Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life.
... kudos to Kalb, who pulls off this daring approach brilliantly, allowing readers to hear her grandmother’s inimitable voice ... Not surprisingly, given Kalb's chosen career, there are laughs galore throughout the book ... Yet this account runs much deeper than a typical comedy routine. Kalb frequently shares the immense challenge of imagining her grandmother’s voice ... These many enthralling tales (along with family photographs) unfold in a carefully structured yet nonlinear fashion (think This Is Us). The result is lively and fascinating, funny yet poignant ... In a bold stroke of literary bravura, Kalb has turned the formula for writing memoirs inside out, bringing her grandmother’s distinctive voice back to life and sharing it with a legion of lucky readers.
If the second half of Kalb’s narrative is less affecting than the first, perhaps that is simply because everything after escape from a probable pogrom must be ... The author’s hints at her grandmother’s failings make Bobby more character and less caricature, but one longs for a still more fully rounded portrait. Some moments of neglect and even cruelty sit uneasily alongside Bobby’s quips and potted family histories.
Written from the sometimes acerbic, sometimes sweet and always laser-sharp perspective of Bell ... In between are Kalb’s loving recollections of their relationship, including snippets of conversations and voicemails and a steady supply of life advice ... In Kalb’s hands, the resulting stew is reliably funny and occasionally poignant on the aftermath of loss.