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Book Review: Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask by Jancee Dunn

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Jancee Dunn has the most captivating, comedic and down-to-earth persona, through her writing voice, that reading her memoirs is like visiting with a wonderful long-time friend. It appears as though Ms. Dunn has no qualms and holds nothing back as she brings readers into her little corner of the world, and what an adventure her world is.

I had previously treated myself to Jancee Dunn's first published memoir, But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet. I was instantly hooked on her tales of wacky interviews with those famous faces that constantly grace the magazine covers and TV screens that capture our average eyes. When I discovered this third title, I was nearly jumping with anticipation. Picking up the innocent pink cotton candy-colored covered book, with the anything-but-innocent title pertaining to tattooed mothers, I was anxious to read this next installment of Ms. Dunn's life. After reading the first few pages, I knew this would be a highly entertaining and satisfying read — I was not disappointed.

I think that part of the enticement of Jancee Dunn's books is the simple fact that this is a real person, going through real life, and so many of us can relate. Be it crazy but loving family members, or insane pressures of work, and having the knowledge of a close friend always having your back. Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? is written in such a way that it truly does feel as though you are sitting down and chatting with a friend over a cup of yummy, frothy and calorie-filled coffee. *(excuse me a moment while I go grab a pumpkin spice latte…. Okay — as I was saying…)

One of my favorite parts, among many, was when Jancee and her friend were comparing music on their iPods. I had to laugh at some of the titles they secretly adored listening to, but would die if anyone else knew what they were listening to at the gym. Many of the titles and songs that they named, are ones that I know well. I even had to giggle when Jancee made a cringing mention of the group Nelson — my, what yummy-looking, long blond-haired, fellows they once were!

The love and closeness between Jancee and her sisters and parents are very apparent and a wonderful treat to be able to glimpse into. Although, I have to say, that a two-hour debate over pie flavors or stuffing types, for Thanksgiving, would be apt to drive me a bit batty. Also the fact that each family member has to basically agree unanimously on many issues would be a huge headache for me, for Jancee and her family this is just the way it is and very typical. There is a scene, within the book, that focuses around the fact that Jancee's parents decide to sell the house that they all grew up in. This is met with great despair and objections from the girls, not to mention some obsessive drive-bys from Jancee and her sister, Heather. Then one day, Jancee and her family are invited to visit their old home, where much has changed, yet the experience settles many flutters of sadness that had been left behind.

I have to mention that each chapter is perfectly titled and will bring laughter, just from its one simple line. Just to give you an idea, here are a few of them: "They Don't Make Designer Colostomy Bags," "Secure You Wig with Extra Hairpins Before Lovemaking," "Salty, Sweet Gritty Blobs of Joy," and "His 'n' Hers Tiger-Print Underwear in Soft, Shape-Retaining Fabric." Also, the reminiscing about the JC Penny catalogs of days gone by, was tons of fun.

Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? is such a wonderful, heartwarming and fun-filled book. Jancee Dunn pens her love of her family, her ups and downs and life's craziness perfectly. The closeness shared by Ms. Dunn with her family and friends is a rock solid one and one that I cannot wait to hear more about in future books (*okay, fingers crossed that there will be future books, not sure on any details). This is a work that will make readers laugh, sniffle a bit and reflect upon their own lives and family. A definite must read!

*overall rating 5/5

About Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?:

In her early forties, Jancee Dunn began to wonder why she still felt like a 13-year-old around her family. Talking to her friends, she found the same was true for them — despite successful jobs, marriages, and families of their own. Do we ever really grow up, she wonders? Why is the slow, sticky process of prying ourselves free from our parents and childhoods so difficult? In Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?, Dunn examines the phenomenon, with scenes ranging from a "haunted Savannah" tour gone wrong to a visit to a tattoo parlor with her 60ish mother, who is dying to get a raven inked on her wrist. Finally, Dunn and her sisters arrange a visit to the house where they grew up, a bittersweet but comic experience that answers her questions and puts her at peace with her parents — until the next tattoo parlor visit, at least.

Excerpt: (this pertains to the recent purchase of a white-noise machine by Tom, Jancee's husband)

Pg. 33

Tom eagerly opened the box and started fiddling with the machine. We explored the panel of soundscapes before settling on Harbor, with a foghorn that seemed fairly soothing until we realized that unlike the real thing, it blatted every three seconds.

"Look, you can mix two noises, like you're a deejay," he said. "See? You can make a mash-up. Let's try Frogs, and…hm…how about Crackling Fire?" The combination sounded like the poor creatures were croaking helplessly while being roasted alive.

He hastily changed the dial. "What about Ocean Surf and Thunderstorm?" I pictured a sailor lost at sea, struggling to gain control of his craft before plunging over the side into the icy water, spinning down, down, down, his mouth open in a silent scream.

Tom sighed and gave the dial another twiddle. "How about Generator?" He turned up a muted humming noise. "We can mix it with Rainforest," he added, blending in the sound of water gently pattering on leaves. I pictured oil machinery and pipelines chugging ominously away in the formerly pristine Guatemalan rainforest. The only sound missing was that of squawking animals fleeing in terror.

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About April Pohren

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    LOL! The book sounds like something that would be a lot of fun to read. Thanks for a very nice review, April.

  • http://cafeofdreams.blogspot.com April

    It is! I love Jancee’s style of writing. I always laugh and lose a lot of stress!! Thanks so much for the comment!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    I agree with Fran – this definitely sounds like a book I’d enjoy reading! Great review.

  • http://cafeofdreams.blogspot.com April

    Thanks, Sahar! I hope you get a chance to read it!!

  • Kirsten

    Loved the review and loved the book – this memoir is as good as the first one! She writes with both wit and empathy.