Friday, September 11, 2020

LIKE CRAZY :: Dan Mathews

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"As an atheist in southern Virginia...I do not believe in gods above and devils below, [but] I do honor the instinct inside that tells you the right thing to do. That's why I decided to buy a house and move in my ill, unhinged mother." Dan Mathews, a senior v-p at PETA and the unattached "happy-go-lucky homosexual" in his family, felt it his duty to take in his 78-year-old mother, Perry. The "deviant son was stuck with the crazy mother," like Norman Bates in Psycho, and Perry's final years would test their limits and cement their bond.

Perry had always been different. Her children previously chalked up her paranoid or delusional conduct to the tormented childhood she rarely talked about. Living together, Mathews senses things are seriously amiss. Their hilarious but often fraught-with-danger existence shatters when Perry seems to break, and Mathews frantically tries to get her help in a system not known for its user-friendliness or navigational ease.

In Like Crazy, Mathews (Committed) memorializes his mother's life with the bawdy and raucous tale of their relationship and the merry band of misfits they attract. Side-splitting laughter turns deadly serious as things take a horrific turn, but Mathews is a force to be reckoned with and the final descent is endearingly lovely. Mathews is so funny (lamenting he can't set his mother adrift on an ice floe, "another tradition ruined by global warming") it's easy to overlook his storytelling talents until things get gritty and humor is stripped away. Like Crazy is an utter gem.

I have not laughed this hard in...I can't remember when. This was definitely the book I needed in times of little to laugh about.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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