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Publisher's Summary

Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won't take their advice, and she won't take an antidepressant. Her marriage to their father, Aaron, has lasted through health and dementia, as well as some phenomenally lousy business decisions. The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don't just grow, they grow old.

Cathleen Schine's They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a tender, sometimes hilarious intergenerational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age.

When Aaron dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother's loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy's college days. They didn't count on Joy suddenly becoming as willful and rebellious as their own kids.

With sympathy, humor, and truth, Schine explores the intrusion of old age into a large and loving family. They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together.

©2016 Cathleen Schine (P)2016 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Funny, Honest

Cathleen Schine is a very funny and smart writer. She combines broad comedy here with genuine insights into the difficulties of aging and the difficulties of having an aging parent. Having recently been through the illness and death of a parent, I found sections of this novel deeply moving and stunningly accurate.

She gets into the heads of most of the characters, so you see things from all points of view--the adult children trying to do their best, the aging parent attempting to maintain independence and dignity. There are some wonderful bits of social satire, too, as when a child reared in our post-indoor-cigarette world asks, "What are ashtrays for?"

Schine has tremendous love and tenderness for all her characters, and this gives the novel a warmth that's pretty irresistible.

I found some of the comedy a little too broad and cartoony in places, and a climactic section that takes place on a family vacation seemed both rushed (thinly described) and (because the set-up seemed wrong) too long.

Overall, I was happy to listen and entertained and moved, which is a lot of to ask of any novel.

Cynthia Darlow has a fantastically rich, nuanced voice. Her tone for the aging mother can be a little schticky in places (stereotype of New York "Jewish mother" character) but she brought the story and copious dialogue to life. She communicated the love in the family exceptionally well.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Funny, touching and spot on

If you have an elderly parent or parents in your life, or if you are experiencing firsthand the tragicomic vicissitudes of growing old, this book is for you. My mother suffered with dementia for a decade and my 90-year-old father lives with my husband and me, so I am well-acquainted with the subject matter! There are lots of memoirs and novels out there about aging parents, and they are usually told from the point of view of the adult child, with emphasis on all the crap the child has to endure. This one is told mostly from the pov of the elderly mother and the result is both more entertaining and more illuminating. Brilliantly observed down to the smallest cringeworthy detail, yet not at all depressing. I laughed out loud throughout. Thanks Cathleen Schine for helping me understand my parents, and myself, a little better. You and your wonderful characters felt like old friends by the end.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very good- and helpful!

Having parents in their mid-late 80s, I was surprised how much I related to this book and how very much it helped me. I thought my parents were different from others and basically kind of "crazy". Certain common characteristics came up many times even though my parents are different in many ways than those in this book. Still, I had to stop the audio several times to just think about what I was hearing- how much I misunderstood and as a result was too often inconsiderate and impatient with my parents. I have been frustrated, disappointed and non-comprehending of much of their behavior in the past several years. As a result, I have not acted very well myself around them. I see things from a different point of view now. I was able to see things from Joy's - and Aaron's viewpoint, and objectively observe the 2 adult children and while relating to them, could also see where they were going wrong in relating to their elderly parent(s).
Thanks to the author and Audible!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fabulous performance.Better than reading.

Performance was fantastic. Reader does voices of characters exceptionally well, making this a far better listen than a book for reading. The story is painfully realistic, accurate, and thankfully, funny. If you want resolution, you won't get it, as is so often true in life. I enjoyed this book, and didn't love it. No life insights for me, though I appreciated the journey.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Real life for many

Although this may not be every families story it certainly represents many. Funny and sad.

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narrator awesome!!!

i will gladly listen to any book by cynthia darlow. she has a voice so expressive. i chose this book solely because she is the narrator

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Truly awful

What character would you cut from They May Not Mean To, But They Do?

All of them, save maybe Karl. Never have I read a book with such a complete cast of unsympathetic, sniveling, petulant, childish, and totally unlikable characters.

Any additional comments?

The overriding theme throughout this book is urine. Add to that, is near- constant sniveling of a cast of adults who act like and who seem to possess the emotional mature and insight of five year old children. It is truly awful.

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Great narrator.

This book came to life by the excellent narrator of the story. A very true to life experience.

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Excellent Story of Aging!!

A little slow at the end, but a overall great book. Made me think of my Mother! Every age has its own trials, especially old age! You lose control and "others" think THEY know what's best for you. But is it??

Bobra T.

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Wonderful wonderful book

Extraordinary look at again. Funny, touching, sad, and more. Left me thinking. Cannot wait for my book club meeting so 8 can discuss it.