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Confessions of Joan the Tall: A Memoir (Notable Voices) ~Joan Cusack Handler

At first glance when this book arrived, I thought CONFESSIONS OF JOAN THE TALL was a young adult book maybe even a middler’s read, and I confess I was wrong.  This story is a delightful read at nearly any age as it provokes memories for some and lets others know they are wearing similar shoes.  It is delightful, witty and a shining pathway to bring us all home to a level play ground, or in Joan’s case the opportunity equalizer of a swim.

CONFESSIONS OF JOAN THE TALL is the first book in a new library of books being offered by   CavanKerry Press.  In their own words: “In keeping with our thematic emphasis for all of our books on Lives Brought to Life, CavanKerry Press is proud to announce the addition of Memoir to our publishing program. Confessions of Joan the Tall is the inaugural volume on Cavan Kerry’s Memoir List.”

So gather up your thoughts of what it might be like to be an eleven year old girl in the 1950s and you are the third child in a family of four born to parents who are Irish immigrants, very dutifully practicing Roman Catholics, making new lives and learning the American Way!  If that was not enough for you to contemplate and mull over add in two older siblings who are turning into “teenagers” when they had been best friends, Mom needing to go back to work and then of course dealing with size 13 shoes and being FIVE FEET 11and ½ inches tall in sixth grade.

Handler has remembered all the details and put them to work in a clever fashion as Joan the Tall is figuring out the puzzles of life and finding a new order.  At the age of 10-12 most young folks are just starting to understand the timely issues of history and perspective in their intellectual development.  Joan realizes that her father’s huge commitment to his faith and church may not actually be her commitment to faith and church.  She begins to understand that her brother is being prepared to be the family Priest and she is being prepared to be a Nun.  They share a rebellion but take different pathways of expression.

Joan’s mother handles the teasing and name calling by purchasing and making Joan’s clothing and getting her lovely and adult things of great quality to wear.  They are expensive clothes and stylish, but they are not pretty pink and frilly like the other girls wear.  Thank goodness for school uniforms and keeping a journal to write all the feelings down and be allowing a girl to ruminate and process.

There are so many moments in this memoir that a person can identify with and ease out a memory or two relive and let it go.  Although not a Catholic, I could feel the desperate need for answers and rules from my faith which would release the worry through this transitional age, I too was driven crazy that I could not believe what I was being told was what I must believe by my community; oh how I wished I could.  I was a child of Immigrant parents and considered an interloper in the community.  I too escaped and learned from the many books that I read and still love to read now.  I learned early on not to keep a journal at home, because my siblings would have spread it all over school and encouraged the laughter even though we had the same rule about keeping what went on at home, at home.

I was impressed with the chapters where Joan began to see her parents as human beings, particularly her understanding of her mother’s skills and “meanness”.  They did not have all the answers and were living in a new country.  They offered their best to each of their children and gave them huge opportunities through their decisions.   This year in the life is well shared with a tear and a chuckle and you may recognize your own moments of change reading CONFESSIONS OF JOAN THE TALL.


I did receive a copy of this book from TLC online tours and CavanKerry Press in order to share this review.  Thank you for the opportunity.

If your purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations are welcome also.

Would you please consider sharing this review on your social media sites?

Related Reading:

Thirty Days with My Father
When Women Were Birds 
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

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23 Responses to “Confessions of Joan the Tall: A Memoir (Notable Voices) ~Joan Cusack Handler”

  1. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    I enjoyed your review so much that I Googled the author’s website (http://joancusackhandler.com/about_joan.html) and enjoyed it as well. Thank you for adding yet another book to my must-read list :)
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..When Women Gather on the RimMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    The book is a delight and I am sure you will enjoy it. Thank you for your good words.

    A picture of the author came in after I posted – she looks very fun in the picture as well – all that red hair. I too looked her up. The author of Lunch With Buddha previewed her book and encouraged her – I thought that was interesting also

  2. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia!
    This sounds just delightful – i put it on my wish list and will order later today with my “other” Amazon goodies (hohoho stuff). I’ve been writing my own memoir, so have an interest in reading others suddenly. :) Don’t know what I’ll end up with but having fun adding stories randomly – we’ll see…..

    Patricia Reply:

    I think you will enjoy this book very much and it is a bit different than other memoirs with working on child thinking/expressions.

    I will be excited to read your memoir….now I will be forward…will you put your Amazon order in off my site? Thank you for considering this
    Patricia recently posted..Confessions of Joan the Tall: A Memoir (Notable Voices) ~Joan Cusack HandlerMy Profile

  3. Confessions featured on Patricia’s Corner « Joan Cusack Handler Says:

    […] read the full review, visit Patricia’s Corner Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  4. Sara Says:

    Another great review. You have a way of making a book I’m not sure I would have even looked sound interesting. I have a friend with a very tall child — it’s so hard to be different when you’re a child.

    I will recommend this book to my friend.

    I hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one. I know this is late, but I fell behind in my blogging visits.

    Have a good day, Patricia:~)
    Sara recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Thanksgiving CatnapMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Thanks for coming by and your great comment – you’re so sweet.

    I am just in the door from being on the road and not having a computer handy – good to take some space.
    I had an amazing Thanksgiving and I got very relaxed and full of good food others cooked!

