“A painfully beautiful memoir….Written with such restraint as to be both heartbreaking and instructive.” —E. L. Doctorow
A revered, many times honored (George Polk, Peabody, and Emmy Award winner, to name but a few) journalist, novelist, and playwright, Roger Rosenblatt shares the unforgettable story of the tragedy that changed his life and his family. A book that grew out of his popular December 2008 essay in The New Yorker, Making Toast is a moving account of unexpected loss and recovery in the powerful tradition of About Alice and The Year of Magical Thinking. Writer Ann Beattie offers high praise to the acclaimed author of Lapham Rising and Beet for a memoir that is, “written so forthrightly, but so delicately, that you feel you’re a part of this family.”
A father grieves over the stunning loss of his 38-year-old daughter, who died in 2007 of a rare, undetected heart condition while exercising at home.
Rosenblatt (English and Writing/Stony Brook Univ.; Beet, 2008, etc.), who has excelled in nearly every literary form—journalism, drama (six Off-Broadway plays), nonfiction and fiction—now adorns the memoir genre with a graceful, slim but piercing tale of loss and its sometimes grievous, sometimes ennobling effects. The author describes his daughter, a pediatrician with three children and loving husband, in tender tones. The extended family seems remarkably cohesive and affectionate, with a fondness for irony and humor. Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, moved into their daughter’s in-law apartment in their home and assumed as many useful roles as possible. They taxied children, cooked, cleaned, ran errands, etc. The title derives from one of the author’s morning tasks—making the children’s breakfast. Though deeply wounded by tragedy, Amy’s family was financially fortunate—able to afford private schools, a child psychotherapist and a nanny 12 hours per day, five days per week, as well as a retreat to the elder Rosenblatts’ capacious and quiet summer home in Quogue. The author rarely discusses how fortune—financial and otherwise—eased their awful burden. Although the flow of the text has a gentle current, it frequently shifts and bends and obeys a psychological rather than a chronological imperative. Rosenblatt employs the urgent present tense as he relates how he and the others cope, but for Amy he must use the painful past. There is plenty of hugging and tears, but thankfully no mawkishness or emotional manipulation.
Through the glass of the author’s transparent style we see all the sharp and soft contours of grief.
The New York Times
First, a word of warning to anyone who reads while riding public transportation: This beautiful and moving little memoir will most likely make you cry on the train. When Rosenblatt’s daughter, a pediatrician and mother of three, dies suddenly of a rare undetected heart condition, the author and his wife pick up their life on the South Shore of Long Island and move to Maryland to become co-parents with their son-in-law. The book, which began as an article in The New Yorker, is written as a series of vignettes, some contemplative, others in the form of simple notes (“What’s Jessie’s favorite winter jacket? The blue not the pink, though pink is her favorite color”). Rosenblatt, a former essayist for Time magazine and the author of 13 books, seems transformed by the grief he feels, but also the love: here is a man wrestling with anger at God, yet so gentle around the children that he pre-chews pieces of apple for his 1-year-old grandson, fearing they are too hard. Rosenblatt explores the natural cycles of intergenerational relationships (his granddaughter sighs at the same bad jokes his daughter once did), as well as unexpected themes specific to this tragedy (his wife fears that she is living the unlived life of her own daughter). He also tells the stories of acquaintances who have lost loved ones far too young. As the family members muddle through, they receive comfort from these people as well as others who come to their aid. “I wrote a book called ‘Rules for Aging,’ one of which was ‘Nobody’s thinking about you,’ ” Rosenblatt says. “Wrong again.”
Starred Review. Family tragedy is healed by domestic routine in this quiet, tender memoir. When his daughter Amy died suddenly at the age of 38 from an asymptomatic heart condition, journalist and novelist Rosen-blatt (Lapham Rising) and his wife moved into her house to help her husband care for their three young children. Not much happens except for the mundane, crucial duties of child care: reading stories, helping with schoolwork, chasing after an indefatigable toddler who is the busiest person I have ever known, making toast to order for finicky kids. Building on the small events of everyday life, Rosenblatt draws sharply etched portraits of his grandchildren; his stoic, gentle son-in-law; his wife, who feels slightly guilty that she is living her daughter’s life; and Amy emerges as a smart, prickly, selfless figure whose significance the author never registered until her death. Rosenblatt avoids the sentimentality that might have weighed down the story; he writes with humor and an engagement with life that makes the occasional flashes of grief all the more telling. The result is a beautiful account of human loss, measured by the steady effort to fill in the void. (Feb. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Rosenblatt wrote his “hauntingly lovely memoir” (Christian Science Monitor) as a collection of journal-style entries–images, conversations, scenes, and moments of quiet contemplation, ranging from a few sentences to several pages–that encompass the 14 months following Amy’s death. Though Rosenblatt’s subject matter is weighty, he writes of his grief with grace and sensitivity, while lacing his anger and disbelief with humor and warmth. However, the critics differed with respect to Rosenblatt’s writing style: while the Christian Science Monitor found it oddly impassive, the Los Angeles Times characterized it as expressive and eloquent. The Chicago Sun-Times also thought that Rosenblatt’s levity seemed somewhat out of place. Yet in the end, Making Toast is just as much a celebration of life as a reckoning with death. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Making Toast” is the memoir of life after the loss. Even though it is well written, the prose didn’t capture me and pull me forward. I pushed forward because I wanted to find out more about Amy and those she left behind.
The biggest lesson I extracted from “Making Toast” is that, even though life moves forward after the death of a wonderful human being, time does not necessarily “heal” the wound or help us fill the void.
I was also left full of deep admiration for Roger & Ginny Rosenblatt and Harrison Solomon (Amy’s husband). They were able to come together in such a loving and respectful way in order to keep the children from floundering in the midst of a very confusing loss. I have great respect for adults who sacrifice in order to keep the next generation whole in body, mind, and spirit. That said, I’m sure neither the Rosenblatts nor Mr. Solomon consider their actions sacrificial.
I know the Rosenblatt’s aren’t perfect, but I don’t think we could find a more respectful set of “in-laws” on the planet. Amy was a wonderful person because, in the best of ways, the “apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”
This is not the kind of book that keeps one riveted. But is not a read that you will regret either. Those who’ve recently been through such a loss may find “Making Toast” helpful.
This was a GoodReads First-Reads Selection…and what an excellent book! I don’t know where to begin raving about it. It’s a memoir of Roger Rosenblatt’s 38-year old daughter, Amy, who died suddenly from a heart problem. Roger and his wife move in with Amy’s husband, and their three young children. What special people Roger and his wife Ginny were to not even hesitate to come to the aid of their son-in-law! I cried in so many parts of the book. Roger shares his family’s life and celebrates Amy’s life and her legacy. Roger would post a “Word of the Day” for the two older grandchildren in the morning. What a smart way to introduce words and how they could relate to the grandchildren. One of their family customs was to always say, “Love you” at the end of a phone conversation. I was so touched by this because it is one of our family traditions as well that we have passed onto our three daughters. Lastly, on Amy’s twenty-first birthday, Ginny wrote her a letter. Again I was brought to tears by her wish for her daughter. I thought of my three daughters as well. “I wish you work that matters. I wish you the joy of great love in marriage. I wish you the beauty and fulfillment that comes from being a mother.” Pick up this wonderful heartfelt book!