The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and more . . .

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Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey in a Tea Cup is delicious beyond words

Every so often we come across a book that is total escapism. When I read Hollywood actor Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey in a Tea Cup I was released into a world of southern ladies preparing high-calorie comfort foods and relaxing on wide, breezy porches sipping mint juleps. The title is a metaphor for strong southern ladies in delicate, feminine packaging. Same idea as steel magnolias. This is one of those books that embraces you right from the get-go. It’s a combination of lifestyle, memoir, decorating, fashion, culture and down-home cooking in perfect harmony. And the photography is a visual feast.

Strong southern women, in fact strong women in general, are often the daughters and granddaughters of strong women. Following in the footsteps of their mothers and grandmothers, today’s women embrace and respect the traditions of earlier generations while painting their own lives with modern and progressive brush strokes. Witherspoon shares the history of her southern roots to create a beautiful and evocative mural of genteel living.

This southern belle is more than a pretty face.

This book is not a Hollywood memoir with a chronology of lovers, movies and name-dropping. It’s a sharing of lifestyle and personal experiences in the company of family and friends. We’re given a brief family history which builds to sharing of family recipes and traditions. Witherspoon appreciates and values her relationships with long-time girlfriends and they are part of the thread of her everyday life. Entertaining is the essence of southern hospitality and she shares menus, recipes, decorating and even suggests music playlists she’s created to enhance the southern experience.

Witherspoon has a busy life outside of her acting career. The mother of three has her own retail line, “Draper James”; she hosts a popular on-line book club and in 2016 established Hello Sunshine, a female-oriented media brand and content company dedicated to female authorship and storytelling across all platforms.

The book is “Martha-esque” in format but much more welcoming and casual. Many of the wonderful recipes include such low-tech ingredients as Cool Whip. I’ve tried a couple already and next on my list is her Summer Squash Casserole. All are exquisitely photographed.

Michael from Stratford, Ontario learned a thing or two about baby boomer women in BOOMER BEAT that surprised him.

I originally downloaded Whiskey in a Tea Cup from the library and loved the book so much I decided I should have my own copy for future reference so I purchased it from Amazon (where it was cheaper than the big box store). In fact, I also bought it for a couple of friends I knew would love it as much as I do. It’s a 9 out of 10 and would make a wonderful gift, not only for yourself, but as a Christmas, hostess or birthday gift. Enjoy, y’all.

Click here to order Whiskey in A Teacup by Reese Witherspoon from Amazon.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.→

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Old Victorian house is major character in Barbara Kingsolver novel

When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (which I absolutely loved) several years ago, it was the first time I’d heard of the author and immediately became a fan. Her newest book, Unsheltered is not quite as engrossing but it’s still a wonderful read. It’s the story of life’s plan not working out quite the way the characters hoped it would but coping and adapting along the way. Normal life.

Willa Knox is a middle-aged science writer married to a university professor who never quite makes the tenure track. Willa forgoes her own job security and the family moves multiple times over the course of their marriage chasing her husband’s elusive job security. The price they pay is financial insecurity bordering on destitution and discontented adult children who in no way turn out the way their parents hoped or anticipated. Things reach a critical point when they find themselves in middle age returning to live in her late mother’s dilapidated Victorian home in Vineland, New Jersey, caring for her husband’s elderly, irascible father, Nick, who has multiple chronic illnesses associated with old age and poor lifestyle choices.

Their son Zeke seems to have landed on his feet, but not for long. He lives in Boston and has a baby son with his partner who is a successful lawyer. The Knox’s daughter has been living a hippie lifestyle in Cuba for an extended period of time and is mostly incommunicado. Then, Zeke’s partner commits suicide leaving him unprepared and unwilling to be a father to his infant son. As any mother would, Willa steps in to take care of the baby just as their daughter returns from her mysterious sabbatical in Cuba. The entire extended family ends up living together in a 150-year-old house that is literally falling down around them.

Old Victorian homes appear romantic but generally come with a history of unseen problems.

In an attempt to access financial support for repairing the house, Willa befriends a local historian and together they research the home’s history in an effort to justify the historical designation application required to finance major repairs. She learns the original owners one hundred and fifty years earlier were similarly challenged the way Willa and her family are. Personal conflicts, precarious job security, influential neighbours and financial insecurity are just some of their shared dilemmas. The two stories run parallel in alternate chapters.

