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Making Toast: A Family Story [Paperback]

Roger Rosenblatt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 7 2011

“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.”


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Review

“Rosenblatt…sets a perfect tone and finds the right words to describe how his family is coming with their grief… It may seem odd to call a book about such a tragic event charming, but it is. There is indeed life-after death, and Rosenblatt proves that without a doubt.” (USA Today)

“[MAKING TOAST] is about coping with grief, caring for children and creating an ad hoc family for as long as this particular configuration is required, but mostly it’s a textbook on what constitutes perfect writing and how to be a class act.” (Carolyn See, The Washington Post)

“[An] exquisite, restrained little memoir filled with both hurt and humor.” (NPR's All Things Considered)

“Sad but somehow triumphant, this memoir is a celebration of family, and of how, even in the deepest sorrow, we can discover new links of love and the will to go on.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

“Hauntingly lovely.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Rosenblatt avoids the sentimentality that might have weighed down [Making Toast]; 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. (Publishers Weekly)

“A painfully beautiful memoir telling how grandparents are made over into parents, how people die out of order, how time goes backwards. Written with such restraint as to be both heartbreaking and instructive.” (E.L. Doctorow)

Roger Rosenblatt means, I believe, to teach patience, love, a fondness for the quotidian, and a deftness for saving the lost moment—when faced with lacerating loss. These are brilliant lessons, fiercely-learned. But Rosenblatt comes to them and to us—suitably—with immense humility. (Richard Ford)

“A must read for all....By no means treacly with sentiment, the book takes us through the ordinary along with the extra-ordinary events in the life of this family as they struggle to regain their center and go on with their lives. (Bookbrowse.com)

“[A] gem of a memoir... sad, funny, brave and luminous....[a] rare and generous book.” (Los Angeles Times)

“[A] piercing account of broken hearts [that] records how love, hurt, and responsibility can, through antic wit and tenderness, turn a shattered household into a luminous new-made family.” (Cynthia Ozick)

“Written so forthrightly, but so delicately, that you feel you’re a part of this family... How lucky some of us are to see clearly what needs to be done, even in the saddest, most life-altering circumstances.” (Ann Beattie)

“There are circumstances in which prose is poetry, and the unornamented candor of Rosenblatt’s writing slowly attains to a sober sort of lyricism...This is more than just a moving book. It is also a useful book....[Rosenblatt’s] toast is buttered with wisdom. ” (Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic)

From the Back Cover

From O magazine to the New York Times, from authors such as E. L. Doctorow to Ann Beattie, critics and writers across the country have hailed Roger Rosenblatt's Making Toast as an evocative, moving testament to the enduring power of a parent's love and the bonds of family.

When Roger's daughter, Amy—a gifted doctor, mother, and wife—collapses and dies from an asymptomatic heart condition at age thirty-eight, Roger and his wife, Ginny, leave their home on the South Shore of Long Island to move in with their son-in-law, Harris, and their three young grandchildren: six-year-old Jessica, four-year-old Sammy, and one-year-old James, known as Bubbies.

Long past the years of diapers, homework, and recitals, Roger and Ginny—Boppo and Mimi to the kids—quickly reaccustom themselves to the world of small children: bedtime stories, talking toys, play-dates, nonstop questions, and nonsequential thought. Though reeling from Amy's death, they carry on, reconstructing a family, sustaining one another, and guiding three lively, alert, and tenderhearted children through the pains and confusions of grief. As he marvels at the strength of his son-in-law and the tenacity and skill of his wife, Roger attends each day to "the one household duty I have mastered"—preparing the morning toast perfectly to each child's liking.

Luminous, precise, and utterly unsentimental, Making Toast is both a tribute to the singular Amy and a brave exploration of the human capacity to move through and live with grief.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Toast is a brilliant memoir! April 5 2010
Format:Hardcover
I loved this book, from the opening sentence to the ending. Although the story is sad, reading the candid
account of this family's experience, surviving their devastating loss, brought a sense of peace and dignity
to the act of honouring one's loved one and moving forward with grace.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, Humorous and Witty!! Dec 31 2010
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Thirty-eight-year-old Amy Rosenblatt Solomon dropped dead on her treadmill December 8, 2007 at 2:30 in the afternoon from an undiagnosed, asymptomatic, rare heart condition. Amy was a wife to hand surgeon Harris, a paediatrician herself and mother to three children: 7-year-old Jessica; 5-year-old Sammy; and 20-month-old James whom the family affectionally called "Bubbies."

The story is narrated by Roger Rosenblatt, Amy's father who teaches writing at the university level a couple of times a week. Roger's wife, Ginny, is a retired school teacher.

After Amy's sudden and unexpected death, Harris and Ginny leave their home unoccupied to move in and live with Harris and their grandchildren. We meet Amy's brothers, the wives, the nieces and nephews, co-workers, colleagues and a raft of other characters who knew and loved Amy. But it is Roger, Ginny, Harris and the three children that the memoir focuses on. Each of the six people deal with Amy's death in a different way which, as well know, is just how grief works. We don't all grieve in the same way or over the same length of time.

Roger and Ginny realize one day that "they" are living their daughter's life, the life with HER children and husband that SHE should have been living. Each of them discovers things about Amy that they never knew and Ginny feels badly for Jessica who will never get to enjoy those "mother and daughter moments."

Harris seems more in the background, returning to work and rather stoic, he just seemingly goes through the motions of everyday living because that's what he's supposed to do for his three motherless children.

Rosenblatt's memoir is written with clarity, honesty and is at times humorous making the book a non tear-jerking read. I believe it is Roger's humour and wit that weaves together, from the remnants of their old life, a whole new family!"
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  132 reviews
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, Lyrical, Touching Dec 4 2009
By HeyJudy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Roger Rosenblatt's reputation is well-established. He is one of the finest writers living in the United States today. So I expected his latest book, MAKING TOAST to be interesting and touching, and touching and interesting it is.

