When your grandparents make bathtub gin and go shopping with funny money, and your dad flaunts his degree from the school of hard knocks, you grow up learning that “life ain’t no got-dem picnic.”
These lessons are handed down to Cathy Curran by Eastern European immigrants who learned how to survive caring little for aesthetics–“if it worrrks, who gives a got-dem what da hell it looks like.”
Lucky for Curran, her mother is a gentle soul with a dry wit. Lillian Low’s homespun values–people come in all flavors just like ice cream–bring joy and humor into the Low house. When restless Joe Low ditches one suburb for another just because he wants a do-over, Lillian tells him, “How the hell many do you need? Don’t you know that wherever you go, you’ve got to take yourself with you?”
Along for the ride is the colorful Low clan, who turn up to celebrate the arrival of Joe and Lillian’s army of kids. They eat, drink, sing, Joe gets plastered, and all too often scotch-fired arguments lead to some good old-fashioned fistfights, which are immediately forgiven with an unspoken rule–shut up and forget it, then it all gets swept under the rug. But when Curran pulls up the carpet, pandemonium emerges from hell with a vengeance.
Through the vision of a sensitive young girl with a wickedly funny voice, “Secondhand Scotch” uncorks some harsh realities, but never ceases to warm and entertain.
I simply could not put down Cathy Curran’s “Secondhand Scotch: How One Family Survived in Spite of Themselves.” I binge read this unique and courageous memoir about growing up in a huge European immigrant family in two days. I laughed and cried. THAT makes it a winner to me! – Memoirlover
What a terrific book. It took me right back to Old Bridge, New Jersey (where I grew up) in the 50’s. The writing was excellent, and the memories it brought back were fantastic. Cathy Low Curran captured her “growing up” in a dysfunctional family and how she matured into the caretaker she became. – Rita A. Stolzenberg
The book is so realistic it is almost unbelievable to me as I was brought up in a situation similar to the author and cannot imagine how she wrote this down so beautifully. Her clarity and ability to pen all of this down was remarkable. I highly recommend this book. I thank her for sharing these moments and feel privileged to have been allowed into her life in the detail that she shared. God Bless the Low family. Great read! – Joseph F. Jessup Jr.
San Francisco Review of Books Review:
New Jersey author Cathy Curran is a baby boomer who ‘graduated from the school of Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do and went on to study at the University of What’s-Your-Problem.’ SECONDHAND SCOTCH is her debt novel – a memoir of a life fully lived – and still dancing!
From the opening lines of this memorable memoir Cathy Curran demonstrates she has not only the capacity for an exacting memory but also the gift of storytelling that glues the reader to this hilarious and torching tale.
A well-scribed memoir from a lady with a hefty dose of talent! Read and Enjoy. – Grady Harp