Reviewed by Jill Arent
What a fabulous title – and the subtitle: “Awkward moments, mixed drinks, and how a mother and son finally shared who they really are” is a more than an apt description.
Conversations and Cosmopolitans alternates between chapters written by son, Robert Rave, and answering remarks by his mother, Jane Rave. Robert’s chapters have pithy clever titles that sum up the angst of a newly out-and-proud gay man who left the quiet Midwestern life of his childhood to find himself a brand-spanking new adult life in New York City. Jane’s responses are all titled “Mama Says” and are a combination of her take on her son’s new life and of bits of homespun wisdom gleaned as she and her husband strove to support their son in said new life(style).
The book is at times touching, at times funny, and at times, a tish banal. Life is like that. I get it. It might be authentic, but it doesn’t always make for the most interesting reading.
I have empathy for Robert’s story. I have heard many a gay friend’s coming-out story, and they are always tear-jerkers. Jane’s stories of her interactions with neighbors and fellow Midwesterners were, all too often, shocking to someone with my sensibilities. Her tales of defending her son and his life made me angry, sad, and regretful in turn. At times, her wit and clever retorts made me laugh out loud or even cheer for her. But at others, her homespunnishness felt like I was reading the text of a public service announcement.
I’m not complaining about the messages, but about the delivery. I’m fine with the former, but the latter didn’t always make for the most compelling story-telling style.
Conversations and Cosmopolitans displays occasional flashes of brilliance, usually through Robert’s stories of life as a regular guy in the oft-glamorous (or at least glam-wannabe) world of NYC, but also occasionally through Jane’s startlingly unselfconscious examinations of her own life and her interactions with her son and his friends. These bursts don’t happen anywhere near often enough to my taste, but when they do, they are great fun.
Overall the book reads more like a self-help guide for the unsuspecting families of gay children than a memoir. That’s not my cup of tea (or martini glass of cosmo) but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a valid beverage choice. Or maybe I should say valid beverage genetic predisposition.
Check out our review of Waxed by Robert Rave
A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at Jill-Elizabeth.com, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.
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