Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cheap Cabernet by Cathie Beck

Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship
Title:  Cheap Cabernet
Author:  Cathie Beck
Publisher:  Hyperion Voice
Publication Date:  July 2010
Format:  Paperback, 336 pages
Age Group:  Adult, Non-fiction, Memoir

When Cathie Beck was in her thirties she decided she needed some female friends.  To find some she placed an ad in the paper starting a women's group called Women on the Way.  There she met Denise, a bold woman with multiple sclerosis.  This book is essentially the story of that friendship.

I'll be straight forward here - I didn't particularly like this book.  If I had not received it through the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.com I probably would not have finished it.  I realize that memory is a fickle thing and that memoirs are probably not the easiest thing to write.  I realize that memories often connect in ways that make sense only to the person with the memories.  However, I also believe that the goal of a memoir must be to show those connections to the reader.  Beck's book meandered around in her memory often leaving me confused about what year it was, who she was with, what stage of her life we were in, and sometimes even who she was with and what she was doing.  I could not find an anchor in the constantly shifting time line.

I also felt that Beck was trying to hard to make every memory meaningful.  I don't know if she is one of those rare people who have the ability to analyze the moment while they are in it and truly see how it connects to the larger picture of their life (and I do actually know some people like this who have incredibly strong insight into themselves) or if she is more like the rest of us - looking back and trying to find the meaning in what was so that the present will make sense or continue to have meaning.  It just felt like she was constantly telling the reader how powerfully this friendship affected her life.

My final issue with the book was that I simply didn't like the characters.  This one almost makes me feel guilty since Beck tells the reader often that Denise will die from her illness.  I wanted to be sympathetic to that yet I still didn't like Denise.  Instead of seeing this powerful, life-changing friendship I saw a rather one-sided friendship with Denise moving forward full speed ahead, dragging Beck along for the wild ride.  I spent much of the book wondering why I was reading about these women - what made their friendship, their story so much more important than the rest of us that Beck wrote a book about it?

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