When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan
Published by Grand Central ISBN 9781538751046
Hardcover, $28, 303 pages
If you're familiar with comedian Jim Gaffigan, you know from his standup routines that he has five children and an amazing wife Jeannie. In addition to parenting their five children Jim and Jeannie write together- his standup comedy specials and books, and they created and produced his sitcom, The Jim Gaffigan Show, based on their family life, that ran for two seasons on TV Land. (You can watch it here- it's fantastic.)
In 2017, while Jeannie had coralled the children to their pediatrician for a visit, the doctor noticed that Jeannie has troubling hearing out of one ear and recommended that she see an ENT doctor. What the doctor found was that Jeannie had a brain tumor the size of a pear.
Jeannie describes what happened next in her memoir When Life Gives You Pears- The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People. She takes the reader along on her medical journey, through the fears and pain, and yes, because she sees everything though the lens of comedy, the laughter too.
Jeannie Gaffigan is a woman of strong Catholic faith, and she relied on that to help get her through this frightening event. Being the mother of five young children and living in New York City, she is also an extremely organized woman. (Just trying to get the children to their various schools located in all the different corners of Manhattan is a Herculean task.)
And even though the Gaffigans were able to find and afford the best doctors, things can go wrong. After a successful surgery to remove the tumor, Jeannie aspirated and got life-threatening pneumonia in both lungs.
Jeannie's road to recovery would be long and difficult. She and Jim had to rely on neighbors, family, and friends to help care for the children, and for Jeannie when she came home. She takes us through the various nurses, doctors and therapists who helped her get better to get home to her family.
A Shift Schedule was created so that Jeannie wouldn't be alone in the hospital. Her mom flew in to stay with the children. Her many siblings left their own families and jobs to come help out. As the oldest child of nine, Jeannie helped raise some of her siblings and they came to help her in her time of need becasue that's what families do.
I highly recommend When Life Gives You Pears. Jeannie Gaffigan is a terrific writer; her organizational skills, her humor, and her humanity shine through the pages. Most of us will go through some kind of medical episode either ourselves or with someone we love, and we'll be able to relate to Jeannie's journey. I put this one on my annual list of the Most Compelling Books I Read in 2019 (and I read nearly 100), and you should read it in 2020.