Sunday, December 16, 2007

Alexander is all grown up!

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days
By Judith Viorst
Free Press, 2007

I have laughed many times at Judith Viorst’s books about Alexander, Anthony, and Nicholas. Her sons, or at least the ones she portrayed in her books, were stubborn, clumsy, and full of childhood mischievousness. So, when I read Viorst’s memoir of the ninety days that Alexander and his family moved in with her, I expected it to be like her children’s books.

It was, and it wasn’t. First of all, I felt out of breath reading the book. The sentences move at frenetic pace, but it made me understand the way she felt. When her son, her daughter-in-law, and her three young grandchildren moved in, she and her husband had been living alone for many years. Then all of the sudden, their way of life changed. Out came diapers, goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and car seats. Out came the chaos of a family with two working parents who are trying their best to raise a family in a big city.

Viorst is shamelessly honest about her own idiosyncrasies—what bugged her, how her compulsion to give advice and keep things neat bothered her new housemates. She comments on how chaotic her life became, but she is very careful not to criticize how her son and his wife parent their children.

The book made me laugh, and made me grateful that I didn’t have to move in with a mother with velvet couches and breakable things on her coffee table, who gasped in horror every time a child jumped down the stairs. Yes, she did all of these things. And she is not afraid to tell her readers how she felt.

And the real Alexander must be a good sport to have a book be written about him again. If you want to have a good laugh about intergenerational living, scoop up this short adult memoir.

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