Picks and Pans Review: A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired for An Affair
If not finding Bombeck a yuk a minute is the mark of the congenitally curmudgeonly, well, so be it. This time the chronicler of domestic chaos takes on the vicissitudes of married life. When Erma Fiste married Bill Bombeck in 1949, she had big plans. She was going to turn her new husband into a new man—wrest him away from his card-playing cronies, set up schedules for him, teach him to recap ballpoint pens. Dear reader, she was doomed to failure, but she adjusted, just as Bill adjusted to her culinary clumsiness ("At 22, I still believed aspic was a ski resort") and her burgeoning career as a humorist. The two of them also had to cope with the pain of infertility, the glacier-slow pace of adoption, Erma's sudden fecundity and the rigors of bringing up three babies.
The book, a chronological journey through the Bombeck marriage, is full of bewildering anachronisms. In the section on the '70s, for example, there are jokes about microwaves, not then in general use; the rock group U2, not yet assembled; and William Kennedy Smith, not yet charged.
If there is anything fresh to say about class reunions, adult children who return to the nest, the difficulty of programming a VCR, the fitness boom and the sexual revolution, Bombeck fails to say it. She is at her best when not straining for humor. Particularly affecting are the Bombecks' struggle to comfort each other at the untimely death of a friend and their valiant attempts to deal with Erma's breast cancer, now in remission. Unfortunately, for every truly witty or poignant passage, there is yet another gag about hot flashes and toilet flushes. All of which keeps A Marriage Made in Heaven from being an affair to remember. (HarperCollins, $20)