Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Clancys of Queens

Title:  The Clancys of Queens:  A Memoir
Author:  Tara Clancy
Publication Information:  Crown. 2016. 256 pages.
ISBN:  1101903112 / 978-1101903117

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I'm the whirling dervish of Queens, spinning around and around, arms flapping, my father's boxing gloves like cinder blocks strapped to my seven-year-old hands."

Favorite Quote:  "... it took ... the lessons of time, to forever alter the way I look at people, including myself."

Tara Clancy grew up in three homes. This book yo-yos between Queens, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons - the three destinations of Tara Clancy's childhood. A converted shed in Queens was the home of her father. Brooklyn was the home of her family on her mother's side; and the Hamptons was the weekend home of her mother's new significant other. Between the three homes, Ms. Clancy moves around a lot, but in all three, she seems loved and cared for. Perhaps not well supervised but definitely loved.

With Queens in the title, I expect to hear about the city life and about the places and people of Queens. This book does not deliver on that. The sense of place is missing from this book. Most events take place at a home, in a yard, at school, or in route; these really could be anywhere. This is the story of a family but not in the context of time and place. Based on the title, I expect the place to anchor the book; it seems barely present.

This memoir is an non-linear, episodic race through this childhood. The story moves very quickly in time and place without a clear transition. At any given point, it's difficult to say how old Ms. Clancy is at that time. The range is from about five or six years old through the teenage years to young adult. Unfortunately, the progression of events is unclear, making the book quite challenging to follow and difficult to understand. The perspective of age is an important lens through which to understand the event; unfortunately, I find myself searching too hard for that understanding.

The narrative is also just that - a collection of event descriptions. This happened here. This happened there. Then, this happened. And so on. the book does not present much reflection or interpretation or emotion.

For example, one narrative that stands out is her trip to California with her mother. Her mother leaves her in a sex toy shop while she and her friend (who runs the store) go across the street for lunch. Ms. Clancy is left alone to explore and to deal with customers. Perhaps, that is not the intent, but that is what occurs. The narrative describes the event occurring, but that's it. How does this impact Ms. Clancy? What, if any, are the conversations mother and daughter have following this incident? How and why does a mother allow this to happen?

Another example is the incident with her father's gun. Her father sees her curiosity about the gun and lets her handle the unloaded weapon. At the end, he simply warns her to never touch it again. Then, the book moves on to something else. I want to know more. What impact does this have? What imprint does this memory leave?

The "why" seems to be lacking in this book. Why are these the incidents she chooses to describe? Why are these important? How do these form the person she is today? In a memoir about Tara Clancy's, I don't get a sense of who she truly is.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Thank you for visiting. I am glad you enjoyed the blog post. Unfortunately, as your comment included an ad for your business unrelated to books, I have removed your post. I would love to discuss books with you without the advertising. Happy reading.