Hard Laughter: A Novel by Anne Lamott
Jennifer’s father, Wallace, has a brain tumor. They don’t know if it is cancerous or not, but in any event he is having brain surgery. Hard Laughter chronicles Jennifer’s life surrounding Wallace’s diagnosis, surgery, and (hopefully) recovery. Jennifer has two brothers, and they all deal with this stressful period of the unknown in their own ways. Jennifer herself prefers hard laughter, whether or not others would consider it appropriate.
What Anne Lamott does best in this book is make the situation very real. This is not a plot heavy book. Not that much happens – it is more of a snapshot of a moment in a family’s history than a thriller of any kind. Whether you relate to Jennifer’s reaction, or that of her brothers, or her father, or her father’s live-in girlfriend, you can’t help but feel the reality of it. The minutiae of the moment is Lamott’s specialty. The dead time between events. She makes you feel the waiting for news, the awkwardness of not knowing what to say, and the evolution of response.
For example: the siblings (Jennifer, Ben, and Randy) have gotten together at the hospital for the first time post-surgery. Wallace, as most people do after they’ve had holes drilled in their skull, looks pretty awful. Only Ben has seen him so far, and he’s trying to prepare the other two for what they will see. “’We’ll be all right,’ said Randy. He was pushing a penny around on the cement with the toe of his sneaker, up against a leaf, around a gum wrapper, between two bottle caps.” That’s reality, folks, as only fiction can tell it.
Lamott is also funny, which prevents this potential tragedy of a book from being too dramatic. It doesn’t get bogged down with worry or trauma, as it would in lesser hands. The theme, as I see it, is that life goes on no matter what happens to us personally. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Obviously, I agree.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.