Reading Shenanigans (Universe) is like picking your way across a brook on smooth, well-placed rocks. Abby Kenigsberg‘s unique memoir shares a series of separate memories from various time periods throughout her life — childhood, her college days, marriage, motherhood and others — and every one of the stories is like a sturdy rock in that stream. Each step is firm and satisfying, the space between is clear and offers up a little mystery, and you are eager to take the next step.
She begins as a little girl watching her father shave. “Where’s the sun when it’s cloudy? Huh, Daddy? Where’s the sun when it’s cloudy?” Her father’s calm and patient replies to her existential questions are endearing. He taps her tiny cheeks with Old Spice and Abby starts her day; and her memoir.
You can’t help but love her father: He “spanked” Abby with a loosely rolled-up page from the newspaper when his wife told him to “discipline” his daughter. And you learn to be tolerant of her volatile mother who retreats to her piano to play Chopin when exasperated. Readers will be charmed by their family dynamic, so Part Two, “College Days,” almost starts too soon.
SHE’S GONNA MAKE IT AFTER ALL
Kenigsberg attended Wellesley and the Yale School of Drama, so she approached adulthood armed and ready. Remember, though, that she grew up in the 40s and 50s, decades where girls went to college to get their “Mrs. degree.” After the requisite broken heart, Abby does exactly that. She finds her perfect match in a rakish young surgeon named Ken and embarks on a coupling (her word) that lasts 54 years.
She successfully juggles marriage, motherhood and career when she takes her first job writing movie reviews at a local radio station, but it’s the opportunity to head up a nonprofit dedicated to convince New York City radio and television stations to give Long Island better news coverage that gives Kenigsberg the job of her dreams. She stumbles, she learns, she fails and succeeds, but she gives Long Island some much deserved air time before she moves on to the next chapter of her career and her life.
Reading Shenanigans is like being invited into Kenigsberg’s home where you begin to feel like family. You’re horrified at the rat that looks like Buddha, terrified of the fire that springs up behind the couch, relieved at her misdiagnosis, and loving the Matisse print. Accept the invitation and enjoy the visit with Abby Kenigsberg in Shenanigans.