They May Not Mean To, But They Do

  • by Cathleen Schine
  • Narrated by Cynthia Darlow
  • 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won't take their advice, and she won't take an antidepressant. Her marriage to their father, Aaron, has lasted through health and dementia, as well as some phenomenally lousy business decisions. The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don't just grow, they grow old.
Cathleen Schine's They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a tender, sometimes hilarious intergenerational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age.
When Aaron dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother's loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy's college days. They didn't count on Joy suddenly becoming as willful and rebellious as their own kids.
With sympathy, humor, and truth, Schine explores the intrusion of old age into a large and loving family. They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Funny, Honest

Cathleen Schine is a very funny and smart writer. She combines broad comedy here with genuine insights into the difficulties of aging and the difficulties of having an aging parent. Having recently been through the illness and death of a parent, I found sections of this novel deeply moving and stunningly accurate.

She gets into the heads of most of the characters, so you see things from all points of view--the adult children trying to do their best, the aging parent attempting to maintain independence and dignity. There are some wonderful bits of social satire, too, as when a child reared in our post-indoor-cigarette world asks, "What are ashtrays for?"

Schine has tremendous love and tenderness for all her characters, and this gives the novel a warmth that's pretty irresistible.

I found some of the comedy a little too broad and cartoony in places, and a climactic section that takes place on a family vacation seemed both rushed (thinly described) and (because the set-up seemed wrong) too long.

Overall, I was happy to listen and entertained and moved, which is a lot of to ask of any novel.

Cynthia Darlow has a fantastically rich, nuanced voice. Her tone for the aging mother can be a little schticky in places (stereotype of New York "Jewish mother" character) but she brought the story and copious dialogue to life. She communicated the love in the family exceptionally well.
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- Steve M

Funny, touching and spot on

If you have an elderly parent or parents in your life, or if you are experiencing firsthand the tragicomic vicissitudes of growing old, this book is for you. My mother suffered with dementia for a decade and my 90-year-old father lives with my husband and me, so I am well-acquainted with the subject matter! There are lots of memoirs and novels out there about aging parents, and they are usually told from the point of view of the adult child, with emphasis on all the crap the child has to endure. This one is told mostly from the pov of the elderly mother and the result is both more entertaining and more illuminating. Brilliantly observed down to the smallest cringeworthy detail, yet not at all depressing. I laughed out loud throughout. Thanks Cathleen Schine for helping me understand my parents, and myself, a little better. You and your wonderful characters felt like old friends by the end.
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- L. Wroten

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-07-2016
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio