging, who is at the end of their life with little options? What is faith, motherhood, marriage, work, being a woman, friendship, love, life, or God forbid, death? What in our life are absolutely not necessary or important?

I used to read Anna Quindlen's column religiously, not because we have a similar life as other readers claimed (her kids are older, her career is more successful, she's happily married...), it's because no one can analyze a complex situation or phenomenon, then is also able to explain it simply yet eloquently with a dash of humor. She can see everyday situation that we encounter in a deeper sense, in which she contributed to the loss of her Mom at a tender age of 19. She explained why mortality is always on her mind:

"But the gift that some of us have been given, in exchange for terrible loss, is the gift of that knowledge."

Being able to see and feel things deeply enables her to write in a language unlike all others. Her word choices are simple although carefully chosen and perfectly arranged. Yet they strike the perfect chord in my heart. Her advices are insightful, brilliant and sad in a way. The life that all of us women have to go through...We thought we had it so perfectly planned, not to avoid mistakes, not to delay anything or miss opportunities...We wanted the perfect job, the perfect husband, kids at the right age, yet the outcome is usually unpredictable. We go through exactly the same cycle, the generation before us, and the generation after us, although many circumstances have changed, most for the better.

"I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It's a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error."

The whole book is full of insightful and poignant writings like the above, I highlighted all of them so I could go back and re-read them, think about them, ponder about her words, and how similar they are to my own, and many other women in the same stage of their life.

"There comes that moment when we finally know what matters and, perhaps more important, what doesn't, when we see that all the life lessons came not form what we had but from who we loved, and from the failures perhaps more than the successes..."

She also talked about our affinity to possessions, our refusal to retire or acknowledge mortality. She explained what a longer life expectancy and better healthcare has changed our expectation of life...for both better or worse. She explained the wonder of having girlfriends, although they might be different ones in different stages of our life. She indicated that women's movement has bought us great changes, thanks to all the women before us, but we are not yet there...Everything that we encounter or to be encountered in our life as a woman is in this gem of a book. I highly recommend it to all "finely aged" women out there. However, I do think that younger women will find this book useful, if they don't see it as preachy due to their age. Finally, Quindlen said since we don't have an absolute definition of "old", she was going to give it one:

"...OLD is wherever you haven't gotten to yet."

"When I think of that future, I know that my choices will narrow, have been narrowing as surely as a perspective drawing leading the eye to the focal point. I won't be going to medical school and becoming a surgeon. I'm not going to live in Italy or learn Chinese. I may have to become more thrifty and less spontaneous, may be lonelier and needier than I'd like..."

But, as she wrote, drawing is okay, sitting in a big chair with a long book is okay, spending long hours pulling together ingredients for a stew and staying inside all day while its aroma seeps into every corner of the house is okay, eating alone while reading a book is also okay. Life is....to be continued.

( )
  lovestampmom | Aug 8, 2013 |
This book was well out of my comfort zone.

I always feel awkward when it comes to reviewing memoirs, because who am I to judge someone's past when they've offered it up so? It's even more difficult with this one because I feel I'm too young to properly understand it, although she does go back to her earlier days. There are some beautiful moments, and things that I do fully understand, but I feel like it's directed at a certain, slightly older, audience and so alienates younger readers.

Written in a very adult style, if perhaps a little old-fashioned, this memoir nevertheless has a strong message to portray. I'm too young to fully appreciate this book, but I know it's something that my mother would enjoy reading.

This book is filled with life-lessons. It delivers important messages about love and life, and mocks marriage a little - not in any serious way, rather in a fond way.

I particularly liked the message about friends - that they are the go-to people, the coping mechanism for us all. She pointed out some things that should have been obvious, but that we all probably take for granted.

To be a good friend and to appreciate the value of friendship requires honesty and concentration.

Are you a good friend? I like to think that I am. ( )
  Corazie | Jul 25, 2013 |
I wavered through most of the book between three and four stars, but I do think it depends on your perspective. In the first 30 pages, I'd already marked three passages I loved, and I had a deep emotional response. Towards the middle to end, the sections almost break up into separate essays, in my opinion, and her opinions and experiences made it difficult for me to connect with her. Her final chapter, "To Be Continued" and the conversation with Meryl Streep (a long-time friend of hers) in the Readers' Guide sealed the fourth star for me and gave the book a cohesive ending.

I would certainly recommend this, but I feel like you will identify with it more if you're a little more towards (or past) middle age, and if you have children. She says as much to Streep in their conversation--that her experiences are difficult for her friends without children to comprehend.

In her prologue, I was immediately gripped by a line that nearly mirrored a recent Taylor Swift lyric: "We were all a little happy and a little crazy and a little sad and a little confused." She was referencing her generation in their younger years now being breadwinners or co-breadwinners, but still almost solely responsible for the home and children. It made me giggle. It shows we're all more connected than we sometimes think we are.

I loved her down-to-earth voice, and I love her reflections on her life. I think if I had children, or if motherhood weren't such a big part of her life, that I would have connected a bit more with the middle parts, but overall it's a lovely read.

I received this book as a free copy from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. ( )
  sarahlizfits | Jul 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Suddenly sixty, Quindlen finds herself looking back on her life. She's not so much wondering how she got where she is but, rather, considering how the choices she made and the chances she took along the way have prepared her for the road ahead. What even to call this next stage in a woman's life? Not elderly, certainly, yet definitely no longer young, this middle-aged morass can be hard to navigate. Friendships fade, fashions flummox, the body wimps out, and the mind has a mind of its own. One can either fight it or face it. In her own unmistakably reasonable way, Quindlen manages to do both, with grace and agility, wisdom and wit, sending out comforting affirmations while ardently confronting preconceived stereotypes and societal demands.
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In this irresistible memoir, the #1 "New York Times" bestselling author writes about her life and the lives of women today, looking back and ahead--and celebrating it all--as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all that stuff in our closets, and more.… (more)

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