An Innocent, A Broad — Review by Chris

I am a huge fan of Denis Leary, whose No Cure for Cancer is one of the most amazing stand-up performances I have seen. In that show, he talks about his young son born prematurely in London. I am touched by that part of the show — Denis shows an amazing range of delivery, and who can resist a man's love for his infant son?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered his wife Ann wrote a memoir about that experience. Her first book was mentioned in an announcement for her new novel. So, I had to read it — I wanted to learn about the experience from the other perspective.

One of the most important elements of a memoir is the honesty. I don't mean A Million Little Pieces Dishonesty, where characters and situations are created for the "storyline." I mean honesty about herself and the situations around her. This was a very touching and tense story, and author Ann Leary could have taken the easy road with sympathy and saccharin-sweet reflections and observations. But then, with that sentimentality, could she have survived nearly three decades married to Denis?

I was prepared to like Ann Leary. I wasn't disappointed (until the cat incident, see below). She was an honest person about her own strengths and weaknesses. She did not always show her best side, and I was glad to read that; if she had presented herself as a flawless individual, I would have stopped reading pretty early on. She showed her interactions with the medical staff and she didn't always come off looking good; one can forgive her because she was trying to be active in her son's treatment. Those exchanges showed how patient and understanding the staff was with her.

She was very, very kind to her husband. When he was there, he was on — and I really enjoyed his presence in the story. He grounded her and was a fabulous husband and father. Heck, between his stand-up and her memoir, I'm a little in love with him myself. He asked the important questions. For example, when her water broke, he asked, "Are you sure you didn't pee?" Her answer made me laugh out loud, but also made me anxious for her. I'm sorry to say that he was gone most of the time, which was hard on Ann and on the story.

It also was an interesting comparison of the British and American medical systems. Ann is complimentary of the British system, which we see from the perspective of the person involved with it. As the current presidential candidates talk about this hot-button topic on the campaign trail (or not, depending on the financial crisis of the week), it's nice to see what other countries do for their sick people.

I was really in her court -- until she waxed on about killing a geriatric cat. I have a sense of humor, but not about that. Wishing ill on a 20-year-old arthritic, nearly crippled feline is not funny in the least. The incident took place near the end of the book, and it changed the way I saw her. I liked her up to that part, then I couldn't like her anymore. It was ugly and selfish and I saw her in a different, less flattering light after that.

As far as memoirs go, it was a good book. It wasn't mind-blowing, life-changing or otherwise pivotal. It was just an interesting tale told from a different perspective than I had heard to date. Just skip the parts about the cat and perhaps you'll like her at the end of the book.

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