Review by New York Times Review
IN THE SHORT TIME that she has been a grandmother, Anna Quindlen has learned many things. But most of all, she's learned to butt out. "Hang back," she warns readers of "Nanaville," a collection of witty and thoughtful essays about the stage of life she entered at 64, when her elder son, Quin, and his wife, Lynn, had a baby, Arthur. No matter how tempted you are to dispense to your children what you think is wisdom and to correct what you think are their mistakes, you must, at all costs, resist - or risk banishment from your grandchildren's lives. "Be warned: Those who make their opinions sound like the Ten Commandments see their grandchildren only on major holidays and in photographs." Quindlen, the best-selling novelist and former New York Times columnist, speaks from a position of privilege, as she admits. Unlike millions of other American grandparents, she isn't needed to raise, house or nanny her grandkids, nor is she needed to support them or their parents financially. Unneeded, she must make herself wanted. Her quest to do so is often amusing and sometimes poignant. Early on, while Quin is traveling for work, she takes charge of Arthur for a night to relieve her exhausted daughter-in-law. The baby awakens at 2 a.m., whereupon she feeds, burps and rocks him. "He is warm and somehow companionable; it feels as though we are the only two people awake in the big city." But when she returns him to his cradle - on his back, as his pediatrician and his parents require - he protests loudly, and she fears he'll rouse Lynn, who's sleeping in a nearby room. So she brings him into bed with her and places him on his stomach, the way she used to do with his father. Limbs splayed, head turned to the side, he dozes off. But this creates a quandary for Quindlen. Flip him over and he'll wake up. Call it a night and, according to a consensus that she finds less than convincing but doesn't dare breach, he could suffocate, both because he's on his tummy and in her bed. The only solution, she determines, is to leave him be but watch over him, raptorlike, all night long. For three hours, until he awakens for another feeding, she lies beside him with her eyes wide open, tracking his every breath. Quindlen isn't always so saintly, thank God. When Arthur's nanny moves away, his parents decide to put him in "something they referred to as a preschool." Quindlen and her husband don't think he's ready, and, violating what scholars of grandparenthood call the "norm of noninterference," she tells Quin so. He pushes back hard. "He was not rude or meanspirited, but it was clear he wanted his mother to back off." And as it turned out, she was wrong - not just because she overstepped, but on the merits. "Arthur loves preschool and has thrived there. On the mornings when I take him, he runs in to see his friends. He has grown so much. And so have I. I have strong opinions. Ask and you shall receive some useful version of them. Otherwise, I will try to be as quiet as the house at naptime." Don't expect a tell-all, however. While Quindlen's tone is often self-deprecating, most of the faults she bares, such as her "dirty mouth," are more like lovable quirks. And Quin and Lynn come across as such perfect parents that, as a mother with indisputable flaws, I struggled to relate to them - even though I sympathized with Quindlen's impulse to protect their privacy and her access to their son. Still, "Nanaville" serves up enough vivid anecdotes and fresh insights - about childhood, about parenthood, about grandparenthood and about life - to make for a gratifying read. "Talking with a small child is like talking to yourself - yourself before you forgot to notice things," Quindlen proposes. "What evaporates as we age, sadly, is authenticity, that sense of saying your lines for the very first time. When Arthur is running in front of the spray of the hose with his arms outstretched, there is nothing but sensation: the water, the sunshine, the feel of both on his skin. There is no subtext, just text. Just the moment. I suppose the greatest giftwe can give to children we love is to make it possible for them to hold on to that for as long as possible." OLIVIA GENTILE is the author of "Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds" and the creator of the website The Grandparent Effect.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review
There are really only two commandments of Nanaville: love the grandchildren, and hold your tongue. When Quindlen's oldest son becomes a father, Nana, as she now is called, learns quickly that being a grandparent isn't the same as being a parent. Instead of being a star, she now is in a supporting role. Decisions about preschools, discipline, nutrition, and television shows are no longer hers. Instead she must keep her thoughts to herself (unless asked) and sit back and watch her grandchild's life unfold without expectations. But what an honor to do just that. Since her grandson is a product of both Irish-Italian and Chinese parents, Quindlen now views life through different eyes. In a world filled with multiethnic children, she is surprised to hear well-meaning but actually offensive comments by friends (even positive stereotyping is stereotyping). Grandparenting is new territory for this best-selling novelist and beloved former columnist, and as always in her warmly candid nonfiction, Quindlen voices concerns and celebrates high points with sensitivity and insight. As her life fills with unbreakable dishes, scattered Legos, and bite-sized treats, Quindlen savors a shared book, a held hand, a child's laugh, and a relationship built on mutual love and respect. This tender book should be required reading for grandparents everywhere.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Quindlen has established a close rapport with readers as she shares her life experiences, and her latest will thrill loyal fans and draw a new audience.--Candace Smith Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this wise and endearing book, former New York Times columnist Quindlen (Alternate Sides) addresses the subject of grandparenting, sharing her own experiences and advice. Despite having raised three children, Quindlen admits that as a grandmother, or "Nana"-which she became at age 64-she is "totally green." She dotes on her toddler grandson, Arthur, and has strong opinions about how he should be raised, yet remains cognizant of her proper place; when it comes to decision-making, she observes, she is neither president nor vice president, but something akin to speaker of the house. She concludes that the grandparent's role consists not so much of "doing" as "hanging back" and respecting the parents' choices. The book is filled with Quindlen's playful sense of humor (if her baby daughter had wanted to sleep upside down "like a bat," she would have let her), along with thoughtful reflections on how parenting and grandparenting have changed (for instance, fathers are more involved, there's a lot more baby gear to buy, and more people are living long enough to become grandparents). This heartfelt and delightful work will especially appeal to readers already living within their own versions of "Nanaville." Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A first-time grandmother discovers joy and self-knowledge in her new role.Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, columnist, and memoirist Quindlen (Alternate Side, 2018, etc.) celebrates the gift of being a grandmother: a new experience, she writes, that gives her "a second chance, to see, to be, to understand the world, to look at it and reimagine my place in it, to feel as though I've made a mark." Besides reporting sweet anecdotes about her toddler grandson, the author reflects on her changing relationship with her son and daughter-in-law, an inevitable shift from being central in the lives of her children to a "peripheral place" in a new family dynamic. Her son, she has observed with pride, has become an exemplary parent; when she asked "what surprised him most about being a father," he replied, "I guess it's how much I love him in a way that I've never loved anyone before." For Quindlen, that reply was "like sunrise and sunset and New Year's Eve all at once." Admitting that she can be opinionated, she has learned to hold her tongue when it comes to parenting decisions. "Nana judgment must be employed judiciously, and exercised carefully," she warns. "Those who make their opinions sound like the Ten Commandments see their grandchildren only on major holidays and in photographs." The author was 64 when her grandson was born; her grandmother was 47 when she had her first grandchild, yet grandparents seemed so much older then: "Our grandmothers were pre-gym, pre-Botox, pre-skinny jeans." They never kissed, hugged, or praised; they would never have gotten down on the floor to play with their dozens of grandchildren, but Quindlen was certain of their love. "I thought," she writes, "they were the patriarchs, the source of all judgment and wisdom." The author imparts sensible advice with self-deprecating humor and sincere gratitude for the bounty of her life.A warmhearted memoir sure to appeal to other new grandmothersand Quindlen's many fans. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.