Pamela Holm, an essayist from San Francisco who has been widely
published in a variety of periodicals, can now add the title of
memoirist to her resume. Her first book --- a nonfiction memoir ---
is called THE TOASTER BROKE, SO WE'RE GETTING MARRIED. TOASTER is
Holm's comic recollection of planning her marriage to live-in beau
Denzil, the man who has accepted her, her eccentricities, her
sloth, her record collection, and her teenage daughter.
Her story is all-too-familiar to any woman who has said "yes" to
"will you marry me?" No sooner has she responded in the affirmative
than the torturous staging of the event begins. A flood of tasks
overcomes her, and it takes all of her skills (humor, reflection,
deflection, among them) to keep afloat of the tidal wave of
expectation and ritual: "Think about the date, and the place, and
your dress, and the ring, and your hair, and the music, the food,
cake, guests, invitations..." Can't you see her arms flailing and
hear her gasps for air as the drowning ensues?
First there's the date. According to Holm's mother, Dr. Laura
Schlessinger says, "don't move in with him until you have a ring
and a date." Hardly someone she consults on matters of the heart,
Holm quickly dismisses the first so-called "rule" as "too late."
Oh, well. Turning to bridal magazines, rules are popping off the
pages at her. She writes, "Everything has its specific protocol.
Right ways and wrong ways. How to word your invitation, how much
you should spend on your bridesmaid's gifts, the right way to
arrange the seating for the reception, what to wear to your
rehearsal dinner." Stomping her feet, Holm declares she'll be
different, she'll rebel, break all the rules, do things her way,
not be constrained by societal ritual, and we readers all nod
It's not long before a $4,000 wedding dress that seems to have been
designed specifically for her shape, and color, and age, and taste,
has the cynic saying words she never thought she'd hear herself
utter: "yes, yes, yes, I want the dress. I don't care how much it
costs, money is no object, this is for my wedding day, this is
something I'll do only once, not counting the first time. I want to
live in the dress, I want to wear it home right now. I want the
glass slippers that go with it, and a coach pulled by enchanted
mice." Who cares if the dress costs more than her secondhand car?
Well, ultimately, she does.
Holm's TOASTER is a comical commentary on how brides often get
caught up in the trimmings of the wedding, while ignoring the
larger issues of the marriage ahead. She catches herself on more
than one occasion reflecting on her first disastrous marriage and
wedding (seven months pregnant, wearing a gown that sounds like a
patchwork of my grandmother's lace doilies, father arriving drunk)
and wondering if she's making a second mistake. She lists the
numerous past boyfriends, their faults, her faults, and why the
relationships were ultimately doomed. And, yes, the little things
about Denzil that once mildly irritated her are now magnified 10
fold in the light of the anxiety she is experiencing.
Holm is at once hilarious and more than a little brave, especially
when she touches upon the green monster that raises its ugly head
whenever the subject of his previous marriage comes up. (A
hint, gentleman: if you're marrying for a second time, don't wear
the same tux you wore to the first ceremony. She won't go for it.)
And kudos to the people in Holm's life who, one, survived the
planning of the wedding, and two, allowed her to write about the
good, the bad, and the ugly. This is not a how-to manual, but Holm,
irreverent and funny, does drop some wonderful reminders about the
spirit of marriage that aren't to be missed by would-be brides, and
even seasoned wives.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 23, 2011