Review

Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir

by Christopher Buckley

Losing both parents in less than a year can’t be easy.
It’s even more difficult when they’re well-known people
and you’re the only child. This puts your life, as well as
theirs, in the spotlight even more. Christopher Buckley, the son of
William F. Buckley, Jr. and Patricia Taylor Buckley, shares his
thoughts and memories with us as he coped through the last year of
their lives.

Buckley’s mother, “Mum,” died first, on April
14, 2007 at the age of 80, as the result of a septic infection in
her thigh. Patricia was born into a well-known family in British
Columbia, Canada, and moved to the United States when she married
William. Although she was very beautiful (according to her son), a
wonderful cook and an extraordinary hostess, and could have made a
name for herself in her own right, she chose to let her husband be
in the limelight (although she had ways of “stealing”
it from him on occasion).

Buckley’s father, “Pup,” otherwise known as
William F. Buckley, Jr., was the author of more than 50 books, the
host of the TV show “Firing Line,” and the founder of
the publication National Review, to name just a few of his
notable achievements. When Patricia died, his health was already
precarious due to emphysema, diabetes and sleep apnea. Buckley
spent the next several months --- until his father’s death on
February 27, 2008 --- trying to deal with the loss of his mother
while helping to care for his ailing father.

LOSING MUM AND PUP is partly a memoir about Buckley’s
parents and partly an autobiography of his life. He shares tidbits
and stories about their lives and his life with them that are at
times humorous, poignant or thought-provoking, or a combination of
all three.

It is also a story about an only child caring for aging and
ailing parents. This is a real-life situation in many households,
one that countless adults can relate to. Buckley had to make some
tough decisions regarding the care of his parents in their last
days. He shares the difficulty of these times with honesty, a bit
of satire (for which he is well known) and a refreshing sense of
humor.

Buckley, author of such titles as NO WAY TO TREAT A FIRST LADY
and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, hadn’t intended on adding to his
bibliography by writing about his parents, as he explains in the
book’s opening paragraph. But he also says, “But
I’m a writer, for better or worse and when the universe hands
you material like this, not writing about it seems either a waste
or a conscious act of evasion.”

I have read a couple of not-so-flattering reviews of LOSING MUM
AND PUP. In fact, they were rather vicious. The writers of said
reviews thought Buckley was disrespecting the memories of his
parents by the way he wrote this memoir. I beg to differ. If his
parents were as fun-loving and full of life as he says they were
(and he should know because he was the one who lived with them), I
think they both would have enjoyed reading this book about
themselves. It’s a delightful memoir, full of insights into
not only the lives of these two extraordinary and famous people,
but also the life of the author, their only son.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on January 6, 2011

Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir
by Christopher Buckley

  • Publication Date: May 13, 2010
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve
  • ISBN-10: 0446540951
  • ISBN-13: 9780446540957