Reading this book also reminded me of how lucky I am to be Canadian with universal health care. A major source of stress and conflict in this story stems from the lack of available, accessible universal health care in the United States. The difficulties encountered by working Americans in obtaining everyday health care for elderly parents is an ongoing tragedy. Despite the fact the family has a health insurance, their financial problems are exacerbated by the chronic health problems of Willa’s father-in-law, a rabid Republican who is oblivious to the Herculean efforts expended by his daughter-in-law to obtain basic health care for him. It’s not an issue for Canadians and that reality hit home as I read of the family’s struggles.

The house itself is almost a metaphor for life and its struggles. It has a beginning, a middle and an end with many complications in between. We can patch the roof, paint the porch and replace the electricity but ultimately no amount of intervention will forestall the inevitable when the basic structure is crumbling. But the death of a house doesn’t mean the end of life itself. As Mary Treat, a nineteenth century neighbour once pointed out, “Without a roof, you’re open to the sky and all its glory”. Unsheltered is written with sensitivity, intelligence and insight. Kingsolver’s observations through her characters are at times funny and always engaging. I’d rate it 8 out of 10.

To order Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver from Amazon click here.

To order The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver from Amazon click here.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.


Princess Margaret comes alive once again in detailed tell-all

If you’re someone who enjoys reading salacious gossip about royalty, then you’ll love Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret written by British author and journalist Craig Brown. To be honest, when I downloaded the book, I thought it was a picture book—a photographic retrospective of the life of the Queen’s younger sister. The title was a bit misleading. As it turns out, there were relatively few pictures and hundreds of pages of stories, observations, first-hand accounts and general information about Princess Margaret, her lifestyle, her friends, enemies and her vices. And most of it was not flattering, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have the most agreeable or sympathetic personality.

Canadian boomers growing up in the fifties and sixties were generally raised to revere the royal family, including the vivacious and glamorous Princess Margaret. In the olden days we stood up in class, raised our right hands to shoulder height and pledged allegiance to The Queen every morning at the start of classes. It’s tempting to employ amateur psychology to explain why Princess Margaret, the one-time first runner-up to the British throne was the way she was but it only invites the old nature versus nurture argument. Queen Elizabeth was the personification of duty and responsibility while Margaret was the polar opposite. She was temperamental, spoiled and disdainful of most of her royal duties. She embraced the bohemian lifestyle while insisting upon the rights and privileges of being a princess. Even her closest friends and lovers were required to call her “Ma’am” and defer to her royal status.

She chose position and money over Peter Townsend.

After I realized the book was a collection of tittle-tattle, I felt a bit icky about reading it but not so much that I could put it down. It was just too juicy. The good bits began with her relationship with former Group Captain Peter Townsend, equerry to her father, King George VI. Eighteen years her senior, already married with two children and standing more that a foot taller than the diminutive 5 ft. princess, their relationship caused quite a kerfuffle in the royal household. Hoping time apart would cool their ardour, the Queen and her government banished Townsend to a diplomatic desk job in Belgium where he promptly fell in love with and remarried someone even younger than Margaret. That was just the beginning of a lifetime of “unlucky in love” experiences she endured. Toward the end of the book there’s even a chronology of her many lovers over her lifetime including a few surprises like former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner (yikes!), Dusty Springfield (really?) and Mick Jagger (but then, me and the readers of Boomerbroadcast are probably the only people on the planet who haven’t slept with Mick Jagger.).

The book’s content is based on extensive research by the author. In addition to reading dozens of books, interviewing countless people who knew the princess and including details of his own experiences with her, the author gives the reader a pretty comprehensive overview of her life. We learn about her insistence on protocol while often displaying bad manners herself. Her bitchiness about performing the boring ribbon cuttings, official openings and attending formal dinners that are the life of royalty was no secret among those who move in such circles.

Her marriage did not have a fairy tale ending.

There’s a lot of speculation about the why’s of her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones but it’s ultimate failure and the disastrous fallout are well known. After her divorce, things went from bad to worse. She kept company with an increasingly shady assortment of characters. As she aged and lost her looks and figure, her conduct became easy prey for the media. Her questionable behavior only exacerbated the negative perceptions. Margaret’s love affair with much younger and wannabe rock star Roddy Llewellyn fed the fire.

Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is a somewhat tragic story. On one hand, it’s sad to see someone with so many advantages (position, a title, beauty, talent, money) lead such an unhappy life but on the other hand she was the architect of her own destiny. She could have married Peter Townsend after the one-year waiting period but chose money and position instead. Everyone experiences problems and unhappiness at some time in their lives. It’s what we do with these negative experiences that frames who we are and how we will be remembered. Princess Diana was far from perfect and had her share of unhappiness but she leveraged the same advantages Princess Margaret had into charitable work and being a good will ambassador. I have to admit I couldn’t put the book down—even reading every single one of the dozens of pages of footnotes. It’s gossipy and voyeuristic but I’d rate it 8 out of 10. Have fun dahlings.

