“Confessions” on Pingwing’s Bookshelf

I liked reading about Joan’s journey towards self-acceptance – it’s not an easy one, but hopefully we all get there! I was also interested in reading about her faith. While I’m not a religious person now, I attended church as a child and when I was around Joan’s age I found myself questioning what I thought I knew about God, Jesus, my church…I admired Joan’s strong faith and devotion.

To read the full post, visit Pingwing’s Bookshelf


Last Thursday was Thanksgiving and we, the Handlers–Alan, David, Marlene and I– spent it with our favorite family –best friends, Carol and Fred Snyder, and their sons, their wives and children. And their friends. And their children. Usually Marc, David’s best friend, accompanies us; when he was alive my Dad did; when she’s not headed to her son Michael’s in Unadilla, my sister, Catherine, does. Our benevolent hosts, Marc and Karen and their three children—Alex, Marissa and Lizzie, live in a big white house in Connecticut surrounded by 100 + foot tall spruce trees that I’m convinced were here when Adam and Eve walked around. If they ever did! Three lines of cars stretch out to the middle of the driveway to make room for all of us.

Outside by the garage, two turkey fryers bubble oil anticipating the two giant birds waiting unknowingly on the picnic table set up for them; the 3rd and 4th are roasting away in the oversized oven in the kitchen. Inside the door just beyond the impeccably white mud room is the sanctuary —the kitchen– and opening on to it the family great room. This is a home built to be filled as it is today–with family and friends—who today are all related. It’s huge center counter is surrounded by guests on foot or seated in various degrees of delight tasting Marc’s magnificent array of tapas which for all of us become the first of two very satisfying dinners. Marc is the chef for this feast (the whole family loves to cook—Marc and Karen’s three children and Marc’s parents, Carol and Fred, as well as their second son, David, executive chef at Somers 21 Restaurant).

This is a familiar setting for me; Carol, whom I met before she was married, and I are reaching 50 years as best friends, so I’ve been part of this family for the better part of my life. David and Marc, who will always be my little boys (despite their graying hair and wisdom), were brought up in just such a kitchen ‘manned’ by their Mom, Carol, and her Mom, Mary—a kitchen that welcomed guests everyday as if it were a holiday. All of us have stories of Mary’s famous feasts — everyday dinner was a banquet; I ate 4 bowls (yes, 4!) of her pasta on one of my spontaneous visits.

For today, Marc has brined and smoked salmon, turkey, and sausage and prepared his signature shrimp toast and sausage bread, and Karen’s Greek friend Laurie has brought her homemade dolmadas and spanikopita. To accompany these goodies, there’s wine and beer, cranberry juice, soda and water in abundance. Kids are spread out in various corners of the kitchen/family room painting, texting, playing video games, and telling stories of the family field trip the girls and their Moms took to Cheesecake Factory to taste test all their varieties of cheese cake (complete with spread sheets for scoring) in their quest for the perfect selection for this Thanksgiving feast. Has anyone ever done anything quite so splendid with her Mom and best friends? I certainly never did.

David (Snyder, Handler’s already here) arrives from his restaurant in time to begin his artful carving of the turkeys, a skill which always mesmerized my Dad and continues to stun Carol and me today (Moms never tire of admiring their sons!)–every movement graceful, deft and seemingly effortless –in this amazing dance his fingers perform for us. Once complete, the turkey takes center stage on the table where we are already waiting in line with plates and silverware. Turkey—fried and roasted, plain and sausage stuffings, brussel sprouts in the raw and in casserole (who ever heard of kids loving brussel sprouts? But these kids order them up two ways), mashed potatoes, pureed sweet potatoes, marshmallowed sweet potato casserole (these folks cater to all possible preferences and tastes), cranberry relish and honeyed carrots are rapidly devoured by this houseful of food and family lovers. And here there’s no one sneaking out to Boston Chicken for some creamed spinach or stuffing to supplement the meal. The only person who does not lunge for food is Marc, our chef, who admits he doesn’t care much for Thanksgiving food—one would never guess that from the way he lovingly prepares it for us. As his brother, David, always says, Food is Love, an apt mantra that fits every member of this wonderfully generous family; today  it’s Marc telling us he loves us.

The lull between courses—especially entrée to dessert is critical—each of us rushing to our favorite corner of the couch, banquette, lounge chair or floor to dose blissfully in our turkey induced stupor. Marc’s wife, Karen, calls us all back to life with fresh brewed cappuccino, Bridgewater chocolates, brownies and blondies made by her friend’s daughters, pumpkin cheese cake, baklava, and the 2 sumptuous choices from Cheesecake Factory- chocolate chocolate peanut butter and oreo cheesecake.

When day is done and we push ourselves out from this warm and delicious cacoon that is the Snyder home to head toward our own, it occurs to me that our hearts are joined to several people we didn’t know before we got here and left loving. Our arms are heavy with aluminum casseroles for our trip to East Hampton where we will repeat today’s dinner for the next two days and top off our weekend—just the 4 of us—with a fire, noisemakers and lots of goodies—not surprisingly food gifts –to celebrate Alan’s birthday. Oh yes, and I got an e-mail from Karen today apologizing for not having had enough private time with me to discuss my book launch and party and promising to make that up to me on Christmas Eve when today’s caravan heads for Carol & Fred’s. Need I tell her that the whole day was utterly private and personal and as intimate a gathering as one could imagine—especially one like me who has always craved family and loved holidays and tradition. To be part of such a family is to be blessed. Simply, profoundly, blessed. Thank you, my beloved family.


Confessions has a book trailer!

