Review: Making Toast

Making Toast
By Roger Rosenblatt
HarperCollins
February 2010
166pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

When his daughter, Amy, died suddenly of a heart condition, Roger Rosenblatt and his wife moved in with their son-in-law and their three young grandchildren. His story tells how a family makes the possible out of the impossible.

The Short of It:

Making Toast, although touching at times, lacks the emotional punch that you’d expect from a memoir.

The Rest of It:

As a reader, we are given brief snippets of information about the family. What the children like for breakfast, what they like to wear…their favorite color, you get the idea. This information is given to us in a very friendly, casual way. My problem with this is that it was so casual in the telling that I didn’t feel as if the author was really letting me into his life.

I’ll explain. This was obviously a very painful loss for the entire family, but I didn’t really feel that the author wanted me to know how truly painful it was. I felt as if he was sharing this information with me but with filters in place. As if he didn’t want me to know how he truly felt. There are moments where he mentions his anger but I never felt his anger coming off the page.

Also, it would have helped to know a bit more about Amy, his daughter. He touches on memories of her childhood, and a bit about her work but it wasn’t enough for me to really get a feel for her, and I really did want to get a feel for her as a person.

The significance of the title is very touching. Rosenblatt finds comfort in making toast for his grandchildren. Such a simple act. One child likes it buttered, another likes it with cinnamon, etc. I was moved when I read this part because Rosenblatt went into why it was special for him.

Rosenblatt’s story covers a year. Perhaps it would have been better to focus on the first six months as I’m sure there was a lot of adjustment taking place during that time. I would’ve liked to have heard more about Amy’s relationship with her dad. The bond between a father and a daughter is usually quite strong.

Overall, it’s a touching story but I never really got to know anyone within it, so it sort of left me with an “unfinished” feeling. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to lose your daughter so suddenly.

The back of the book states that Making Toast was originally an essay that was published in The New Yorker back in 2008. I may look for that essay to see how it differs from the book.

Source: This ARC was sent to me by HarperCollins/Ecco.

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16 thoughts on “Review: Making Toast”

  1. I read this book almost non stop – and I think it helped me understand the style a bit more. Like you, I initially felt “removed” from the story…it isn’t written in a normal narrative style, but is more pieces of life vignettes. Eventually, I found that the anger, sadness, etc…were there, but subtle – shown through some of the things done or not done…and I found that it felt appropriate to me the way Rosenblatt wrote it. I can understand why some readers might not like this stylistic approach…but somehow it ended up working for me.

    1. When I got to the part about making toast, I really got a sense of what this family went through but that was really the only time. I’m sure every reader will have his or her own take. I like to be fully immersed in what is going on when I read a memoir. Some may prefer to just read it like a story.

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  2. Ti, thanks for your thoughtful post on this book. I’ve purchased it for my Kindle and look forward to reading it. I think I understand what you mean about not letting the reader in far enough. As you mentioned that this was originally an essay, I wonder if it just had to stretch too far. I’ll be interested in seeing what I make of it.

    1. When you sit down with a friend, and you say, “Remember when….?” Well, since I was not a part of her life, I lacked the familiarity to appreciate much of what the author shared. If I had known her personally, I would have read this book and cried my eyes out because I’d be able to fill in the blanks and really remember her.

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  3. Ti….that is a good point you made….I liked the book and it was a quick engrossing read, but you never did really get to know the characters (maybe that is how he wanted it, since it is so very personal and painful). Great review

  4. This kind of reinforces my original thoughts on this book. I had recently heard Rosenblatt on NPR and he spoke so passionately, I had kind of thought that maybe I was selling his book short. Sounds like one that, if I found it in the library, it would be worth picking up, but not worth making any great effort to get to.

    1. I heard about the NPR interview but didn’t get a chance to listen to it. I think since some time has passed, he can talk about his experience more openly now. I almost wish he had waited awhile before writing the book but I imagine the writing was therapeutic for him.

  5. I wonder how long it was between his daughter’s death and when he wrote it. Perhaps he couldn’t fully confront his feelings about it head on.

  6. I really like the story behind the title and am glad you shared it with us, Ti. I find myself often looking for the meaning behind the title when I read, whether consciously or unconsciously.

    The memoir itself sounds quite promising. I’m sorry though it didn’t hold the emotional impact that one would expect.

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