18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Explores the essence of Family,
This review is from: Sleeping Arrangements (Paperback)
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS is an utterly irresistible and engaging memoir by Laura Shaine Cunningham, which describes her life growing up in the Bronx between the ages of 5 and 16. At the beginning of the book, she is taken care of by her mother and sole parent, Rosie. (It isn't until the end of the memoir that the reader has anything approaching a clear idea of what happened to her father, Larry. Even then, it stays fuzzy because Laura never finds out herself.) Soon, however, Rosie dies, apparently of cancer. Young Laura ("Lily") then comes under the care of her mother's eccentric brothers, 38 year old Gabe and 40 year old Len - two "O.B.s", i.e. "old bachelors". A bit later, the group is enlarged when Lily's senile maternal grandmother, Etka, moves in.
Since I did my growing up as a little boy, it was enlightening to see a glimpse of how it was endured by the other half. It was also quite amazing to read what details Lily remembers of her earliest school experiences. I can barely remember at 5 going to nursery school and that we were expected to take afternoon naps - perhaps for the mental relief of our minders, not ourselves. In any case, Laura relates the events of her childhood with humor and pathos. When her grandmother moves in, she expects the old lady to conform with her experience of her friends' grandmothers, i.e. to be a cookie maker. Yet, when left alone with her for the first time:
"I look at her, expecting her to toss off her tailored jacket, tuck up her cuffs, and roll out the cookie dough. Instead, she purses her lips in an expression she learned as a child, and tilts her head in a practiced way: 'Now, perhaps, you could fix me a little lunch?'. It isn't supposed to be this way, I think as I take her order: 'toasted cheese sandwich and a sliced orange'."
Later, when on a child's guilt trip reliving the sins of her young life, Lily remembers:
"And last and worst, on the final night of my mother's life, when Gabe held the phone to my ear and said, 'Say goodbye to your mother', I had made a joke of it, and said, 'Goodbye', only it was - forever."
Today, when the repercussions of a broken home loom large in society's consciousness due to the well publicized meltdowns of a sick few, SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS serves as a gentle reminder that home, for a child, is where the love is - whether it comes from a father, mother, uncles, aunts, or grandparents.
I liked this book a lot, and I think you will too.