Written by Calvin Trillin as a tribute to his late wife, About Alice is a touching and engaging book. It is short and sweet, and at only 78 pages it is an easy read. Alice was Trillin’s inspiration throughout his career. He says in one dedications that, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.” (16) And even though she would not read it, he wrote this for her as well. About Alice was written for him to remember their time together, and to show the world how wonderful she was. He describes Alice as those close to her knew her, and by the end of About Alice the reader feels like they know her just as well as Trillin does.
Calvin Trillin is a writer at the New Yorker and author of numerous best-selling books. Being that Alice was his muse, Trillin does not skimp on praise for her. In one passage he says, “She was nice and she was concerned and she was smart and when she talked to you she was thinking about you, and also she was very, very pretty.”(9) There is a lot of it, but the praise is not done in an overpowering, cheesy way; instead it is obviously genuine. From the first time that Trillin saw her, he knew that she was special. They met at a party and married soon after. Alice taught English at a university, but was still a dedicated mother to their two children Abigail and Sarah. Unfortunately, when Alice was 38, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She went into remission after chemotherapy, but the radiation took its toll and she died of heart failure 25 years later. Trillin recounts how Alice faced each roadblock with composure and confidence, despite the doubts of others. Besides the major milestones of their marriage, Trillin also sprinkles in numerous anecdotes about Alice to entertain the reader, such as how she could get out of a speeding ticket or her views on school plays.
If you are looking for a quick and heartfelt read, I suggest this book. It gives the reader a clear impression of the person Alice was and the relationship that she shared with Trillin. The reader shares Trillin’s emotions as he remembers his wife, both the happy times and the heartbreaking. The tone of the book is mostly serious and nostalgic, so be forewarned: if you are looking for a book with action, adventure and humor, you will not find it here. Likewise, if you are not interested in love stories, this book is probably not for you.
--by Suzanne Ouellette