I am thrilled to share the book trailer for Confessions!

Confessions featured on Patricia’s Wisdom

This story is a delightful read at nearly any age as it provokes memories for some and lets others know they are wearing similar shoes.  It is delightful, witty and a shining pathway to bring us all home to a level play ground, or in Joan’s case the opportunity equalizer of a swim.

To read the full review, visit Patricia’s Wisdom

From Confessions’ Book Launch Party

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My interview with Nin Andrews

Nin Andrews has interviewed me for CavanKerry’s blog.  You can find it here:

Part 1: Nin Andrews Interviews Joan Cusack Handler

Part 2:  Nin Andrews Interviews Joan Cusack Handler

Nin Andrews draws for Confessions

I’m delighted to share an illustration Nin Andrews made for Confessions.

Joan maybe 3

Sunday Evening was Magical

Sunday evening was magical—(le) poisson rouge gallery bar was bursting with good friends, applause, and copies of Confessions everywhere. Thanks to Donna, my assistant, her husband Steve, and my sister Catherine (the same Catherine Joan so admired as a girl), the room was filled with tulips and … and not so subtle signs encouraging guests to consider Confessions an apt holiday gift (more about that later). The staff at LPR was wonderfully gracious and accommodating—moving furniture around to my liking, serving up delicious tapas and topping those off with chocolate chip cookies and glasses of milk. Special thanks to David, my son, and Justin, his partner, founders of LPR and General Manager, Brett Tabisel, for making the day so special. So many wonderful friends were there—including my editor, Mickey Appleman (Pearlman), a couple (Cathy and Carl Malmstrom) that I haven’t seen since the day I got married 32 years ago, my best friends for over 45 years (Carol and Fred Snyder), and another couple (Arlene and Joey Scozzari) that I befriended and introduced in college. Alan was there of course as were his cousins and mine; our son, David and his wife, Marlene brought many of their friends—all adopted sons and daughters of Alan and me. Some even brought GIFTS!!! Mickey made me a doll named Miss Daisy, a girl who loves jewelry just like Mickey does and Joan did and still does), Arlene brought a lovely silk shawl (I’m known to be the queen of shawls) and Marlene, her Mom, Charlene, and David sent a bouquet of baby orchids to my home and brought white roses and pink lilies to the party and gave me a gorgeous art deco gold locket carved with the head and long hair of a young girl reminiscent of  Joan. Many books were sold; some friends bought several copies—Carol bought 20! She’s committed to broadening the reach of Confessions by sending it out to friends as holiday gifts. (I recently heard about a man whose book sold over a million copies; he attributes that success to his friends buying it for their friends who in turn bought it for their friends. Sound like a plan for Confessions? Chanukah and Christmas are coming…. Wanna help?)

The highlight of the evening for me was Teresa Carson’s (CKP Associate Publisher and long time friend) generous and insightful introduction followed by my reading of 4 short sections from Confessions. I was more comfortable than I had imagined (in fact, I was exhilarated!) assuming the voice of my young self and reading her thoughts to so many of my friends; they, in turn, were wonderfully responsive. The last of us didn’t leave until 9 PM (we started at 5!) The Handlers (Alan, David, and Marlene) topped the evening off with take out at home —Italian of course from our favorite family restaurant since David was a boy. It was glOrious!  And so was yesterday and today and tomorrow…and forever! I am Happy!

Judi Hannan and (le) poisson rouge

I had the good fortune on Monday night to attend Judi Hannan’s splendid reading from her powerful memoir, Motherhood Exaggerated, at (le) poisson rouge on Bleecker St in NY. It was unusual for a literary event in that it also included music performance. Judi was joined by cellist, Sebastian Baverstam, performing the Kodaly Sonata for Solo Cello, a multilayered piece that Judi, a classically trained musician herself, selected to depict the many moods and complicated journey of the book.  The reading and concert were a flow of 6 sections –3 passages read followed by 3 movements played–a moving and inspired coupling–uplifting in fact –an unusual accomplishment given the serious often painful material recounted in the book. What magic these two artists made together! Both so accomplished, so graceful, so gifted. Kudos to Judi for imagining this evening and presenting it to us.

Announcing a Birth

And so…Confessions has made her way into the world. In fact, I hold her in my hands this very moment. And as any quelling Mom would say of her newborn, she is beautiful; I am so happy and proud.

Seeing one’s work in print is magical for a writer. Until the point of publication, the words are just black print on 8 1/2 x 11 white paper; the cover is a picture on a screen often with colors and details that insult the artist’s impeccable work. Then suddenly, it is a work of art. It is a book. The cover is a matte satin I can’t wait to touch; the font sends me reeling; words lay on lush pages the color of vanilla ice cream; the poems/prose pieces speak to each other; the comments on the back cover attest to the integrity of the art. This is the pinnacle for the writer—the moment when one discovers one’s work all over again—but this time framed and dressed in all its finery—just as we were on Easter morning when I was a girl. Can it possibly get better than this? For a few perhaps a stellar review in the NY Times or arrival on the best seller list; for the rest of us, this is the Oscar. I want to thank….

Yes, I want to thank the staff and editors of CavanKerry Press, particularly Florenz Eisman and Teresa Carson, my assistant, Donna Rutkowski, Greg Smith, designer, Carlos Andrade, artist, my editors Molly Peacock, Baron Wormser and Mickey Appleman (Pearlman), Roland Merullo and Michelle Blake for their generous comments, all my readers, my husband and son—without you Confessions would still be yellowing pages in a folder. Thank you! Thank you all for the gift of this book.


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