I wake up earlier than the others, usually around 5 a.m., to perform the one household duty I have mastered. After posting the morning’s word, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table for the children’s breakfasts, and pouring the MultiGrain Cheerios or Froot Loops or Apple Jacks or Special K or Fruity Pebbles, I prepare toast. I take out he butter to allow it to soften, and put three slices of Pepperidge Farm Hearty White in the toaster oven. Bubbies and I like plain buttered toast; Sammy prefers it with cinnamon, with the crusts cut off. When the bell rings, I shift the slices from the toaster to plates, and butter them.
Harris usually spends half the night in Bubbie’s little bed. When I go upstairs, around 6 a.m., Bubbies hesitates, but I give him a knowing look and he opens his arms to me. “Toast?” he says. – from Making Toast, page 17 of the ARC –
Roger Rosenblatt’s 38 year old daughter Amy – a pediatrician, wife and mother of three very young children – had a heart defect which went undiagnosed until it took her life, suddenly and unexpectedly, just weeks before Christmas in 2007. Rosenblatt and his wife Ginny responded in the only way they knew how – they packed up their things and rushed to Maryland to help their son-in-law Harris raise their grandchildren. Making Toast is Rosenblatt’s memoir of the weeks and months following Amy’s death as the family struggles to make sense of their loss while moving steadily through the daily events of a life which continues without her.
Written in a series of vignettes rather than a straight forward narration, the book is non-linear in nature. At first, I didn’t like this scattershot approach which seemed to keep emotion slightly distant. It felt disconnected to me. But, as I continued to read, the style began to make sense. For what is grief but memories of the brief slices of a life lived? What is recovery if not the simple act of getting up each day and sharing another person’s life? How do we see hope for the future except through the eyes of our children or grandchildren? For Rosenblatt, who clung to his anger against God and the fact that his only daughter had died from something which affects ‘less than two thousandths of one percent of the population,’ his one consolation was that he was doing what Amy would have him do – caring for her family.
Making Toast is heartbreaking, and yet its sadness is fleeting. I found myself laughing at the simple, every day moments which Rosenblatt shares. I found myself marveling at the depth of love that he and his wife had for not only their grandchildren, but Amy’s husband Harris. The human spirit is nothing but resilient in the face of tragedy – and yet it is still amazing to see it in practice.
Rosenblatt shares his grief without telling us outright that he is grieving. Time after time he declines to listen to Amy’s voice on a telephone answering machine, so when her recorded words show up in the narration toward the end of the book, we feel Rosenblatt’s pain. This is Rosenblatt’s style – to show us moments which transcend words.
Making Toast is about patience, love, faith (and the lack of it), grief, and the slow, torturous process of recovery. But perhaps it is mostly about what it means to be a family. Rosenblatt’s simple prose and his matter-of-fact presentation is surprisingly moving in the context of the story. It is a beautiful tribute to a daughter.
FTC Disclosure: This Advance Readers Copy was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.