An extensive cast, then, one that allows for an extensive exploration of the fine balance between affection and exasperation that marks family relationships and, above all, the parent-child bond ... Widowed after a long marriage, Joy is a persuasive character, intelligent, independent, with a flair for witty responses and wry thoughts, though in fact everyone in Schine’s narrative is given to sharp comment and occasionally manic behavior. Despite its subject matter, They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a very funny novel ... Cathleen Schine writes with economy and style — saying most by saying least, employing brief staccato sentences, with much of the action unfolding by way of dialogue. Some readers might feel that too much levity surrounds some disturbing matters — a farcical deathbed scene, the humiliations of colostomy bags and incontinence. But others will see this as a proper form of defiance.
Cathleen Schine’s new novel is a seamless blend of humor and heartbreak, shot through with so many funny, painful truths that absorbing them all is an experience to be savored. With a bright yellow cover with Dick-and-Jane style drawings, They May Not Mean To, But They Do looks a bit jaunty, but its humor is steeped in familiar (and unsparing) reality ... Schine shows great compassion for all her characters; she understands that these waters are uncharted for everyone ... Don’t shy away from They May Not Mean To, But They Do. Warm, lively and generous, it’s one of the must-reads of the summer.
[Schine's] tenth and newest novel cuts deeper, feels fuller and more ambitious, and seems to me her best ... The novel’s triumph lies in Schine’s empathetic ability to inhabit this courageous, intelligent, wounded old woman ... Schine nails one of the terrors of old age, this need to camouflage one’s frailty, lest one be shipped to a nursing home ... Appropriately, given that the plot does not pretend to be original, the prose is straightforward and direct, without showing off or striving for linguistic effect. By now, Schine appears so confident in her novelistic powers and wisdom that she can simply cut to the point with epigrammatic insight.
...[a] hugely satisfying novel ... Schine turns the conventional “coming of age” novel on its head by examining the ways in which unexpected, late love upends identity. They May Not Mean To, but They Do confronts the simple-minded perspective that assisted living kills romantic love ... This richly empathetic novel embraces the fact that to live means to accept change. This may rattle those in middle age, but is understood best by the very young and the very old.
...[a] charming new novel, which takes a warm, humorous look at a potentially unfunny subject: the upset that occurs on both sides of the generational divide when the seesaw of care tilts from elderly parents down to their grown offspring ... The novel plays all this for a combination of mirth and pathos, down to its wry, open-ended conclusion. Admirably, Schine has sympathy to spare for both the reluctantly dependent elderly and their worried offspring. But what makes They May Not Mean To, But They Do stand out is its warm-hearted sensitivity to the losses, indignities, fears — and plucky determination — of old age.
In her latest novel, Cathleen Schine takes on aging, dementia and grief, but more often than not she mines those themes for comedy...That Ms. Schine wraps up her novel in a courtroom, with Joy defending her grandson’s ticket for public urination, shows how pleasingly resistant the author is to a predictable or sentimental ending.
I bet some of you are thinking, who needs a novel about colostomy bags and grief? Oh, but you do need Schine's novel. At least, you do if you're a reader who relishes acute psychological perceptions and lots of laughs to leaven the existential grimness, like those other literary domestic goddesses to whom she's sometimes compared, Jane Austen and Nora Ephron ... Does anyone really ever do anyone else any good? That's the question this sparkling and sad novel mulls over and answers with a wry shrug.
...a compelling, sensitive portrait of a loving New York family caught up and reeling in that inexorable cycle of life ... Schine gives Molly and Daniel, their partners and children, plenty of room to struggle with their own angers, frustrations, and fears, allowing them the authentic and vast range of emotions, from selfless love and concern to ignoble self-absorption and back again. But the heart of the story is Joy ... Schine’s painfully beautiful depiction of a woman’s heroism in the face of that abyss offers, like the best literature, a reminder of the tender, frightening vulnerability we all share.
...deliciously quirky ... This is one of those novels that somehow manages to be funny and heartbreaking at the same time; Schine has a gift for transforming the pathos and comedy of everyday life into luminous fiction.
This is one of those laugh-out-loud-on-the-subway novels, but it also manages to be sad and authentic ... tender, wise, hilarious and painful. Give this book to your siblings and your parents: everyone will find a passage to love. And if you argue, so be it. At least you still have each other to argue with.
They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a sharply humorous yet compassionately drawn portrait of a multigenerational clan of innately droll native Manhattanites drawn together to weather the loss of their withered patriarch ... Cathleen Schine has produced a distinctive novel that speaks to our aging populace along with those well-meaning family members who must contend with them. Not since Hannah and Her Sisters have I enjoyed being among such an angst-riddled circle of related urban dwellers ... Schine’s comic sensibility might not be for every taste considering that it leans toward the mordant, especially when dealing with mortality and health woes. But there is a sense of deep shared affection among the characters that provides a nice counterbalance to any conflicts.