Rosenblatt gives the history of Amy, his young, brilliant, beautiful daughter, and of her sudden death.

He and his wife immediately, instantly, abandoned their own rich existences to move into their daughter's home. They wanted to assist their son-in-law with the three very young children, one barely a year old.

Rosenblatt and his wife Ginny, through their actions, show themselves to be people of the greatest empathy, self-sacrifice, generosity and sensitivity, trying to find the balance of their places in their new home.

I have attended lectures that Rosenblatt had given at the State University at Stony Brook, where he is a Distinguished Professor. From this report, it is astounding to see this brilliant man evolve into "Boppo," which is what his grandchildren call him, a nickname quickly adopted by their friends. He is the creator of silly songs, the chef of the perfect piece of toast. (Hence the book's title.)

This is a lovely book, a touching and lyrical book. MAKING TOAST is about the power of love.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir of Surviving Jan. 8 2010
By Wendi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is the story of how a nonreligious family copes with the unbearable loss of a loving and well loved daughter, wife, and mother.

Amy Rosenblatt Solomon is happily married, works two days a week as a physician so she can devote more of her time to her young family, to whom she is devoted. The youngest of her three children is only year old. Yet Amy dies suddenly while on the treadmill in her family home, with two of her children in the room with her as the only witnesses. It is inexplicable, unbearable, impossible, but it is reality, and the family has no choice but to cope.

Her parents, Roger and Ginny Rosenblatt, move in with their grandchildren and their son-in-law to help. This is an account of the first year.

It is honest, seasoned with humour and darkness. The page after Rosenblatt tells us just how severely he cursed the God he doesn't believe cares about human beings anyway, we read of the adjustments grandparents make to having children in their lives again, in this case, the talking toys that have re-entered their lives and embarrass them by speaking up from within their suitcases at the airport.

They learn where the toys, tape, and tools are kept, how everybody likes their breakfast, and they learn again that children have no respect for sequential thoughts.

They also learn that belief that things will be better after a year is a delusion. Grief is a lifelong process, and their therapist tells them, a year is no time at all. A year is harder because that is when you realize it isn't really going to get better. This is how life will be from now on.

And yet, go on they do, making toast, taking children to and from their lessons and play dates, eating together, loving each other, and keeping Amy's memory alive, trying to raise her children as she would have had them raised.

This is a story of grief, pain, sorrow, and grace, love within a strong family, the support of friends, and the laughter of small children, as well their own unique and heartbreaking ways of grieving.
64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to let go of someone, even after they're gone Nov. 30 2009
By amazonbuyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"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.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Written April 24 2010
By Tara - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I found this book to be well-written but self-indulgent; it held me but my problem with it was the excessive name dropping through out and the entitlement of the author. I think the children's nanny said it all when she said that such tragedy happens to many but that they were better equipped to handle it than most and this was pointed out over and over. The family was were financially very secure, had many many friends and colleagues including the children's teachers etc for support and dropping names everyone recognizes, the free time of the grandparents to be able to be there for their grandchildren. All of this took away from my getting really into the book. Everyone was wonderful from his self-proclaimed beautiful wife, to his brilliant grandchildren, and even himself etc according to the author. It would not be a helpful book to give someone who has had a similar loss. As I write this I do not intend to diminish the terrible loss and grief of the family to lose such a wonderful young wife, mother, daughter and sister. It seemed that the author had a hard time really expressing his grief and that it was a memoir of the whole family. I still would recommend it
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a grief observed March 7 2010
By BrianB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a carefully constructed book, an elegiac, a memoir of grief, and yet, a memoir curiously distanced from emotion. Rosenblatt is a sympathetic figure for an author, a kindly and loving father who has just lost his daughter, but his story about his family after her death did not fully engage me.

The author is an accomplished writer, who tells us that he writes for famous magazines, publishes books, and teaches writing at Stony Brook. His sentence structure is skillful, his syntax polished, and his unique voice resoundingly clear. Although he deals with a painful tragedy, he does not overwhelm us with sorrow, or regale us with pathos. He details his life that carries on in the face of terrible loss.

On the front cover of my edition, E.L. Doctorow describes this book as "written with such restraint." I found that the restraint was too great. The author writes that he is angry at God, but as a reader I wanted to feel his anger. During moments of deep emotion, like the time that he and sons stood, arms around each other, crying for their lost sister, the author veers off into asides that puncture the emotion, derailing the moment. In the same paragraph where the men weep together, he writes that the parents rely on one of the brothers "for assessments of current movies." Perhaps this is like real life, the juxtaposition of the tragic with the mundane, but it is enmeshed in these pages to the point of neutralization.

The Rosenblatts certainly know lots of famous people. We learn that Meredith Brokaw is in his wife's book club. I was hoping to learn more about his wife's feelings, and how she survived in this sadness. Even when he mentions celebrities, Mr. Rosenblatt maintains that restraint, to the point that I don't know what these people mean to him. He receives a letter from "Shirley Kenny, the president of Stony Brook." Not Shirley Kenny, my friend, or Shirley Kenny, my kind and thoughtful boss?

During interruptions, I found that I could put this book down without regret, and pick it up again without eagerness. I finished it so that I could write a review. It is a well written, thoughtful story of one family, which unfortunately left this reader with a catharsis of emotion. The abundant reviewers were quite taken with it, and perhaps you will be too. It is excerpted in The Best American Magazine Writing of 2009, so the literati think highly of it. So who am I to criticize it? It didn't appeal to me.
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