Wednesday, February 16, 2011

REVIEW: Cheap Cabernet by Cathie Beck


I didn’t know that people come into our lives, and sometimes, if we’ re terribly lucky, we get the chance to love them, that sometimes they stay, that sometimes you can, truly, depend on them.

Cathie Beck was in her late thirties and finally able to exhale after a lifetime of just trying to get by. A teenage mother harboring vivid memories of her own hardscrabble childhood, Cathie had spent years doing whatever it took to give her children the stability— or at least the illusion of it— that she’ d never had. More than that, through sheer will and determination, she had educated them and herself too. With her kids in college, Cathie was at last ready to have some fun. The only problem was that she had no idea how to do it and no friends to do it with. So she put an ad in the paper for a made-up women's group: WOW . . . Women on the Way. Eight women showed up that first night, and out of that group a friendship formed, one of those meteoric, passionate, stand-by-you friendships that come around once in a lifetime and change you forever . . . if you’re lucky.

About the Author
from the back cover

Cathie Beck is a Denver-based journalist and creative writer. She contributes to a number of publications and to KUVO radio in Denver. She is the recipient of writing awards from both the Louisiana and Denver Press Women's Clubs, and the Scripps-Howard Award for Excellence in Journalism. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

My Thoughts
We are hurtling north of Denver on Interstate 25 in Denise's death-trap, bottle-cap excuse of a car, at eight-three miles per hour, with the plan to stalk Jerry Jeff Walker of "Mr. Bojangles" and "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother" fame.
This is how we are introduced to our two main characters, Cathie Beck and Denise Katz: hurtling down an interstate as the two hurtled through the second stages of their lives.

This book is a memoir (a fact that I somehow missed and realized about a third of the way through). It isn't supposed to be a work of fiction, but a memoir of a friendship. Cathie Beck has had a tough life, raised in an unstable home, pregnant and married as a teen, abandoned by her husband with two children to raise at age 21, she has clawed her way through life. Now, nearing the age of 40, she finds herself an empty-nester in need of friends and begins a woman's group called WOW (Women on the Way). At the first meeting of their new group, Cathie meets Denise Katz: forward, unapologetic, brash, and Cathie doesn't think she likes this woman very much. But then she changes her mind, and finds she likes her very much, and the two begin a many-year friendship that navigates the difficulties of Denise's struggles with Multiple Sclerosis.

Cathie appears to be honest and real. She almost begrudgingly becomes friends with Denise, who is perhaps unlikeable to many, but I found that I liked her. Perhaps that is because I can identify with her. Denise has a warmth and heart that is kept very well hidden, but she also displays an evident strength. 

This book was a very easy read. Certain writing styles are just very conversational and comfortable for me, and allow me to whiz through much more quickly than with strongly narrative or "stodgy" writing.

I sort of delayed picking this one up, because I just wasn't sure that it would be able to grab me. I was pleasantly surprised. It built and held me most of the way. However I did find the final 100 pages to be less captivating, and began to lose me, and the ending was less than satisfying. But, given that it is a memoir, that may be something that cannot be helped-- it ended as it ended. You can't change life.

One thing that confused me was that the beginning had nothing to do with the ending. The way that the opening chapter is laid out, I always thought that the end of the book would pick up where it left off and the story would end. But that isn't what happened. The story never really returned to that moment again, aside from a very brief mention of Wyoming at the end of the book. So that only added to disappointment in the ending. It's as if the beginning set me up for an ending that never came as expected.

For the most part, this was an enjoyable story.


"My loneliness had grown out of poverty and her ugly sisters- shame and desperation. It was hard to shrug off." p. 12

"Many people were afraid of Denise, but not me. Many people mistook her ballsiness for bitchiness, her inquisitiveness for nosiness, her brevity for rudeness." p. 292

Much of the story takes place in beautiful Colorado, but the locale takes a backseat and plays very little into the storyline.

This book in five words: Honest, heart-wrenching, real, roller-coaster ride.

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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