It’s All Relative – Wade Rouse (Crown Publishing)

Buy it now from our Amazon.com store – It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir)
 

Nothing says stress like being home for the holidays—special
events, childhood memories and family dynamics all conspire to put a crimp in
even the most festive of moods. And Wade Rouse captures all the anxious angst
in his latest collection of memoirist essays, It’s All Relative.

Divided by month, It’s All Relative covers all the
major holidays from New Year’s to Christmas with additional stops for
birthdays, anniversaries, vacations and The Oscars (you know, the Gay Super
Bowl). But rather than sounding samey, covering the weirdnesses and
idiosyncracies of family life, Rouse manages to convey the warmth and spirit
and joy for living within his family.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t weirdnesses here—witness
Wade’s father, Ted, an engineer who hid Easter eggs for his children so well
that they often couldn’t be found, who must win at all costs, even to the point
of eviscerating Wade’s partner Gary at hearts during one particularly brutal
Fourth of July Game Night, who was more Irish than Molly Machree on St.
Patrick’s Day. Far from being a caricature, Rouse paints his father with more
sympathetic colors than that, bringing out his warmth as well as his
eccentricities.

But his father isn’t the only family member Rouse treats
with respectful irreverance. Everyone, including his partner Gary, gets an
equal share. Rouse never goes for the cheap laugh or the rimshot joke, relying
instead on well-built characterizations and beautifully warped situations for
his humor. This is gentle, prodding fun—not razor-bladed edgy cartoonishness,
and the result is all the better for its warm fuzzies. His family is as
likeable as they are disturbed.

Rouse’s writing is plain and simple—perfect for setting the
situation and getting out of the way without any look-mom-I’m-writing moments.
He is a masterful storyteller in that he tells the story with enough panache to
be funny but never overwrites. My favorite moment, in fact, is not funny at
all. In “The Privileged Few,” he and his mother visit his grandmother in a
nursing home. I’ve seen this scenario played for laughs and for great pathos,
but Rouse takes it down a wonderfully reverential path.

Rouse has already shown his gifts in such previous efforts
as Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler and At Least in the
City Someone Would Hear Me Scream
, but It’s All Relative showcases
his ingenuity and genuineness. Give it to someone you love for a holiday gift.

Any holiday will do.  

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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