Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Memoir Review: I Sleep At Red Lights

I have read good reviews of I Sleep At Red Lights (St. Martin’s Press), a memoir by Bruce Stockler, in various places over the past several years, and it was on my very lengthy Want To Read list. I was finally inspired to get it out of the library after reading a recent review at another book blog that I enjoy. It was worth the wait.

The book’s subtitle is A True Story of Life After Triplets. Bruce and his wife Roni were leading a busy life in the New York City area with their three-year old son, Asher, when they found out that Roni was pregnant with triplets. The memoir takes us along on their journey from stunned disbelief through the pregnancy and the sleepless nights with three infants to the chaotic life they now lead with four young children. Through it all, Bruce’s writing is honest and warm and often laugh-out-loud funny (he worked as a comedy writer for Jay Leno at one point).

Here is a scene that I felt compelled to read aloud to my husband. Bruce is in the supermarket with the three now-toddlers in a wagon and Asher walking alongside:

I am examining a frozen turkey when I hear laughing.

Barak has stuck his hand into the organic chicken display and is tearing at the packages. I grab his hand and immobilize it, checking the chicken packs for damage. One plastic cover is ripped open, and the top packages are slick with chicken juice.

If over-fondled fruit presents a health problem, raw chicken juice might as well be Ebola virus floating up from freshly killed monkeys. “Don’t move your hand!” I say to Barak. I look around for a Food Emporium employee, a mom, a priest – anyone who might provide a wipe or paper towel.

What is the worst possible thing my son could do?

Barak tries to lick his chicken-juiced hand.

“Stop it!” I say. When I speak harshly or with impatience, Barak is the first to burst into tears, so I cringe for his reaction. Instead of crying, Barak cackles back at me. “Lickies, lickies!” he says, waggling his tongue. Barak laughs hysterically and gives me a grin of demonic pleasure, then proceeds to struggle his tongue toward his hand.

The supermarket scene continues for a whole chapter, with many more adventures before they finally exit the store. With triplets plus one, even the smallest outings turn into circus-like escapades.

In addition to relating stories of the triplets, Bruce also writes honestly about his marriage and the stresses of managing a suddenly large family. Roni works 100-hour weeks for a law firm in NY, so Bruce is the kids’ main caregiver. The conflicts they experience are of the type that any married couple with kids can relate to, though often magnified by the sheer size of their family.

While Bruce’s stories of their frenzied life with triplets are often very funny, he also writes with great affection about how much he loves his kids and what it means to be a parent:

But my time with the kids is pure playtime, an alternate universe from the worry-poisoned planet of adulthood. And this moment, with three kids goofily terrorizing me and another one smiling from the on-deck circle – approving the attack in progress by his troops – is better than I ever dreamed when I was in my twenties and searching for the meaning of life, which turned out to be a trick question.

Although I didn’t always agree with every detail of Bruce’s approach to parenting, I completely understood his love and affection for his family and his struggles with balancing his life. Any parent will enjoy and relate to Bruce’s memoir.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this review, I'd never heard of the book before. Looking through your blog, I like the selection of books you read. I'll be back!

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  2. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog on here. And I'm so glad that you read this book, because it's always interesting to read reviews of books that I've already read to see what other people thought of the book. Good review.

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