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The Center of the Universe: A Memoirby Nancy Bachrach
Synopses & Reviews
When it happened, Nancy Bachrach was enjoying a feeling of well-being, living and working in Paris, “where the principal exercises are digestion and strolling.” Meanwhile, a jolt of bad karma delivered a knockout punch to her family in their hometown—ironically enough—of Providence. Her father, Mort, has been found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning aboard his cabin cruiser, the aptly named Mr. Fix It. Her charismatic but unhinged mother, Lola, the self-proclaimed “center of the universe,” is at a seaside hospital, lingering, her chart says, in “a comma.” Nancy’s brother, Ben (formerly Mr. Junior Rhode Island, a nine-and-a-half-fingered piano prodigy and eventual surgeon), and their sister, Helen (the wild child, a professor of abnormal psychology), sit by their mother's ventilator, waiting for signs of life while eyeing the plug. Thus begins a family reunion, with preparations under way for a double funeral over the Memorial Day weekend.
Nancy Bachrach’s stunning debut is a darkly comic tale of genius, madness, ineptitude, and collateral damage; a hilarious, mordant memoir about her mother, whose medical history reads like the chapter headings of a psychiatric manual and ends so improbably that it could only be the truth. It is a brilliant, beautiful story of the haphazard tyranny of an accident and the serendipity of love.
Nancy Bachrach is living in Paris, selling deodorant to the French, when a freak accident kills her father aboard his cabin cruiser, the aptly dubbed Mr. Fix It, in her incongruously named hometown of Providence. Her mother, Lola, the self-proclaimed “center of the universe,” whose medical history reads like the chapter headings of a psychiatric manual, lies in a coma “on death’s waiting list.” Nancy rushes home and sits by her mother’s ventilator—thinking about Sunny von Bülow and eyeing the plug. Thus begins a family reunion with her brother, Ben (a piano prodigy and eventual surgeon who was born with three thumbs), and sister, Helen (the wild child, now an “abnormal psychologist”).
This is a dark, hilarious tale of genius, madness, ineptitude, collateral damage, and hope—with an ending that’s improbable, as only the truth can be. Aching and tender, unflinching and wry, The Center of the Universe is a multi generational mother-daughter story—a splendid, funny, lyrical book about family, truth, memory, and the resilience of love.
The story is so improbable, it can only be true: A brilliant woman with a long history of mental illness--who once proclaimed herself to be the center of the universe — ismiraculously cured by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning aboard the family boat. Nancy Bachrach warns readers, Don't try this athome in her darkly humorous memoir about the second coming of her mother — the indomitable Lola, whose buried family secrets had been drivingher crazy.
Aching and tender, unflinching and wry, The Center of the Universe is a multigenerational mother-daughter story--a splendid, funny, lyrical memoir about family, truth, and the resilience of love.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Nancy Bachrach worked in advertising in New York and Paris, spinning hot air like cotton candy, glorifying her clients’ beloved denture adhesives and powdered orange-juice substitutes. Before that, she was, sequentially, a clumsy waitress at Howard Johnson’s, an overzealous customer service rep fired for making genuine apologies, a stenographer for an insomniac poet, and a teaching assistant in the philosophy department at Brandeis University, where she was one chapter ahead of her class. She lives in New York City. This is her first book.
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