May 132013


Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about

Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”

Girlfriends: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Sometimes I will see a photo of an actress in an unflattering dress or a blouse too young for her or with a heavy-handed makeup job, and I mutter, ‘She must not have any girlfriends.’ ”

Stuff: “Here’s what it comes down to, really: there is now so much stuff in my head, so many years, so many memories, that it’s taken the place of primacy away from the things in the bedrooms, on the porch. My doctor says that, contrary to conventional wisdom, she doesn’t believe our memories flag because of a drop in estrogen but because of how crowded it is in the drawers of our minds. Between the stuff at work and the stuff at home, the appointments and the news and the gossip and the rest, the past and the present and the plans for the future, the filing cabinets in our heads are not only full, they’re overflowing.”

Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come. It’s like a car, and while I like a red convertible or even a Bentley as well as the next person, what I really need are four tires and an engine.”

Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”

From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, Quindlen uses the events of her own life to illuminate our own. Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

This was my first Quindlen book, and I loved it. It’s funny, sad, insightful and somewhere along the way, she’ll say something that will connect you to a situation or feeling that you’ve had in your own life.

The author opens up many doors in this collection of essays…being a woman, a wife, a working mom, losing your mother, watching your children grow up, aging.

This is a perfect book for Baby Boomers, but also for women of any age. I loved that Anna Quindlen embraced the fact that she’s getting older. That’s the way I want to feel when I reach her age.

 Posted by at 12:17 AM

  12 Responses to “Book Review: Lots Of Candles, Plenty Of Cake”

  1. When I commuted to work I did several of Quindlen’s books on audio. I enjoyed them. I had seen this listed somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. Glad you liked it. I’ll have to look for it! Thanks!

  2. Thank you for the review-I am going to put this on my TBR list.

  3. Hi Vicki,

    What a really informative and interesting post. I have of course, come across Anna’s name before, but I have never read any of her books.

    I am not much of a non-fiction reader, however your post prompted me to check out her site and her novels and I have now definitely added her name to my future reading list.
    Having said that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, I do agree that Anna writes with great perception and intuition and I could relate to just about every point you highlighted in your post.

    I do have to take you up on one point in your narrative, about which I have BIG issues!! The part where you say that you would hope to feel like Anna when you reach her age … I naturally thought that she is therefore fairly elderly, so imagine my horror when I discovered that she is in fact only 60!! … Now, as I am 55 this month, you can see my problem ….. JUST JOKING! It actually made me smile when I worked it out.

    Take Care,


    • I used to walk at least three miles every day, and also did strength training and Qi-Gong every day, but stopped a few years ago. I turned 55 already, and the last year or so can tell my body isn’t able to do what it used to do even last year. I’m trying to work on my flexibility, strength etc. in the hope that I’ll soon be back where I was a few years ago.

  4. Anna Quidlan is a popular author. I enjoyed her book, How Reading Changed My Life.

  5. This sounds like a great book. The review is wonderful..I will be outting this on my TBR list..

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