To order Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown from Amazon, click here.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

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For a good time . . . read Adam Resnick

I’ve just finished reading Adam Resnick’s autobiographical Will Not Attend, Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation. Resnick, who dislikes socializing (hence the title) and considers himself a misfit sounds like a downer but it’s laugh-out-loud funny. His writing reminded me of David Sedaris. The author’s self-deprecating humour and gift for understatement leaves the reader sympathetic and understanding of his struggles in life, while at the same time rooting for him throughout his misadventures.

Children from large families often have correspondingly large personalities. Perhaps it’s the result of competing for parental attention or simply from competing to be seen and heard at all. Adam Resnick is the fourth son in a non-practising Jewish family of six boys. Life for him while growing up was a constant battle to survive the bullying, subterfuge, thieving and general anarchy that characterized his family of six boys. Their mother Joyce was loving, often oblivious to the conflicts and at times completely overwhelmed. Merv, their father, was a strong patriarch, prone to voicing his strong, politically incorrect opinions and displaying a quick temper. How could life be anything but interesting and colourful in such a family.

Adam Resnick with former boss, David Letterman.

Reading about Resnick’s struggles to maintain a place in the family’s hierarchy while accommodating his personal neuroses and peculiarities makes for hilarious reading. Whether trying to catch the attention a favourite little girlfriend, plotting to lose his virginity or describing the odd assortment of people who pass through his life, Resnick is brilliant. A former writer for SNL, Late Night With David Letterman and a variety of television series and sitcoms, he’s deserving of a rating of 9 out of 10. If you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, read this book. I loved it.

To order Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick from Amazon, click here.

To order BOOMER BEAT by Lynda Davis from Amazon, click here.

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Ottessa Moshfegh investigates a Year of Rest and Relaxation

Is life as art a wasted life? That’s what author Ottessa Moshfegh aims to find out. The cover of her new novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation could lead readers to think it’s an Edith Wharton kind of period piece about fainting ladies. Well, fasten your seat belts because it couldn’t be more different. I really enjoyed Moshfegh’s earlier novel Eileen and knew she had a quirky style but I was unprepared for what she conjured up this time.

The narrator of the story is a desensitized twenty-something woman whose parents have both passed away and she is left to contemplate life alone and unloved in New York City in 2001. Her late father was a college professor who got one of his beautiful young students (her mother) pregnant and married her. It was a loveless union and neither parent loved their sole offspring. After she graduates college she goes to work at an art gallery in New York City. When she’s found asleep on the job she’s fired. Many of us have experienced job loss and used the opportunity to reevaluate our lives but not with the vigor and level of masochism displayed here. She sets off on a journey of introspection and decides to go into hibernation for the purpose of restoring and rediscovering herself.

She has only one friend, Reva, whom she really doesn’t like, and an uncaring and distant ex-boyfriend she insists on keeping in touch with. Like me, the protagonist is a huge fan of sleeping. There’s nothing she would rather be doing. Unlike me, who does it purely for pleasure and to recharge my batteries, she uses sleep to escape herself and her loveless life.

Is there a safe pathway to oblivion?

Her solution to life’s problems is to check out for a year, to “start over without regrets, bolstered by the bliss and serenity that I would have accumulated in my year of rest and relaxation”. She makes meticulous plans for a year-long hibernation in her apartment facilitated by massive quantities of pharmaceuticals. She sources an unethical and somewhat unorthodox psychiatrist in the Yellow Pages by the name of Dr. Tuttle who has a chemical solution for every condition. The more conditions, the more “help” is prescribed. Using her inheritance money to bankroll the project, she experiments with various pharmaceutical cocktails until she lands on the ideal one to knock her out for days at a time. This is where life becomes art. She contracts a fraudulent performance artist to document her “trip”.

The story is bizzarre and gripping at the same time. On no level can I connect with a young woman who opts for enormous quantities of questionable, powerful drugs to ease her pain. But I couldn’t put the book down. Will she self-destruct? Will she survive? Will she thrive at the end of it all? The day-to-day summary of her year-long mundane existence should be boring but it’s not. Ottessa Moshfegh has an incredible imagination and a sharp eye for description. I can’t imagine how she comes up with this material. I only hope she researched and didn’t personally experience the vast inventory of pharmaceuticals she describes in great detail in the book. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a very unusual story, a brave experiment and I applaud the author for her courage. It was strange, outside my comfort zone and fascinating. It was also a New York Times best seller. I won’t even rate it. I’ll leave that for you to decide. Let me know what you think.

To order My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh from Amazon, click here.