Nancy Bachrach is living in Paris, selling deodorant to the French, when a freak accident kills her father aboard his cabin cruiser, the aptly dubbed Mr. Fix It, in her incongruously named hometown of Providence. Her mother, Lola, the self-proclaimed “center of the universe,” whose medical history reads like the chapter headings of a psychiatric manual, lies in a coma “on death’s waiting list.” Nancy rushes home and sits by her mother’s ventilator—thinking about Sunny von Bülow and eyeing the plug. Thus begins a family reunion with her brother, Ben (a piano prodigy and eventual surgeon who was born with three thumbs), and sister, Helen (the wild child, now an “abnormal psychologist”).
This is a dark, hilarious tale of genius, madness, ineptitude, collateral damage, and hope—with an ending that’s improbable, as only the truth can be. Aching and tender, unflinching and wry, The Center of the Universe is a multi generational mother-daughter story—a splendid, funny, lyrical book about family, truth, memory, and the resilience of love.
About Nancy Bachrach: Nancy Bachrach worked in advertising in New York and Paris, spinning hot air like cotton candy, glorifying her clients’ beloved denture adhesives and powdered orange-juice substitutes. Before that, she was, sequentially, a clumsy waitress at Howard Johnson’s, an overzealous customer service rep fired for making genuine apologies, a stenographer for an insomniac poet, and a teaching assistant in the philosophy department at Brandeis University, where she was one chapter ahead of her class. She lives in New York City. This is her first book.
Click here to visit Nancy Bachrach’s website.
“Bachrach is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read, period. Make room on the shelf next to Sedaris, Eggers, Wilsey. Our new bad boy of memoir is here and she’s middle-aged, mildly manic and my god, we’ve been waiting a long time for her.”
—Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
“A sophisticated, funny debut. . . . With smart, subtle prose, Bachrach limns a journey toward love that feels fresh, organic and as unpredictable as life itself.”
From our interview with Nancy Bachrach:
Q: You worked in advertising. For how long? We’re all imagining three-martini lunches á la Mad Men. Was this your experience?
A: Before I got into advertising, I taught philosophy, but I was barely a chapter ahead of my class, and it didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t serious enough for academia. A friend suggested I try advertising because it was “a business of ideas.” That sounded like fun, and it was, even though the ideas were mostly small. I worked on everything from denture adhesives to Star Wars, and during my thirty years in the business, I did witness a few liquid lunches. But if I’d drunk my way through them, I wouldn’t have remembered enough of my career to write about it. That said, I may have had a martini or two on the way home at night.
Q: Was there a moment in your advertising career where you thought to yourself: “I want to write a book”?
A: The idea was anything but sudden—writing a book about my mad, brainy mother was a compulsion that began in kindergarten. I started taking notes the minute I learned the alphabet, and before that, I drew hieroglyphics that got me sent to the school nurse. I finished my first draft while I was working full-time by writing before dawn, during vacations, and in my sleep. The only way I could forget my crazy job was to refocus on something more lunatic.