Can We Come In and Laugh, Too? is a delightful memoir written by Rosetta Schwartz at the age of 80. Born in Chicago in 1909, she was the youngest of ten children in an immigrant Latvian family. What they didn’t have in money, they more than made up for in laughter.
As Rosetta reels off her stories it is clear how zany this family was and why laughter was a driving force throughout her long life, which wasn’t always an easy one. She felt if a person can find the laughter, they can deal with most things.
The book has some really hilarious stories, like the time one of her brothers was stationed in France during World War I and was desperate to come home to see his family. He told his commanding officer that his mother was deathly ill in the States, and in those days the army sent an investigator to the home to verify the story since telephones were rare. The family had no idea when this man would show up.
As fate would have it, when the investigator got there, Rosetta’s mother was in the kitchen preparing chickens for dinner. As Rosetta says in the book,
“In my day when someone bought a chicken, it had to be cleaned from scratch, feathers and all, before you cut it up to cook. Now-a-days you go into the market and purchase a chicken, or parts of a chicken, and it’s all ready for use. That’s progress.”
In the time it took the investigator to climb the stairs to their third-floor apartment, a few of her brothers grabbed their mother and threw her into bed, clothes and all, and pulled the covers up to her chin so the man from the army couldn’t see she was fully dressed. They slapped flour on her face and turned up the gaslights, casting a horrible green light throughout the room. One of them told her to groan like the Grim Reaper was standing in the doorway the whole time the man was there.
It worked, and the investigator decided she was definitely on death’s doorstep. An Academy Award performance if there ever was one! The leave was granted. As for Rosetta’s mother? She went back into the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.
Not all of the stories in this book are funny. Some are inspirational and some grab your heart, but all are told with a storytelling talent that makes the reader feel part of what’s happening. A thread of what it was like from the early 1900s up to 1989 smoothly weaves it’s way through the narrative like a the warp thread on a loom.
The manuscript had been lost for many years and was rediscovered in 2011, edited and contributed to by her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Your Las Vegas Writing Examiner is proud to say I’m one of them.
Here is what a few of the people who have reviewed the book said:
“I found the book quite interesting. It is amazing how much we can find out about the elderly if we take the time to listen to them. Many of their stories are humorous and informative. I recommend this book.”
The nostalgia factor:
“This book reminded me of many of the stories my mom and dad used to tell about the depression. It brought back many memories about how hard life must have been before during and even after the depression. We as Americans today and especially our younger generations, who didn’t hear those stories have no idea of how rough most people had it. My mom talked about trying to travel from Colorado to Port Angeles Washington with her mother and four siblings. They had 17 flat tires and having people they did not even know, give them their coupons so they could make it to Port Angeles….”
If you enjoyed this review, or are one of the thousands who have read the book, please comment and pass it on to your friends and family.
Morgan St. James is the co-author of Silver Sisters Mysteries and multiple other novels. Her latest funny crime caper, Who’s Got the Money?–a story of embezzlement in the federal prison system–was released this month by Oak Tree Press.
For more information about St. James visit her websites, www.morganstjames-author.com, http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com, http://silversistersmysteries.wordpress.com, and http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com.