Editorial Reviews & Assessments
"With a sublime balance of heartbreak and humor, Judy Haveson shares her life story in Laugh Cry Rewind. Growing up in a loving Jewish family could not protect Haveson’s childhood from unthinkable traumas, including a random act of violence and the death of her adored sister, Celia. Her sister’s calm and wisdom stayed alive in Haveson’s memory as she navigated college, careers, dating, marriage and miscarriages, the deaths of beloved family members, and celebrated the birth of her son. Reading more like an autobiography with its strict chronology, Laugh Cry Rewind is intimate and mesmerizing thanks to Haveson’s conversational style and wit; her struggles and triumphs are palpable, and even her ordinary stories dazzle.
Manhattan Book Review
Laugh Cry Rewind is Author Judy Haveson’s beautifully written memoir that will truly make its readers laugh, cry, and possibly rewind back to their own childhoods. The first thing I noticed about this book was how Judy spoke to her readers. I felt as if she was my new best friend, and we were out for coffee, trading stories about our lives. One subject flowing freely to the next where one minute we would be tearing up over a very sad life occurrence and within a few minutes saying, "but remember when..." and then coming up with some outrageous story. I absolutely could not put this book down once I started reading it.
A young girl growing up in a nice Conservative family in Texas, Judy shared an August birthday with her older sister Celia. Of course, she looked up to her sister, and although Judy was a bit of a little pest as a child, as the sisters grew older, they became closer. The lessons that Judy learned from her sister and loved ones would carry her through her years into adulthood. There were a lot of funny stories in this book, including the one in which Judy's mother brought her to the morning kindergarten class instead of the afternoon one. I also got a giggle out of some of the dates she went on before meeting her husband. There were a lot of signs of the time that Judy documented in her book, including her mother, Barbara, needing permission from her husband to teach Black children. Barbara stood up for herself, and this was just one of the lessons Judy learned growing up. Of course, anyone who grew up in the 90s would be jealous of Judy's jaunt in the music industry, working with Vanilla Ice, and meeting Sir Elton John.
The saddest part of the book is when Celia is diagnosed with cancer and passes away at only twenty-six years old. Celia's positivity and strength throughout her fight is something else Judy remembers and carries in her heart. I say this because there are many times in the book when Judy tells a story, she comes back to think about what advice Celia would have given her in her current situation.
In our lives, we have ups and downs. Judy was able to do a wonderful job of chronicling her own life in Laugh Cry Rewind. I recommend this book to any and all readers who love great memoirs.
Independent Book Review
A poignant memoir that shows how love perseveres beyond death
Judy Haveson lives a charmed life in 1970s/80s Houston. Her parents are forward-thinking, compassionate, and devoted to their two children. As a schoolteacher, her mother spends holidays traveling with her daughters. Even Judy’s extended family are close-knit.
But unfortunately, her idyllic childhood isn’t to last. A series of crushing, traumatic experiences afflict the Havesons. The last and worst is the news that Judy’s sister, Celia, has gotten cancer.
In the face of this newest challenge, Judy’s family does what it has always done: pulls together. This time, though, there is no coming back from the heartbreak. At 19, Judy loses her only sister. Now she and the rest of her family must learn to navigate life without her.
Laugh Cry Rewind could easily fall into pity memoir territory, but the often funny, irreverent tone puts it onto another level. While the central most devastating event in Judy’s life might have been losing her sister, Celia’s life dominates the page more than her death. This isn’t the story of a person fixed on one terrible moment, but of a person whose moments, both bad and good, all add up to an incredible life.
On one hand, it seems remarkable that Judy can live such a courageous and rich life after all she has endured; on the other, it seems impossible that she would do anything else. Even in her darkest hour, Celia’s focus is in protecting her family. Making sure that they would not only survive without her, but flourish. Rather than falling into grief, Judy aims to make hers a life Celia could be proud of.
I haven’t read a memoir that explores existence in quite the same way as this one. It leans much more toward being uplifting than miserable. The Havesons are the type of people who would be inspiring simply by being themselves. They handle all the obstacles that are thrown at them with an exorbitant amount of grace and fortitude. The openness of their conversations even about topics that most people would never want to broach is impressive.
The prose in Laugh Cry Rewind is richly detailed. Judy’s memory must be amazing, because there are times the details are so precise and authentic that the writing transports you completely into the scene. While this adds a level of reality I haven’t often found in memoirs, the emotional landscape is sometimes lacking. This isn’t to say that there’s a dearth of emotion here. The love between Judy and her family is palpable, as is the anxiety as she searches for a relationship or the uncertainty in making difficult career choices. But there are times where the feelings may still be raw, and it feels as though Judy pulls back emotionally and only describes the event.
Laugh Cry Rewind is a poignant portrait of a life well lived. Funny, awkward, and sad by turns, it explores the ins and outs of navigating all the complexities of the world from adolescence to relationships to careers.
The BookLife Prize
Plot/Idea: Haveson's Laugh Cry Rewind is a moving chronicle of a Houston family's joys and struggles with illness and loss. The author vividly brings her extended family members to life while injecting humor and poignancy throughout her storytelling.
Prose: Haveson is a highly capable writer. Her prose style is warm, inviting, and gently humorous, even amidst tremendous emotional pain and trauma. The book features excellent pacing and a sound balance between informative sections, dialogue, and personal reflections on the unfolding circumstances.
Originality: Every family's story is unique, but not all memoirs are distinctive. Haveson's warm and endearing writing style, paired with a keen eye for detail, allow this work to shine.
Character/Execution: Haveson excels at characterization. While the author herself emerges clearly, family members are equally well rendered through descriptions, charming anecdotes, and dialogue.