    I hope your holiday was good too. – I will get over to visit you and your words very soon… am running a fundraiser this weekend but will get back into the routine in short order…

    The book is very clever and I was so happy I was asked to review it. Maybe you will win the giveaway copy?

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    “where Joan began to see her parents as human beings” – in my mind this transition marks a child’s real move toward adulthood.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Joan’s story. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    Patricia Reply:

    Heather J,
    I did indeed enjoy this book…even if I omitted the words FIVE FEET from the post…

    I enjoyed being a part of the tour

  6. Chris Edgar Says:

    I like what you say here about the author seeing her parents as human beings — in my own experience, when I let go of my perception of my parents as omniscient and I see them as human, my need for their approval and my fear of their criticism tend to dissolve.

    Patricia Reply:

    Your comment is exactly right here…as she saw her parents as human she was able to see that they were not trying to force her to become a NUN but to become her very best self….
    It was quite a fun read.

  7. Galen Pearl Says:

    I should just turn over my reading plans to you and let you make my list.

    Patricia Reply:

    I am going to review a book I did not care for this week…but this is only the first review I will do where I did not care for the book but I agreed to do the review whether I liked the book or not…

    Under the recommended reading tab at the top of the page is the start of an amazing group of books, most were ones I was asked to review – a few are personal selections.

    I am reviewing your remarkable book as my Holiday Post….I think you will like that review too.
    Thank you for your generous words! :)

  8. Deborah Barker Says:

    I enjoyed your review Patricia – I am adding it to my wish list. Thank you for telling us about it. I was wondering though, is that a typo where you say: “size 13 shoes and being 11and ½ inches tall”. Excellent summary of the book I think, I look forward to reading it! Debbie :-)

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your good words, I did enjoy this book and I did leave out the words FIVE FEET. Working on my IT girl to make the correction…I can not get it to save – but that omission made me laugh – thank you for sharing it with me…I certainly did not see it.

    It is from an Independent press and I do not know if it will take more time for publishing in UK, but it is on Amazon already. I just know that I can not submit any folks outside of the USA or Canada to win a copy of this book- sorry

    Deborah Barker Reply:

    Oh no worries about not being able to submit us from across the sea! As for the typo, yes I had images of “the Borrowers” in my head. You can blame my day job which involves a lot of proof reading, for me spotting it.
    Deborah Barker recently posted..Winning wordsMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I am just very happy your caught it…but I think my mind and others just put it in the space ….one of those tricks.

    I think I am getting worse at catching errors these days, because I am trying to not write formally as I was paid to do for so many years and write more conversationally.

    My next review is a book I found not funny and not worth my time, but the tour company said write a review even if you did not like it…so I did. It took me 4 days and 11 hours to craft that post because I just thought of all the wonderful books, why did this guy get chosen to be published? I finally had to talk to my friend who owns a bookstore to find something to say!

  9. Joan Cusack Handler Says:

    I am so gratified by your response to Confessions, Patricia, and thrilled that so many of your readers are wishing for it this holiday season. So much of writing is a solitary activity; the thrill comes when its reaches its readers and they respond. From sitting alone at your computer, you are talking to and connecting with people you never knew before. I’m so happy to know all of you and thank you for your interest in Joan.

    Now, may she fly off the shelves into your readers hands–and leave Fifty Shades of Grey lying in the dust.

    Joyful holidays to all,

    Patricia Reply:

    Joan Cusack Handler,
    I think that my readers truly did enjoy this peek at your book/life and I noticed that many more came to take a look than wrote comments.
    It is a fun read and I am sure it will find it’s way into the gift world this holiday season.

    There was so much more substance in your book and it touched so many memories.

    The publisher is giving away my copy of the book as I read it as a PDF file – I think they will need to put the names in the hat to find a recipient.
    Thanks for creating such a fine read :)
    Patricia recently posted..Never Hug a Nun ~Kevin KilleenMy Profile

    Joan Cusack Handler Reply:

    And Thank You for being so supportive of Confessions. I hope you’re right that it’ll be a popular pick for gifting this holiday season. meanwhile, I can’t find the message but didn’t you ask me to help choose the winner of the book giveaway? Or am I just losing my mind?

    Patricia Reply:

    Yes I did ask you to choose the winner of this book – It was on the Confessions Facebook Page – no you are not losing your mind… :)

    just send your pick to patricia at patriciaswisdom dot com
    and I will get their address and sent it to the tour company. I was just putting all the names into the hat because I did not know any other way to find the winner of the giveaway! Thank you
    Patricia recently posted..Never Hug a Nun ~Kevin KilleenMy Profile

  10. Lucille Juliano Says:

    I can picture Joan being a real rebel. She is already different and that could be a good reason. But with all the outside influences and American culture changing with the birth of rock ‘n roll, I can see her straying a little from the straight and narrow.

    Patricia Reply:

    I was hoping Sam would get you to come by and check out this book – I am so happy that you did.

    I know that this is Handler’s memoir and part of her life, but I certainly would have liked to meet the young Joan at that time in my life. At 5’9″ we would have been at the same end of the PE lineup!

    I think your children at school and home would enjoy reading this book also.
    Thank you for coming on over.
    Patricia recently posted..Never Hug a Nun ~Kevin KilleenMy Profile